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"I know about this Blackhawks streak," my seven-year-old daughter said recently ("almost eight!" she would insist). Jenna has potential as a sports fan. She settles in and watches the games for long stretches, much longer than her older sister will usually tolerate.
"They've got the most wins in a row ever to start a season!"
Well, no. And I went on to note that the team's season-opening 16-0-3 run (which was about 12-0-3 at the time, but anyway) isn't an undefeated streak either. But after a little more discussion I realized we weren't getting anywhere.
Full appreciation for a stretch of 19 games without a regulation loss requires an awareness of hockey history that is beyond her at this point.
I stopped after our chat had veered into something along the lines of, well, the Blackhawks have actually lost three of those games. But because hockey used to allow games to end in a tie, it considers games that are tied after three periods to be a different class of result. You know, like there are different classes of lawsuits, or something like that . . . Yeah, that was definitely enough.
At least the Hawks won both of their most recent games, although Edmonton has some sort of "haven't lost in regulation" streak going after Monday night's 3-2 contest at the United Center. The Oilers earned a point before Marian Hossa finished things off in overtime after Patrick Sharp set it up with a determined rush to the net.
You can watch all of the highlights here:
Still, the Hawks have slowed way down since their high-flying start. Hossa and Jonathan Toews had been held without a point in four of the previous five games. Hossa obviously snapped that streak but Toews is still searching for some offense and he appeared frustrated at times last night.
And they have never been slower all season than in stretches of Sunday's game with the Blue Jackets, a game that the undermanned team from Columbus managed to turn into slog for long enough stretches to stay competitive. Eventually the Hawks knocked one in (late in the second period off the stick of Andrew Shaw) and goaltender Corey Crawford made the goal stand up by stopping all 28 shots that came his way.
While Columbus and Edmonton have pretty meager attacks, the Hawks goaltending gets credit for staying hot nonetheless.
I have never seen any sort of table breaking down how long athletes are out with injuries versus how well they play when they come back, but Crawford has to be out near the edge of what is possible after his most recent absence. He missed a full week-and-a-half with an undisclosed injury (saying it is an "upper body injury" doesn't count as disclosure) but appeared to return in absolutely top form.)
Then fellow netminder Ray Emery continued his actual undefeated run (8-0-0) to start the season with 17 saves. And the Blackhawks have actually now won six in a row as a team.
One hopes the streaks will go on for as long as possible if for no other reason than it is now clear that once the streak is over, the playoff talk will begin. In this shortened season in particular - the Hawks are five games away from the midway point already - one's attention can't help but wander toward what everything will mean in the postseason.
For instance, Crawford and Emery have both been great so far this season but the accepted wisdom is that one will have to be the main man come the playoffs. How in the universe would coach Joel Quenneville make that decision at this point? Surely it will sort itself out at least a little bit over the next 29 games.
Then again, sometimes things don't sort themselves out. Like young hockey fans' perceptions of streaks. But there are always some fundamental truths, and in this case the one that matters is: The Hawks have won a boatload of games and it has been an awesome ride.
Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on
Mondays Tuesdays. He welcomes your comments.