Is there any stopping the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks?
Chicago's remarkable season continued on Saturday night as the Hawks defeated the Vancouver Canucks 3-1 at G.M. Place. The win marked the Blackhawks' seventh straight win, a feat last accomplished by the franchise 28 seasons ago, and they have not lost in regulation in December.
The streak included three victories in a three-game road trip through western Canada; the Blackhawks had beaten Edmonton (9-2) and Calgary (3-2 in OT) prior to ending Vancouver's modest two-game winning streak.
Against the Canucks, Chicago fell behind just 3:45 into the game when Daniel Sedin scored his team-leading 15th goal of the year for Vancouver. The Blackhawks, however, rallied with two goals less than four minutes apart early in the second, and goaltender Cristobal Huet took care of the rest with 30 saves.
It was a pair of Patricks that did the Canucks in: Patrick Kane scored his 16th of the season 2:51 into the second, a backhander which beat Canucks goaltender Curtis Sanford, before Patrick Sharp put Chicago ahead to stay 3:26 later with a blast past a screened Sanford. The Sharp goal came moments after the Canucks missed on a glorious scoring chance at the other end of the rink.
Jonathan Toews' empty-net goal with 39 seconds left sealed the deal for Chicago.
Sanford played well in the Canucks goal, finishing with 31 stops.
It was Vancouver's first game since the announcement they had signed superstar Mats Sundin. The Canucks could have used Sundin, who isn't expected to play until early January, as they lost their third consecutive Saturday night contest and have scored only two goals in those three losses.
Chicago has gone 8-0-1 in the month after losing its final three contests to end November. The Hawks have shown they can blow the opposition out (as evidenced by the 9-2 win in Edmonton and 7-1 romp of the Phoenix Coyotes two weeks earlier), as well as win the close ones.
I was one of the cynics who scoffed when Chicago let go former bench boss Denis Savard just four games into the season in favor of Joel Quenneville, but I have to admit I was certainly wrong when I said firing Savard was the wrong move. Chicago has gone an incredible 17-4-6 with coach Q behind the bench after starting out 1-2-1 under Savard.
Can the Blackhawks keep up their hot streak?