The Chicago Blackhawks have a lot to be pleased about as they return home from one of the franchise's most satisfying road trips. Following a 3-0 win Sunday night in Nashville, the real work begins.
Let's run down some of Chicago's accomplishments as the 'Hawks unpack:
- Chicago took 10 of a possible 12 points in the six games away from the United Center.
- The 'Hawks capped the trip by blanking Nashville, the first shutout for Chicago since March of 2011.
- Patrick Kane ran his goals streak to five games.
- The defense limited the Predators to 17 shots on the night.
- Chicago remained unbeaten in regulation through 12 games, ten of which were in other team's buildings.
- The Blackhawks remain at the pinnacle of the NHL with 22 points.
Take a second to let that sink in. Feels good, doesn't it?
OK, enough living in the past. It's time to get down to the business of winning some home games.
Over the next two weeks, Chicago will host Western Conference opponents seven consecutive times. It will be great to see the team return after a wildly successful opening to the 2013 season. However, the going isn't necessarily going to be any easier for the Blackhawks.
In the next five games, Chicago will be hosting Anaheim, San Jose, Los Angeles, Vancouver and the Sharks again. Three of those teams are directly behind the Blackhawks in the conference standings. The other team is merely the defending NHL champions.
The 'Hawks played a patient game in Nashville. They drew first blood in the second period and controlled a contest for which most fans would have chalked up to road weariness had Chicago lost. Now comes the first game of the home stand with the Ducks.
The old adage is that a team can suffer a letdown in intensity in this first game back. There is also the thinking that this club gets a little too fancy for its own good in an attempt to wow the home crowd.
Anaheim isn't chopped liver, either. Though the Blackhawks handled the Ducks twice on home ice last season, Anaheim is 7-2-1 in its last 10 games heading into Tuesday's action. With 39 goals scored, the Ducks offense trails only Chicago in potency in the Western Conference.
The Blackhawks are getting scoring from all four lines, which has spelled trouble for opposing defenses. On Sunday, they were also disciplined. Chicago committed just two minor penalties. Their penalty kill has been formidable, though the best way to stop Anaheim's power play is to never allow a man advantage.
Prior to the road trip, the conventional thinking was that if the Blackhawks could keep their heads above water, they could take advantage of an unusually long home stretch. The 'Hawks are now 10-0-2. Can they sustain this run while sleeping in their own beds?