The Chicago Blackhawks played half the 48-game season before they suffered their first regulation loss.
However, even though they dropped a 6-2 decision to the Colorado Avalanche in their 25th game of the season, the Blackhawks appear prepared to have a remarkable year that could culminate with their second Stanley Cup in the last four seasons.
While none of their opponents will be intimidated by the Blackhawks' record-breaking streak, the Hawks are a highly skilled team and they have a slew of weapons and intangible advantages that are going to make them tough to beat in a postseason series.
The Blackhawks may suffer a dip now that they have finally lost a game, but they should be ready to impose their will once the postseason begins.
One of the first things you notice about the Chicago Blackhawks is how quickly they attack and how fast the majority of their players are.
That's a strong basis for a winning hockey team. When you are faster than the majority of your opponents, you are going to dictate the pace of the game. That's what the Blackhawks did throughout the majority of their streak.
They beat their opponents to the puck and they were able to make key plays in the offensive zone. Most fans will notice the quickness of Patrick Kane every time he steps on the ice, but he's far from the only Hawk player with speed.
Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Viktor Stalberg, Marcus Kruger, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook give the Hawks the speed to make plays in the offensive zone and break up plays in the defensive zone.
It's impossible for a team to put the kind of record streak together if if can't play well at the most important times in the game.
The Blackhawks regularly won important puck battles and controlled the action in the game's final moments. They also made plays and scored key goals when they needed them most.
In their Feb. 2 win over the Calgary Flames, Marian Hossa scored the tying goal with two seconds left after the Flames had taken a 2-1 lead in the final minute.
The Hawks maintained possession for the final 30 seconds before Hossa popped in a rebound to guarantee the Hawks a point.
In the 24th and final game of the streak, Daniel Carcillo scored the game-winning goal versus the Colorado Avalanche in the final minute by battling in the crease for a loose puck and sending a backhander into the net to give the Hawks a 3-2 victory.
The Chicago Blackhawks have a boatload of stars on their roster. Throughout the first half of the season, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa were their leading scorers, while defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook dominated on the blue line.
Kane has a team-leading 12 goals and 15 assists for 27 points, and he is also plus-eight for the season. Toews has 11 goals and 11 assists and is a remarkable plus-12, while Hossa has 19 points and four of his 10 goals are game-winners, including two in overtime.
Keith and Seabrook are shutdown defenseman who also excel in the offensive end.
The Chicago Blackhawks were the darlings of the Windy City when they won the 2010 Stanley Cup by beating the Philadelphia Flyers in the championship round in six games.
However, the team has been frustrated by first-round losses each of the last two years. In the 2011 playoffs, they dropped a seven-game series to the hated Vancouver Canucks.
In 2012, they dropped a six-game series to the Phoenix Coyotes. Five of the games in the series went to overtime.
Chicago fully expected to beat Phoenix last year and the pain of that defeat stung the team throughout the offseason. They are motivated to right that wrong when they get to the postseason this spring.
Superior goaltending is often the key to any championship run.
There were plenty of questions about the Blackhawks' goaltending situation when the season began. Corey Crawford let in several soft goals in last year's playoff loss to the Coyotes. Backup Ray Emery has struggled with his consistency over the years.
Both goalies have been superb this season. Crawford has an 11-1-3 record with a 1.81 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage along with two shutouts. Emery has been simply remarkable as the No. 2 goalie. He has 10-0-0 record, a 2.05 GAA and a .924 save percentage.
The Chicago Blackhawks are not considered one of the NHL's most physical teams. They get outhit by their opponents in nearly every game.
This may not be a negative for the Blackhawks, and it actually helps explain their success.
No team is going to pound its opponent when it has possession of the puck (source: CSNChicago.com). Hitting hard is a defensive maneuver to get possession of the puck. When you have control of it, the object is to make plays that lead to scoring opportunities.
This is not done by getting physical with your opponent.
This is done by winning faceoffs, making accurate passes, carrying the puck with confidence and shooting the puck accurately.
This is what the Blackhawks were known for during their 2010 Stanley Cup run and they followed that game plan during their 24-game streak.
Johnny Oduya has improved the Blackhawks' overall skill.
To have a chance to win the Stanley Cup, your best players have to perform at their highest level on a consistent basis.
However, while Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa may be superior players, they are not machines. They can't be at their best every game.
To roll off a record streak and to have a chance to win the Stanley Cup, a team's role players must perform at a high level.
The Blackhawks have gotten key contributions from players like Brandon Saad, Dave Bolland, Bryan Bickell, Johnny Oduya and Nick Leddy.
When your depth players complement your stars like the Blackhawks' players do, you have a chance to win a championship.