The historic season continues for the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks. The 'Hawks (35-6-5) wrote themselves into the record books once again, this time earning the Presidents' Trophy via a 4-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers (17-22-7).
This is the second time Chicago has led the league in points in a season, the first time coming in the 1990-91 season, when the Blackhawks accumulated 106 points. That team lost in the first round of the playoffs in six games to the eventual Western Conference champions Minnesota North Stars.
Since the 1985-86 season, when the Presidents' Trophy was first introduced, only seven of the 27 winners have gone on to win the Stanley Cup, the most recent being the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings. Only three other winners have gone to the Stanley Cup finals, while six have been knocked out in the first round.
It appears that this Blackhawks bunch could be different, given that they have been riding a string of success since the lockout-shortened season began. The 'Hawks never looked back after earning a point in 24 consecutive games, only faltering a couple of times before regaining momentum.
Although the Blackhawks had little on the line, the win over Edmonton had to be an encouraging one. After two-straight losses against Phoenix and Vancouver, the 'Hawks regained their stride against a team that has given them trouble lately. Dating back to last season, the Oilers had won four of six against the Blackhawks, including a 9-2 obliteration in Edmonton, before tonight's tilt.
Who is the better first round matchup for the Blackhawks?
Even better news, Patrick Sharp, who missed the last 14 games due to an upper body injury, came back and looked healthy, aside from a late scare in the third period. He returned from injury and scored on an empty net to secure Chicago's victory.
A healthy Sharp and Marian Hossa will be imperative for the 'Hawks if they want to make a run in the playoffs. Perhaps Joel Quenneville may cut back on ice time for the banged up veterans to ensure they stay healthy for the postseason grind.
In other injury news, goaltender Ray Emery left the game with 6:02 left in the first period. Emery might have tweaked the lower-body injury that held him out of two games.
Another youngster who could be a big surprise for Quenneville is Hobey Baker award winner, Drew LeBlanc. The 23-year-old winger from St. Cloud State had over 12 minutes of ice time and produced some good scoring chances in his NHL debut.
Patrick Kane continued his outstanding season with a goal and two assists in the victory, putting him at 51 points on the year. Kane has recorded a point in four of his last five games after a small slump to begin the month.
If the Blackhawks can continue the hot play that has characterized their season, there is no question that the Presidents' Trophy won't be the only cup they'll be hoisting at season's end.