Joel Quenneville and the Blackhawks were soaring during February.
February was a spectacular month for the NHL.
The league's first full month of action was chock full of storylines, with the biggest being the remarkable run of the Chicago Blackhawks.
When the month started, they had merely gotten off to a good start. When the month ended, they were in record territory.
The month of February also saw Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos ascend to positions of dominance on the scoring front, while coaches like Bruce Boudreau and Randy Carlyle led their teams up the ladder.
The Chicago Blackhawks have had one of the most talented rosters in the NHL since the 2009-10 season when they won the Stanley Cup.
Despite that talent, they lost in the first round of the playoffs in each of the next two years. Once the lockout ended, there was pressure on this team to do more this year. A lot more.
So far, so good. The Blackhawks have exceeded expectations and have not tasted regulation defeat through their first 23 games.
During the month of February, they went a remarkable 11-0-2. Perhaps the most incredible performance came Feb. 2 when a tired Blackhawks team came into Calgary after losing a shootout the night before at Vancouver.
Outshot and outplayed most of the night, the Blackhawks were trailing 2-1 in the final seconds when Marian Hossa scored the tying goal. The Blackhawks won the game 3-2 in a shootout.
After two concussion-plagued seasons, Sidney Crosby is rolling again for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He is leading the league in scoring with 11 goals and 25 assists.
Penguins fans are once again being treated to Crosby's vision, passing ability, and talent for firing rocket shots through small openings for memorable goals.
During the month of February, Crosby was on fire. He scored six goals and added 18 assists and was plus-six for the month.
If not for the Blackhawks' record-setting getaway, the Anaheim Ducks might be the biggest story in the NHL this year.
The Ducks have been the best team in the Pacific Division and have used their size, strength and skill to run out to a 15-3-3 record. The Ducks are following head coach Bruce Boudreau's game plan and playing physical hockey and using their skill to score key goals.
The Ducks were 11-2-0 in February and even picked up a 3-2 shootout victory over the Blackhawks in Chicago Feb. 12. The Ducks were an overwhelming 6-0-0 at home in the month.
Boudreau was fired by the Washington Capitals last year. Leading a memorable turnaround has to be gratifying for the colorful Boudreau.
The Montreal Canadiens finished 15th—dead last—in the Eastern Conference a year ago.
They were probably not as bad as their record indicated, but they had significant problems with management and team chemistry .
Enter new general manager Marc Bergevin and head coach Michel Therrien. Those two gave the Canadiens a new attitude and a partially reworked roster that included feisty ex-Ranger Brandon Prust.
The Canadiens bear no resemblance to the team that regularly fell apart in 2011-12. They are in first place in the Eastern Conference thanks to a combination of quickness, grit and a hard-hitting defense.
The Canadiens were 9-2-3 in February and a shocking 4-0-2 on the road.
If you think there's a better goal scorer in the NHL than Steven Stamkos, think again.
Stamkos already has two 50-plus-goal seasons to his credit, including a 60-goal season last year. Stamkos has already scored 17 goals in 23 games this season. That puts him on pace for 35 goals in the 48-game season and it wouldn't surprise anybody if he got to 40 goals.
During February, Stamkos ripped home 10 goals and also had 10 assists. Whether it's his wrist shot, backhander, slap shot or his ability to put the puck in the net on rebounds and deflections, Stamkos is a threat to score every time he is on the ice.
The Toronto Maple Leafs haven't made the playoffs since 2003-04 and their long-suffering fans are tired of waiting for a return to the postseason.
If the Leafs make it this year, head coach Randy Carlyle will become something of a cult hero in his first full season in Toronto.
His team has responded to his demands to play hard-hitting and physical hockey and they have combined it with skill and speed.
The Maple Leafs' 14-9-0 records puts them in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff mix.
They were consistent during the month of February, going 9-6-0. The highlight of the month was a 6-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens Feb. 9 at the Bell Centre.
While the Chicago Blackhawks were grabbing all the attention with their overwhelming start, the Boston Bruins were serving notice that they may be the toughest team to beat in the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins lost just one game in regulation in January, and they followed suit in February. Head coach Claude Julien had his team prepared to play every night in the month, and even though the team had some uneven offensive performances, the Bruins found a way to win thanks to goalie Tuukka Rask, defenseman Zdeno Chara and center Patrice Bergeron.
The Bruins were 8-1-1 during the month. They asserted themselves during a five-game road trip. After dropping the opener in Buffalo 4-2, the Bruins reeled off four straight wins and didn't give up more than two goals in any of those victories.
Head coach Joel Quenneville was happy with the Blackhawks' goaltending situation at the start of the season. He thought that Corey Crawford would be a solid No. 1 goalie and that Ray Emery would be an adequate backup.
History showed that Emery was capable of some spectacular performances but consistency was an issue. Emery threw cold water on that idea in February.
Emery was both spectacular and consistent for the Blackhawks, rolling to a 7-0-0 record and dominating with a .941 save percentage. Emery was recognized as the NHL's third star for the month of February.
Emery has a 2.02 goals-against average this season.
John Tavares has flashed his talent since the New York Islanders made him the top pick in the 2009 draft.
He has gotten better each season, and he became a legitimate star last year when he scored 31 goals and had 50 assists.
As good as he was last year, Tavares is even better in 2013. He has put up 14 goals and 13 assists for the Islanders in his first 23 games.
Tavares came into his own in February, scoring nine goals and adding five assists. He had a hat trick Feb. 16 in a 5-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils.
Viktor Fasth was called up to the Ducks in late January, and he won his first game against the Nashville Predators in a 3-2 shootout.
That game propelled the untested goalie to a stellar month of February. He went 8-2-0 for the Ducks and allowed them to hold on to first place in the Pacific Division. During the month, Fasth had a .928 save percentage and also recorded a shutout.
Fasth was 3-0 in shootouts in the month. He has a 2.08 goals-against average for the season.