The Chicago Blackhawks came out of the gate this season with the best start in NHL history. They went unbeaten in regulation for 24 straight games, racking up 43 of a possible 46 standings points.
Pittsburgh’s most impressive feat over the span of its streak was the complete game it played.
The top line of Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis and captain Sidney Crosby made headlines throughout the team’s month-long streak. Their chemistry was unmatched by any other line in the league.
Crosby has always been praised for all the offensive aspects of his game, but his playmaking abilities have reached new heights. In those 15 games, Crosby totaled 25 points—19 of which were assists.
Kunitz took advantage of Crosby’s tape-to-tape passes. He lit the lamp 11 times in the course of 15 games. With 20 goals on the season, his chemistry with Crosby and Dupuis has helped him tie for third place in the race for the Maurice Richard Trophy.
Reigning league MVP Evgeni Malkin wasn’t even on hand for 13 of the 15 games. Even in the absence of his partner in crime, James Neal continued to be an ace on the power play—scoring six goals and helping on another four man-advantage scores.
With the likes of Crosby and Malkin, the Penguins have never had trouble scoring goals. What made their winning streak possible was their defense and goaltending stepping up.
They maintained the Penguins' mantra of primarily playing defense through puck possession. In addition, the blueliners were adept at breaking up the opposing offense in the offensive zone and allowing fewer odd-man rushes.
Defense continued to improve throughout the month. Forwards carried their weight by making sure to minimize turnovers and play well in the defensive zone. Through the first four games of their streak, the Penguins allowed 17 goals. In the last 11, they only allowed nine.
The Penguins goaltenders have often been criticized for a lack of consistency. Marc-Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun often carried the team—especially during close contests—with their consistency and confidence in the net.
Fleury and Vokoun combined for four shutouts in the month of March—with three consecutive perfect outings in the final three games of the streak.
The Blackhawks have been one of the league’s most dominant forces. Between Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa, the Blackhawks aren’t short of scoring power. In the net, Corey Crawford and Ray Emery make up one of the NHL’s best goaltending duos.
Emery and Crawford have arguably been more consistent throughout the season, but Vokoun and Fleury blanked one more team than the ‘Hawks did with nine more games in their streak.
The Penguins made history by becoming the first team to go a calendar month without losing a game. They were two games shy of breaking the winning streak set by the 1992-93 incarnation of their team.
Throughout the span of their streak, the Penguins played every facet of the game better than the ‘Hawks, making their streak more impressive.
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