The Blackhawks have to lose, right? Right?
BY RICK TELANDER email@example.com March 7, 2013 9:54PM
Hawks winger Andrew Shaw celebrates his goal giving the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead in the first period of the Chicago Blackhawks-Colorado Avalanche NHL game Wednesday March 6, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
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Updated: April 9, 2013 11:53AM
Earlier this year I started a column by writing, “They have to lose sometime, right?’’
Plain logic. Now, you gotta wonder. Maybe an apple can fly upward. Maybe Kris Jenner is sweet. Maybe E=MC3.
Because the Blackhawks have reached the halfway point in this lockout-shortened season, and they haven’t lost in regulation yet, and I don’t know when or how they are going to lose.
As we all now know — since everybody in Chicago is a hockey fan these days (thank you, Derrick Rose’s injured ACL) — the Blackhawks have at least one point for every game, which means their 21-0-3 record is jaw-droppingly good.
They now hold the record for the NHL opening-season points streak, and — if you go back to last season, which we will — they have scored at least one point in 30 consecutive games. That’s just five away from the NHL record.
And if you don’t like the overtime part of this hockey equation — if you think those three non-wins should be called losses, just remember the Hawks now have 11 straight honest-to-God wins, a franchise record. Indeed, it will no longer be enough for them simply to win their second Stanley Cup in four seasons — they must blow through the playoff field like a shotgun blast through wallpaper.
OK, it’s easy to predict and demand such stuff when you’re sitting in the press box high above, away from stick knobs, all your teeth in place, nobody like the Sedin brothers bearing down on you. But, seriously, why should these guys lose?
It could have already happened, multiple times. But the Blackhawks have pulled out games in every way imaginable — with short-handed winners, shootout circuses, with fights, without fights, via nail-biters, annihilations, with an astounding 12 players scoring winning goals, with two goaltenders, which is something no great team does.
But the Hawks bonded so quickly after the torturous lockout that they might be the only team in the NHL that would have been hindered by playing exhibition games. It’s like they have silent communication going between all parts, like bees in a colony. Consider that brilliant defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have been in the Blackhawks system together for more than a decade (Keith was drafted in the second round in 2002; Seabrook in the first round in 2003), and maybe you can understand how they link up for goals, assists, and stops almost as one creature.
And, believe it, we here in Chicago are noticing. It seems impossible, but all 10 of the Hawks’ highest-rated TV games have occurred this season. According to a report from Comcast SportsNet, which carries most of the games, 18 of the 19 highest-rated Hawks games (using household viewership) have occurred this year, with the highest-rated game ever being the second-to-last one, a 5-3 victory over the Minnesota Wild, on Tuesday night.
There has been excited chatter about the 16-game winning streak the Miami Heat is on, as if it is somehow equal to or better than the Hawks’ streak. Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell have even been tweeting cheerily back and forth with Heat hoops god LeBron James. “U guys are AWESOME!!’’ tweeted James yesterday. “Keep rolling,’’ replied the Kaner.
Nice, but irrelevant. Sixteen games in the middle of a season is not like 24 at the start. Not even close. You have a lot of chances to have a big streak sometime during a long season. You have only one chance at the beginning. Why, the 1995-96 Bulls won 18 in a row, after winning 12 in a row, after winning 10 of 11. They then had winning streaks of seven, six, six, six and five. The 1991-92 Bulls won 14 in a row and then 13 in row. In 1997, the Bulls started 12-0.
At any rate, that’s nice what you’re doing there, Miami. But it’s not even the longest streak in the NBA this season.
The Blackhawks are in uncharted waters, or ice, here. Who is going to beat them? The Avalanche out there in Denver on Friday night? Edmonton back here on Sunday? The Blue Jackets, the Stars, the Ducks?
Any of it’s possible. But then we’re talking about crazy science here.
‘‘We just take them one game at a time,’’ said captain Jonathan Toews, using the greatest sports cliché ever to explain what the Blackhawks actually do.
The rest of us? We can take them by the two dozen.