It is truly remarkable how a Stanley Cup championship can change the perception of a franchise. What were once feelings of jubilation, excitement and genuine surprise of Blackhawks fans new and old after winning the cup have worn off. But what has replaced those emotions going into this season is something a bit more serious.
With the national media focused on the numerous storylines sprouting up all over the league, one story has been flying under the radar. The Chicago Blackhawks are performing up to the expectations of a fan base and ownership that now considers success business as usual. Currently on a seven game point streak, the Blackhawks have barely scratched the surface of what they could potentially accomplish this year.
"Practice makes perfect and perfect makes history" -- a line succinctly said
in this years One Goal campaign in a spot with head coach Joel Quenneville. Knowing what it takes to win championships, and having a season like last year's to remind you that they don’t come easy, has given the Blackhawks players a very business-like attitude towards the game.
While not as exciting as youthful exuberance and promising talent like so many other teams are showcasing this year, the formula for another run at the Cup is understood and has been honed to perfection with this year’s team.
Yet, there are still areas for improvement and the team knows that. Shootout success hasn’t come easy for the Hawks this year, with two overtime losses and has been the biggest topic of post-game conversations between the players and Chicago media. Fortunately, their latest win came in the shootout with Quenneville electing to go second in the shootout and placing a little more emphasis on shootouts in practice. As to why he decided to choose to shoot second, “Because we didn’t win going first.”
The power play in particular has yet to find the back of the net as often as the team would like. With only eight goals in 30 opportunities the power play is clearly the weakest link in the game plan for Chicago, sitting 19th in the league. It is a long season and as more chances arise it will continue to improve, but special teams play needs to be sharp if the Hawks want to stay on top of the Central Division.
Goaltender Corey Crawford, on the other hand, has been as good as any other netminder in the league. Starting the season 4-1-2 with 2.08 goals-against average and .923 save percentage puts him nearly identical statistically to Ryan Miller in Buffalo, who also has seven starts and considered to be one of the best in the league. Surprisingly, Crawford doesn’t seem to garner the same attention.
While the Blackhawks aren’t quite yet the picture of perfection, nothing captures the intensity, work ethic and professionalism that the Chicago Blackhawks are bringing to this season quite like their newest One Goal advertising promotion. It embodies exactly the type of quiet confidence this team has and will need as they make their next run to a Stanley Cup.Photo credit: Getty Images