TELANDER: Blackhawks are making it look easy
BY RICK TELANDER email@example.com February 27, 2013 9:44AM
Hawks winger Andrew Shaw (C) celebrates with his teammates after scoring to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead in the second period of the Chicago Blackhawks-Columbus Blue Jackets NHL game Sunday February 24, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Well, they have to lose sometime. Right?
That was the buzz as the Blackhawks messed around for almost two full periods against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night at the United Center.
But then, what the heck, the Hawks decided to win.
Andrew Shaw put a beautiful setup pass from Bryan Bickell directly onto the Blue Jackets’ net with 87 seconds left in the second period. And that was that. One-nothing.
The win makes it 18 straight games for the Blackhawks without a regular-time loss. This is fairly amazing. It is, in fact, history.
At least one point in every game. Never, ever lose in regulation. Have some blowouts. Play tough in overtime. Squeak out a few tight, ugly games like, well, this one.
Thus, the odd, contrarian question now seems valid: Do they really have to lose sometime?
It could happen as soon as Monday night, of course, when the Blackhawks play the Edmonton Oilers right back here at the UC. The games are so tightly packed into this lockout-shortened season that the three-day break the Blackhawks finally get from March 11-13 might seem like an offseason.
Then, again, the players are so focused on ‘‘one game at a time’’ and ‘‘we haven’t done anything yet’’ that they might not even notice the void.
‘‘Everyone’s playing hard and making the right plays,’’ said goaltender Corey Crawford, back in net after recovering from what we’ll assume was post-concussion syndrome. While Crawford was out, fill-in goalie Ray Emery simply won every game he started. Is that enough depth for you?
And of the streak that blazes onward?
‘‘We’re aware of it,’’ answered Crawford. ‘‘But we’re worried about the next game, and we focus on that.’’
Naturally, they do. Stop and savor what they’ve accomplished so far and they might ruin the magic. Indeed, the record to start a season will only be a thing of triumph if it leads to a championship. The Hawks are aware that the three teams they have surged past in the history book — most recently the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks — all went on to win the crown.
Fail this year, and excited fans will be talking gag instead of joy. Any competitor knows this. Certainly a group of veterans like the Hawks do. The beauty of clichéd answers like, ‘‘It is what it is,’’ (Jonathan Toews, postgame) is that they do not make you sound cocky, arrogant or like royalty. Stupid, maybe. But better stupid than spoiled.
Teams come up against the Hawks knowing their dominance.
‘‘We expect that,’’ Crawford said. ‘‘We’re a real strong team. But we’re not gonna take anything lightly. You can’t.’’
‘‘It doesn’t matter who you play,’’ Toews said, indirectly referencing the bottom-dwelling Blue Jackets. Nothing direct, though. Nothing celebratory or demeaning or smart-ass. The Blackhawks are in that rare thing — the zone. Winning seems almost easy.
It’s, you know, what they do. It reminds you of a little while ago when goofy actor Charlie Sheen was wandering around TV talk shows blabbering, ‘‘WINNING!’’ He made no sense, of course.
But it seems the Blackhawks can win when half-asleep, yawning, while texting, with a glass of champagne raised in one hand.
Their record when scoring first is 9-0. Their home record is 7-0-1. Their road record is 8-0-2. These are all just silly stats, because — guess what? — they are the best team in hockey, and they still haven’t lost a regulation game.
Of the ongoing streak, defenseman Duncan Keith said, a trifle annoyed, ‘‘I don’t really care. I’ll be honest with you — nobody in this room cares right now. They just want to get better. We want to win every game.’’
Coach Joel Quenneville insisted, ‘‘There’s no easy games.’’
Could fool me.