We’re 12 games into the season and the Hawks have just come off a thoroughly impressive 4-0-2 road trip and have compiled 22 points out of a possible 24 points. Stunning on all counts, so much so that we are forced to recognize that the Hawks are effectively already enroute to the conference finals; anything else implies an implosion of some tragic sort. I realize that I have been overplaying the Hawks’ championship destiny for over a month now, but they are so far ahead of the rest of the league that they need to actively position themselves for the playoffs now. The Blackhawks play their next 10 of 12 games at the United Center, which has been very friendly to them historically and especially last year when they went 27-8-6 at home. All signs point to a single, glorious destination. I feel like the bookie who’s elected to pay off bets on Manchester United’s Championship with a third of the season yet to be played.
The 6-game road trip was almost perfect. The Hawks went into the “Shark Tank” and fell down 2-0 really fast, and then outscored the home team 5-1 to close out the game. They won the next game 6-1, and followed that with a 3-0 win. The lopsided goal differential makes the Hawks a very hot team. They have the sense of urgency borne of winning the Cup two years ago and failing to maintain that momentum. The team still has the nucleus from that run intact, and the current lineup is so full of talent that it’s hardly a shock to see them ahead of the pack…but the extent of their current lead leaves us breathless.
I hear whispers that they are too-hot too-soon and risk burnout and losing their focus and intensity. This is highly unlikely over the next 12 games as they won’t have to leave the United Center for any swing games. At the end of the home stand, the Hawks should be so far ahead of the league that there won’t be enough games left by which to lose their formidable lead. The Hawks are on track to capture their first President’s Trophy since 1991.
Kane’s goal last night against Nashville was eerily similar to the one that won the Cup. It just goes to show when things are going good, they’re going really good, especially when you’re facing a defensive-minded team like the Predators with a Vezina-calibre goalie in Rinne.
The published record shows that I was not confident in the Bears even when they were 7-1, and so my optimism for the Hawks is not Pollyannaish. The Hawks are the real deal for Chicago.