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Despite 10-0-3 record, Hawks’ season has been more of a grind than dominant

Bryan Bickell Brad Staubitz

Bryan Bickell, Brad Staubitz

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Updated: March 15, 2013 1:37PM

A lot of words have been thrown around to describe the Blackhawks’ 13-game streak without a regulation loss to start the season — remarkable, impressive, stunning, exciting.

One word that hasn’t been used? Dominant.

The Hawks are a healthy 10-0-3, atop the league standings and just three games away from the Anaheim Ducks’ record of 16 games in a row with at least a point to open a season. But they’ve hardly been running teams out of rinks in the process. Tuesday night’s home shootout loss to the Anaheim Ducks was the eighth one-goal game the Hawks have played, including a run of seven in a row.

So despite the gaudy record, the Hawks really have been grittier than they have been dominant.

“When the games are on the line, that’s when you like to find out about your team,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “That they’re doing the right things and putting themselves in the right position to either get points or get it into overtime. We expect ourselves to be in every game. Last year in the playoffs [against Phoenix], we had five straight overtime games. That’s where the league is, where the games are very tight and [you have to] find your way through the games, especially at the critical times.”

The Hawks are 4-0-3 in games in which they trailed at some point, and they’re 5-0-3 in one-goal games — all three losses coming in shootouts. Of their 13 games, four have gone to shootouts, and two more to overtime.

“It just shows we’ve got character,” Andrew Shaw said. “We want to win, and we find ways to win. We play for each other and we work for each other. We stick up for each other, too. When you have good trust in your teammates, that’s how you find out how to win.”

They have won with offense, yes — the first two games of the season were offensive showcases, as was the Raffi Torres revenge game in Phoenix last week — but they’ve also won, or at least earned a point, in just about every other way possible.

They’ve won with goaltending — Ray Emery outright stealing two points against the Calgary Flames with a virtuoso 45-save performance, plus three more stops in the shootout.

They’ve won with defense — Sunday’s 3-0 shutout at Nashville was a product of the Hawks blocking shots and clogging lanes, allowing just 17 shots to get to Corey Crawford.

They’ve earned points with penalty-killing — fending off power plays in the final five minutes against Minnesota, Vancouver and Calgary in a four-night span.

And they’ve earned points with timely goals — Marian Hossa in overtime at Dallas, Nick Leddy in overtime against Detroit, Hossa forcing overtime with two seconds left in regulation at Calgary.

“Just the find-a-way is the biggest thing,” said Bryan Bickell, whose big hit on Ryan Getzlaf and subsequent fight with Brad Staubitz ignited the team and the crowd against Anaheim. “I know we’ve been down and come back, like the San Jose game [down 3-1 early] to win the game. We’re never giving up, like in the Calgary game. It’s just the mentality we have — it’s special. It shows in our record, the hard work we’re putting in. We’re just rolling.”

Certainly, the Hawks wouldn’t mind a few more blowouts, a few more chances to ease up a bit and maybe rest some top guys down the stretch. The Phoenix game last week was a welcome change of pace after eight consecutive down-to-the-wire affairs. But in a 48-game sprint season, the entire schedule feels like the playoffs. So narrow, playoff-type games are to be expected. And the Hawks insist the skin-of-their-teeth games are no more taxing than dominant ones.

All that matters are the points.

“The season’s going to be a grind no matter what,” defenseman Duncan Keith said. “Ideally, you’d prefer to finish the game in regulation, but we’ll take points any way we can.”

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