The annual "Circus Trip," in which the Chicago Blackhawks go on a long road trip so Barnum and Bailey's can occupy the United Center, is a rite of fall for the Hawks. Trips that long are not easy. Just two years ago Chicago had a lengthy road trip that coincided with a nine-game losing streak which led to rumors coach Joel Quenneville's job was on the line.
This season, Chicago's "Circus Trip" pitted it against stiff competition, including the Colorado Avalanche, Vancouver Canucks and Phoenix Coyotes, to add to the rigors of seven games and nearly two weeks living out of a suitcase. The Blackhawks may have dropped the first game, but they responded, amazingly, by winning the last six in a row, including a dominant 5-2 win in Phoenix against the stingy Coyotes to put an exclamation point on the trip.
To me, this says that not only are the Blackhawks a team you need to consider on the short list of Stanley Cup contenders -- after all, we already know that -- but this team is now a little tougher than it used to be. The Blackhawks are turning into the Detroit Red Wings of the late 1990s or the New York Islanders of the early 1980s. They expect to win every game and they expect to have a shot at the Stanley Cup every year. They've got that mentality where they think, "Why can't we win every year? Why should we have a down year?"