Are Elements There for Chicago Blackhawks to Go on Another Epic Winning Streak?
The way we see things, the pieces are falling into place for this team to go on a tear of rather epic proportions. Could they make it to the same level as they did last season when they took points in 24 consecutive games?
That streak has "once in a lifetime" written all over it. We'd be willing to bet our super-valuable Twitter passwords that the 'Hawks won't be able to match that streak or even win half as many games. Yet it could be the longest streak that we see all year.
There are several reasons to believe that Chicago is poised to go on a rampage.
When the Minnesota Wild downed the 'Hawks in Chicago on October 26, the game had a playoff atmosphere. It caught the attention of pundits around the league, and it appeared that Minnesota made a pretty big statement at the expense of the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Was this a new superpower emerging? Were the 'Hawks still recovering from a Cup hangover? It looked like it for one game.
There was much fanfare as the series shifted back to the State of Hockey. This was a contest that seemed to carry postseason implications—an early-season treat for fans to take in and enjoy.
Playoff atmosphere tonight between Wild and Blackhawks? Towels say yes (Star Tribune) http://t.co/t3wOFnODv4— SportsNewsDaily (@SportsNewsLines) October 28, 2013
Yet the game was pretty much over before it even began.
The 'Hawks came out with energy, and every line looked dangerous and was rolling. Before the puck drop, pundits were talking about how the Wild were emerging as Cup hopefuls.
Chicago showed how big the gap between a championship hopeful and a championship contender can be. One victory doesn't amount to much of a streak though.
Upon closer inspection, there are other reasons to believe that this squad is about to go off outside of their response to the Wild.
Patrick Sharp is waking up
Patrick Sharp scored his second goal of the season against the Wild on October 28, snapping a five game goalless drought.
Usually, Sharp scoring wouldn't be news, but he began the season ice cold.
How cold? While he was still getting a ton of pucks on net (he's 11th in the league in SOG), he just wasn't finding the back of the net.
Now that the second one has finally gone in, Chicago has its most dangerous and important depth scorer back and clicking. The six-time 20-goal scorer seemed to get a boost from his new linemates in Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.
On most teams, this loaded top line would leave the other three lines devoid of scoring talent, but that isn't the case in Chicago.
Emergence of Brandon Saad and Brandon Pirri as legit top-six forwards
The 'Hawks rolled out this dandy of a line against the Wild in Minnesota, and it clicked so well that it makes you wonder why it hasn't been together all season.
Pirri started the year off in the AHL, while Saad has been shuttled around the lineup a bit as head coach Joel Quenneville has sought out balanced scoring and responsible defense.
While the trio posted several points, the two-way prowess in play here is remarkable.
Saad and Marian Hossa are rock stars in the neutral zone, and Pirri will be in time. He's been working on developing that part of his game while in Rockford, so he fits in well here.
With Michal Handzus on the shelf for a while with injury, don't be surprised to see Pirri lock down the No. 2 center spot that has been a question mark on this team since training camp.
The upcoming schedule is soft
Out of Chicago's next ten opponents, only two of them have towering records and could honestly be considered teams in the NHL's top third. Only three of the next nine teams that the 'Hawks face are more than one game over the .500 mark, and the Phoenix Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche could be coming back down to earth by the time they play Chicago.
|Ottawa Senators (Oct. 29)||4-5-2|
|Winnipeg Jets (Nov. 2 and 6)||5-6-2|
|Calgary Flames (Nov. 3)||5-4-2|
|Dallas Stars (Nov. 9)||5-5-1|
|Edmonton Oilers (Nov. 10)||3-8-2|
|Phoenix Coyotes (Nov. 14)||7-3-2|
|Nashville Predators (Nov. 16)||6-5-1|
|San Jose Sharks (Nov. 17)||10-1-1|
|Colorado Avalanche (Nov. 19)||10-1-1|
Outside of the San Jose Sharks and Avs, those are all very winnable games.
The Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets, Dallas Stars and even the Nashville Predators are squads that the 'Hawks can down if they're at the top of their game, which shouldn't be a problem heading into November—not if they continue to play like they did against Minnesota.
The 'Hawks had the look of a slumbering giant through the first few weeks of the season but have been woken up by a few swift kicks to the ribs.
This is a team on the rise, and a 10-game winning streak isn't out of the question.
Will it take a few bounces and a little luck? Sure, but what winning streak doesn't?
The talent is there, and the drive is finally there.
Consider this your notice: Here come the 'Hawks.
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