So far, this season, the Chicago Blackhawks seem to need no help in how to successfully avoid a slow start to the 2012-13 campaign.
With road wins against the Los Angeles Kings and the Phoenix Coyotes, the team is off to a great start and pacing the rest of the Western Conference. Throw in a win Tuesday night against the St. Louis Blues and this 'Hawks team may be the team to beat.
But, before parade planning starts, there is plenty of time left in the season. In order for the team to continue its fresh success, here are five steps that will allow them to keep their hot start rolling.
Goals, Goals and More Goals
Through three games this season, the 'Hawks have been able to score 14 goals. Considering the fact that the team has also allowed eight goals over that same time, scoring is going to be key to the team's success.
With the only weak spot existing between the pipes, the 'Hawks are going to have to implement the idea that a good offence is a good defense. So far, it has worked. If they can continue to do so, then the team should be fine to continue their winning ways.
One Step Ahead
Early in the season, goaltending is going to play a huge part in how teams fare. Blackhawks fans saw it first hand when they were able to take down the Phoenix Coyotes in the second game of the season. Mike Smith—the sole reason why the 'Hawks were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last season—is not quite the same goalie he was.
This means both Corey Crawford and Ray Emery have to work really hard to stay on top of their games and improve every time out. They do not have to be perfect every time but they do have to be better than the goalies at the other end of the rink. It is expected for the goalies in the league to be shaky, but if the Blackhawks' goaltenders can stay one step ahead then they will continue to secure the better outcomes for their team.
Taking advantage of the other goalies downfalls, and scoring lots on them, will help Chicago's goaltenders increase their confidence and they can carry that throughout the entire season.
Wear Opponents Down
The Blackhawks may have the most depth in the entire league. Every line is skilled playing at both ends of the ice. Their top line, and subsequent lines underneath it, can be compared favorably to any line on any other team.
The 'Hawks have to be confident that their lines are better than the lines they will be facing. Let Hossa, Toews and Saad take on the top lines of every team. This will force their opponents to exert more energy defending them.
If the 'Hawks do this, then they can tire and wear down opponents, especially early in the season. So far through the season, it seems the team has the legs to do this, and if that is the case, it will make playing against them extremely tough.
Let's Roll 'Em Out
With team's not having the chance to fully implement a training camp and preseason schedule, the ability to roll out all their lines is extremely important. The Blackhawks have so far been able to do a good job with this. If you look at everyone's ice time through the first three games of the season, it is spread out.
On the back end, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson are all comparable when it comes to ice time. The lowest of the four is Seabrook, who averages 15 minutes and 54 seconds per game. The highest is Oduya, who averages 18:04. The other two fall somewhere in between.
Keeping fresh legs on the ice at all times in this shortened season will help to amplify the team's success.
Battle in the Central
With all the games this season being played within the same conference, the games between central opponents are that much more important.
A short season means that every team has the chance to ride a hot streak and squeeze into the playoffs. This means, another team will be pushed out. While the Blackhawks should have no problem being one of the top-8 teams it is still important to play well within their own division.
The last game was a good start. They were able to come out with a win at home against their rivals, the St. Louis Blues. Most likely, the Blues are going to be the toughest test for the 'Hawks in the division and if the team wants a secure a guaranteed playoff spot they will have to go through them.
Winning the central, and getting one of the guaranteed playoffs spots, will be huge.
For all Blackhawks, all the time. Game days and in between.
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