Monday, March 4, 2013

Geek Out Stat: Blackhawk Up

     It seems as if the NHL Lockout has had no effect on the people of Chicago. Why? Because the Blackhawks are on a historic streak almost halfway through the strike-shortened NHL season. The Hawks are 19-0-3 through 22 games, earning at least a point in every game this season. But here's the catch: Not only have the Blackhawks not lost in regulation, they haven't lost a game during the overtime period. All three of their losses were shoot-out losses. They have as many points as they do goals allowed (41 points in 22 games) and have the most points in the NHL so far. Is this Chicago team unbeatable? When will the mighty Hawks fall in regulation (Or will they fall)?
     There are plenty of explanations for Chicago's record run. Goaltender Corey Crawford is 10-0-3 with a 1.41 GAA, two shutouts, and a .945 SV% this year. He's been a part of a hot goalie tandem with Ray Emery, who's 9-0-0 with a 2.02 GAA and a a.926 SV% in 2013. The Blackhawks also have an array of offensive firepower. Right wing Patrick Kane, who had the game-tying goal in a 2-1 SO win at Detroit on Sunday, is fifth in the NHL with 26 points (11 goals and 15 assists). Also contributing to the offense is defenseman Duncan Keith (11 assists), center/captain Jonathan Toews (nine goals, 18 points), right wing Marian Hossa (nine goals, 17 points), and center Patrick Sharp (11 assists, 16 points). As a result, Chicago is fourth in goals per game (GPG) with three goals a game. They're also allowing the fewest goals per game with 1.7 GA and have the third-best penalty kill in the NHL (89.7 %). Don't forget the fact that the Hawks have remained relatively healthy so far.
     So is the streak of 22 straight games with a point as impressive as it sounds? Well, there are a few things that water down the streak a little bit. For one, the NHL's post-lockout schedule doesn't have any Eastern Conference teams playing the Western Conference. This means that you won't see the Boston Bruins playing a 2013 regular season game against Chicago due to the lockout. But does this mean that the Western Conference is the weaker conference? Not really. The Detroit Red Wings and Vancouver Canucks have both taken the Hawks to overtime in both of their regular season matchups this year. In fact, Chicago has played ten overtime games in 2013, posting a 7-0-3 record in games that at least go into overtime. However, it does mean that the Eastern Conference has plenty of pleasant surprises so far that include the Eastern Conference's top team Montreal (14-4-4, 32 points) and Toronto (13-9, 26 points, sixth in the Eastern Conference). Another thing to note is that they just completed a seven-game homestand, going 6-0-1 in that homestand. Granted, the Blackhawks only played two home games in their first twelve games. But aside from Vancouver and the surprising Anaheim Ducks, they've had a relatively easy homestand.
     Chicago has nearly been unbeatable through the first half of the season. But is it possible for them to not suffer a loss in regulation? One thing to note about the Blackhawks is that Chicago has been notorious for blowing leads late into games. It happened in their first matchup with the Red Wings on January 27 (Detroit's Johan Franzen tied the game up early in the third period, but Chicago's Nick Leddy won the game in OT with a goal). It happened at home against Anaheim on February 12 (which Anaheim eventually won in a shootout 3-2). It happened a week later at a home game vs. Vancouver (Chicago had a 3-1 lead going into the third period, but blew that lead. Chicago did beat the Canucks in a shootout 4-3 to win, however). It happened on Friday at home against the Columbus Blue Jackets (Columbus's Ryan Jamerson tied the game up with 7:37 left to send the game into overtime. But Chicago's Brent Seabrook scored the winning goal in OT to win it for the Hawks 4-3). On the other hand, the Hawks have also come back late in games. Their most notable comebacks have come on the road against Dallas (January 24), Vancouver (February 1), Calgary (February 2), and Detroit (Sunday). Of those four comebacks, only Vancouver won. Fortunately for the Blackhawks, there are no shootouts in the playoffs. But they do need to address their late-game lapses if they want to hoist Lord Stanley's grail in June.
     Who can possibly end the Hawks' impressive streak this season? Three of their next four games are at home against teams from the Northwest division. But after that, they go on a four-game road trip. It includes the likes of Columbus and Colorado, but also contains a surprising Dallas Stars team and the Pacific division leader/pleasant surprise Anaheim Ducks. They also have games against tough division rivals later on along with road games against Vancouver and Minnesota. It should be noted that the 1979-1980 Philadelphia Flyers hold the record for the most consecutive games with at least a point (25 wins and ten ties). However, don't discount the Blackhawks' chances of breaking that record.

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