Blackhawks' streak draws admiration from Red Wings

Sunday, 03.03.2013 / 8:04 PM
Brian Hedger  - Correspondent

DETROIT -- It takes one to truly appreciate one.

The Detroit Red Wings, who last season set the NHL record with 23 straight home victories, are the latest stunned admirers of the Chicago Blackhawks, who on Sunday again found a way to continue their tear through the Western Conference.

The Blackhawks' come-from-behind 2-1 shootout victory was 2:02 away from being their first regulation loss in 22 games (19-0-3), the longest such stretch to open a season in NHL history, but Patrick Kane's power-play goal assured the visitors of at least one more game with the run intact.

Kane also gave the Blackhawks a second point by scoring the deciding goal of the shootout and improving his team’s record in one-goal games to 12-0-3.

The Red Wings, like many other opponents this season, just shook their collective head about it afterward.

"It's not easy what they're doing," Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "They find a way to win. They get a point every game. I saw some stat where I think [15] games are one-goal games. It's impressive to find a way to get that tying goal or that go-ahead goal. We'll see how long it lasts."

People said similar things about the Red Wings last season, when it seemed like they just couldn't lose on home ice. Like that team, these Blackhawks are gaining momentum to keep their run going with every victory they pile on top of it.

"They have confidence and they believe in themselves, that's what you do," Zetterberg said. "They've been playing real well. Even when they're down one or two goals, they have that feeling among the group that they can turn it around. They've been doing it so far."

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock also was impressed.

"It's amazing," he said. "In a competitive League, they're not making it competitive. In saying that, they're [12-0-3] in one-goal games. So they find a way to win. That's depth and that's skill."

It's also something that started in the Blackhawks' front office a year ago, when Chicago general manager Stan Bowman made a trade with the Winnipeg Jets to acquire puck-moving defenseman Johnny Oduya.

Bowman also traded to get Viktor Stalberg after Chicago won the 2010 Stanley Cup, then selected third-line center Andrew Shaw with the 139th pick of the 2011 NHL Draft.

There was a trade to get speedy fourth-liner Michael Frolik, and Cup-winning goalie Antti Niemi became a free agent after Bowman walked away from Niemi's arbitration award.

That move ultimately is what gave Corey Crawford a chance to shine, and he is making it look like a brilliant decision; the 28-year-old leads the League with a 1.41 goals-against average to go with his 10-0-3 record.

Bowman brought in veteran backup goalie Ray Emery prior to the 2011-12 season, and that move is working out great too.

"You've got to give Stan Bowman credit," Babcock said. "He's done a good job of retooling the roster. They're no different than any other team that won the Cup. They had to get rid of players. The players they acquired have come of age."

It's impressive, even to the Red Wings, a franchise that's long been considered among the NHL's best. Detroit is undergoing a semi-rebuild with younger players getting opportunities, but there is enough talent to make the Blackhawks sweat out nearly every game the teams play.

There also are enough holdovers from Detroit's recent glory days to appreciate what the Blackhawks have accomplished nearly halfway into a 48-game schedule.

"I think they play a little different [than we do]," Zetterberg said. "They try to stretch teams out a lot. I don't think we did that. They have the puck a lot, and that's what we're trying to do as well. They had their group together for a few years now and you can see that. They have a lot of good chemistry among the guys."

The Blackhawks also have a collective attitude of thirsting for more.

"You're definitely thinking about it," Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said of the run. "[But] I don't think you see a change in our style of play, whether we're up a goal or down a goal. That's an important thing."

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