Blackhawks off to best start in franchise history with OT win
BY MARK LAZERUS email@example.com January 27, 2013 9:09PM
The Blackhawks mob Hawks defenseman Nick Leddy after he scored in overtime to give the Chicago Blackhawks a 2-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings Sunday January 27, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: March 1, 2013 7:20PM
At the tail end of their sixth game in nine nights and their second game in two nights; after visiting five cities since last Saturday; after killing three consecutive penalties in the second period and six total, the unstoppable Blackhawks train finally appeared to run out of gas Sunday night. The Hawks looked sluggish. A step slower. Flat-out tired.
After all, adrenaline, momentum and good vibes can carry a team only so far. At some point, the mind is willing but the flesh is weak.
“It’s been a lot of games,” Marcus Kruger said. “Obviously, some guys are going to feel that.”
But once Nick Leddy’s blast from the left circle ticked off Damien Brunner’s stick and Jimmy Howard’s glove to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 overtime victory over the Detroit Red Wings, there was more than enough adrenaline and good vibes to send the giddy Hawks teeming over the boards and rushing into Leddy’s arms.
The first overtime goal of Leddy’s career — at any level, he said — gave the Hawks a 6-0 start, the best in franchise history. At the one-eighth pole of the 48-game sprint season, Chicago is perfect.
“You really can’t describe it,” Leddy said of the postgame dog pile. “It’s an unbelievable feeling and one I’ll never forget.”
Leddy had the shining moment, but Corey Crawford — again — was the star, and the resurgent Hawks penalty killers were the heroes.
Crawford, making his second start in 24 hours and his fifth in nine games, made 29 saves, including several down the stretch after the Wings’ Johan Franzen beat him to tie the game at 1 at 4:30 of the third period.
“He stood tall,” coach Joel Quenneville said.
Kruger and Michael Frolik, meanwhile, teamed up to have a tremendous game on the penalty kill. The Hawks — 27th in the league on the PK last season — held the Red Wings scoreless on six power plays, bumping their season total to 22-for-23. But the three-kill stretch in the middle of the second period — including 43 seconds of a 5-on-3 Red Wings advantage — proved decisive.
Quenneville said it might have been Frolik’s best game with the Hawks. Frolik didn’t argue.
“Yeah, I felt good tonight,” he said. “I didn’t have much lucky bounces, but I feel good and the PK was big tonight. I’m glad I can be part of it and try to help the team win.”
Of course, this isn’t the same Red Wings power play that Hawks fans have come to know, hate, and maybe fear over the last several seasons.
Detroit is 2-of-26 with the man advantage, as Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement left a gaping hole at the point.
“Definitely,” Crawford said. “For them, missing a guy like that [hurts], he’s probably one of the best ones of all time on the blue line. It’s kind of nice for us not to see him this year. But you know what, at the same time, they have some other guys that are really good, too. The penalty kill definitely was looking sharp.”
The Hawks get some desperately needed rest with a couple days off before embarking on a massive six-game, 13-day road trip. They’re being evicted from the United Center by Disney On Ice. But whether it’s on the road or at home, led by the offense and power play or the defense and penalty kill, energized or exhausted, the Hawks’ fairy tale start rolls on.
“It’s unbelievable,” Leddy said. “I heard that stat [about the record start] before the game and it’s just unbelievable. We’ve got a great group of guys in this locker room, and if we just stick to doing the little things and playing the system, I think we’ll do great.”