So, the historic run has finally come to an end. The Hawks lost. What does it mean? Nothing. Not a damn thing.
They still set the record for the most consecutive games with a point to start a season and the franchise record for longest winning streak. More importantly, they did it in a compressed schedule with less time between games and with ten of their first twelve games being on the road. To top that off, they've played in five games having played the night before and have played three games in four days four times. Wow.
So, they didn't beat the Flyers' streak of 35 consecutive games with a point. They'll settle for second, because when this season is over, the only thing they're going to care about is whether or not they won the big prize. Records are nice, but they don't really matter. Trophies are nice, but even the President's Trophy and the Clarence Campbell Bowl don't matter. The Blackhawks PR machine has been drilling it into our heads for the last few seasons... "One goal." That has to be, and I believe will be the focus.
I don't think anyone believes the sky is falling because they finally lost in regulation. But there are two ways to look at this. Now that they've lost, will the losses start piling up? Or, was this the reminder that they really didn't need, that they are human and can't get points in every single game? I'd bet it's the latter. Joel Quennville is too good a coach to let them get down on themselves nor will he allow them to be complacent and rest on their laurels. And I'm not even sure it all comes down just to Q anyway.
This team is hungry. During the regular season, I'm not sure even the 2010 team scrapped as hard as this team. There's plenty of skill and depth here, but the team effort has been remarkable. Everyone backchecks, no one quits. Guys take big hits to make plays. There have been mistakes and breakdowns, but I haven't seen one that came from a lack of effort.
So, what did we really learn about the Blackhawks during all this? Quite a bit.
- Goaltending isn't the huge question mark anymore. Both Crow and Razor have been good throughout, and at times, outstanding.
- And when the goalies haven't been outstanding, the defense has.
- I already mentioned the work ethic.
- Q has proven, yet again, that he's an elite NHL bench boss. I don't know what goes on in the room, but I do know that every player that's skated for this team this season has done so as part of a unit. It's a precision, well-oiled machine.
- As good as they've been, there are still holes. The back end is solid, but there's a significant need for more sandpaper up front.
- Someone other than Tazer has to learn to win faceoffs.
- Kane has always been better defensively that he gets credit for, in my opinion, but the only player I can honestly say might be backchecking harder than him right now is Hoss.
- Stan Bowman might be a much better GM than a lot of people (myself included) thought. After the 2010 fire sale, we should have all known it would take time to fill those gaps. To have done it in three years sure ain't bad.
I could go on, but I won't. Suffice to say that this team is deep, motivated and cohesive. As long as the injury bug doesn't get out of hand, I don't see how any team can beat these guys in a seven game series. And keep in mind, we could see some upgrades at forward and we still haven't seen the best Duncs and Seabs have to offer. As good as the team has been, they can still be better and I'd bet they will.
Yeah, the streak is over. So what? What team has been better than the Blackhawks so far this season? The party's just getting started...