After a lengthy lockout, the regular season got kicked off in late January, as executives decided on an abbreviated 48-game schedule in place of the normal 82 games played.
Luckily for Chicago fans, the young and exciting team was ready for the big show as soon as the first puck dropped. In fact, they started off the season by going to the Staples Center and defeated the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings convincingly, 5-2.
Fast forward all the way to March 8th, when the Hawks headed west to Colorado to take on the Avalanche. They lost that game Friday night by the score of 6-2, but not before history had been made. At that point, the Hawks were 21-0-3, as they’d set the record of the longest point streak to start a season (24) and extended their total point streak (dating back to 2012) to 30 games.
Though the faithful fans back in the midwest would’ve loved to see the streak extended further, the Blackhawks had done something monumental, summed up well by the Sports Illustrated cover devoted to them.
Although the team didn’t go on to set any more notable records, their efforts to that point and throughout the rest of the season will not be forgotten anytime soon. In fact, they are a team of great historical significance outside of the point streak, too.
Chicago On Top
One of the most consistently dominant teams throughout the last couple decades has been Blackhawks’ rival, the Detroit Red Wings. Though neither Detroit or Chicago has had extremely successful sports franchises recently, the likes of the Lions, Tigers, and even Pistons have endured much tougher times than the Chicago teams overall.
Detroit has always been able to claim their superiority, though, when it comes to hockey, as they’re known as “Hockeytown, USA.”
Since the last President’s Cup (awarded to the NHL’s top regular season team) the Blackhawks won, which was 22 years ago, the Red Wings have won five, while capturing four Stanley Cups.
After the Hawks surprisingly won the Cup in 2010, finances forced team ownership to scrap a good portion of the winning team, leaving a talented, yet inconsistent squad on the ice for the next couple years to come.
But now, with all of the organization’s young talent coming together, just a few years removed from a championship, they’re back on top, at least for now, while the Red Wings are for once the team that needs to adjust big-time.
Goalie Duo for the Ages
There have been some very historic goaltending tandems in NHL history. I mean, some really good duos.
Trust me, I know that the Blackhawks’ Corey Crawford and Ray Emery are nowhere near being named with the best of all-time, and they likely never will be. But for now, the efforts they’ve put together this one, single season, their collective campaign deserves mention.
Having split time nearly equally, Crawford finished with 19 wins and Emery with 17 of his own. But when discussing the win category, it’s Emery who had the largest accomplishment.
On Tuesday, March 26th, Emery made his 12th start of the season, but also set a record, as he improved to 12-0-0. That’s right ... Emery became the first goaltender in NHL history to win his first 12 starts of a regular season.
But when you look at some of the more major statistics, Crawford was right there with Emery overall. They both finished letting up 1.94 goals per game (average goals against), finished tied for 2nd in the league. Also, Crawford had a 0.93 save percentage and Emery was at 0.92, both near the top of the league just behind Craig Anderson’s (Ottawa) 0.94 figure.
So, simply put, both Crawford and Emery were near Vezina Trophy level. Goaltending is obviously one of the most important aspects in taking a team from ‘good’ to ‘great,’ and having superb play between the posts from two goalies is something you rarely ever see.
Outside of I’ve already mentioned, it’s hard to highlight the significance of the Blackhawks’ season based on the numbers. First and foremost, statistics never tell the complete story by themselves, but also, since this season was only 59% as long as a normal NHL regular season, it really just wasn’t possible for many other individual records to be broken.
But then again, that may be a good thing.
Think about it this way: on a hockey squad that is so young, so well-balanced, and acts as such a well-oiled machine, it may be good that there weren’t individual accomplishments that could possibly get in the way and cloud what the team should have, anddid, accomplish.
Let’s go back to that Sports Illustrated issue we mentioned above, the title of which, highlighting the Blackhawks, was “THE FRANCHISE That Brought Hockey Back.” And the subtitle read as follows ...
“Three months ago the NHL was all but dead; then came the Blackhawks’ magical run, which not only made the game matter again but made it must-see”
The article itself drew some criticism mostly from fans of other teams, and understandably so. But the Blackhawks did what no other team could do in years - do something that was cool, flashy, or attractive enough to draw mainstream media attention. It had been just about three full years since hockey had been on the cover of Sports Illustrated (an honor in the sports world), and that was for the Olympics, not even the NHL.
To put it simply, the Blackhawks’ season is historically significant because it mattered.
During the streak, it wasn’t only about the Miami Heat’s streak, it was about the Hawks and the Heat’s streaks. Plural. That’s hockey, right there with professional basketball. And not just any part of professional basketball, but the LeBron James (and big three) centered Heat.
And given how little the NHL has mattered in recent American history despite how quickly expanding and evolving the sports world is, the Blackhawks doing something significant on a national scale amidst the Super Bowl season, NBA, and college hoops going on ... well, no matter what happens in the playoffs, it mattered.