MUSICK: Red-hot Hawks go beyond impressive
CHICAGO – Forgive me if this sounds like a broken record.
The Blackhawks shut out Columbus on Sunday to pick up two more points in the standings.
The Hawks have played the first 18 games of the season without a loss in regulation, which is an NHL record. The previous record was 17, which was set by the Hawks two days earlier.
Today’s Hawks will have a chance to make it 19, breaking the record set by Sunday’s Hawks.
If all of this sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is.
How long can the Hawks keep this up? In a game that features so many odd bounces and deflections, wouldn’t you think that they would lose by accident one of these nights?
Second-year center Andrew Shaw shrugged and smiled as he spoke about the Hawks’ success. He scored the only goal in a 1-0 win against the Blue Jackets, which marked the Hawks’ second shutout in as many weeks after going approximately forever without one.
“If we stick to our systems and support each other and just work for each other,” Shaw said, “I don’t know how long this thing can last.”
It’s worth a closer look.
If you include the end of the 2011-12 regular season, the Hawks have earned at least one point in 24 consecutive games. That is the third-longest streak in NHL history.
The all-time points streak is 35 games, which was set by the 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers. The second-longest streak is 28 games, which was set by the 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens.
It seems like a lot to ask the Hawks to keep collecting points for 11 more games.
Then again, it seemed like a lot to ask the Hawks to begin the season 15-0-3.
The Hawks’ red-hot start has surpassed impressive.
Impressive is a dog that fetches the newspaper at the end of your driveway every morning. Impressive is being able to parallel park in a super-tight spot that barely fits your vehicle.
But this? This is something else. This is historic.
“We’re excited that were playing good hockey,” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “I think the last game to set that record was exciting for us. We know it’s nothing more than that.
“We’ve got a long ways to go. There’s a lot of work left to do before we get to the playoffs, and that’s where we want to be. And that’s where, really, we have to perform.
“But I think we’re improving on all of the little details of our game, every single game. It doesn’t matter who we play. We don’t take anyone for granted.”
A hard-fought, 1-0 win against a familiar division rival was just the latest way for the Hawks to prove their worth. They have won some games with offense and others with defense. They have won some games at home (7-0-1) and others on the road (8-0-2). They have won some games when they score first (9-0-0) and others when they don’t (6-0-3).
One cool thing about a shortened regular season is the condensed schedule, which means that we won’t have to wait long to find out whether the Hawks can notch another record.
Today, the Hawks will host the Edmonton Oilers.
At 7-7-3, the Oilers no longer are a laughingstock. But the Hawks still have the better team, and they’ll be playing in front of 20,000-plus crazies at the “Madhouse on Madison.”
After hosting the Oilers, the Hawks will travel to St. Louis on Thursday. The Blues are tough, and if recent history is any indication, the game could include as many skirmishes as goals.
Then, the Hawks will return to the United Center to host the Blue Jackets again.
At this rate, the Hawks would match the Flyers’ all-time record March 18 against the Colorado Avalanche. They could break the record March 20 against the Anaheim Ducks.
OK, maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Hawks players would cringe if they heard anyone discussing such scenarios.
You know, take it one game at a time, blah, blah, blah.
But those of us who don’t play for the team are allowed to look ahead. We’re allowed to daydream. We’re allowed to wonder with excitement at just how far this group can go.
On that note, the Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 30.
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.