318 days. That’s how long it’s been since the Blackhawks last took a regular-season loss in regulation. 318 days since the team walked away from a game without a point to show for it.
That streak will live on for at least two more days after the Blackhawks walked out of Jobing.com Arena Thursday night with a 6-2 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes.
Perhaps more impressively, the Blackhawks have now played more than a third of their 2012-13 road schedule and have taken away at least one point in every contest, an impressive 7-0-2 record (9-0-2 overall).
On the scoresheet and on the ice, several key factors helped the Blackhawks earn their victory in the desert.
Fast starters: After falling behind early in their past three games, the Blackhawks shot out of the gate in Phoenix, putting up four goals in the first period, including two on the power play. The Blackhawks have scored a total of 12 goals on Coyotes netminder Mike Smith this season in less than five periods of play.
“We responded to a poor start in San Jose, and scoring first certainly helped us,” said Head Coach Joel Quenneville postgame.
“It was just a fun period of hockey,” Patrick Kane said. “Everyone was excited with how we played, especially after our last two starts.”
Blackhawks stars shine: When Chicago’s top players show up on the scoresheet, the Blackhawks can be a very tough team to beat. Patrick Kane continued his assault on the rest of the league, recording another three points (2G, 1A) and moving into second place on the NHL’s scoring leaderboard, behind only Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek. Add to that three assists from Patrick Sharp and two points from Jonathan Toews, including a ridiculous deke-and-goal in the second period, and that is a recipe for success.
Kane’s scoring has been a benchmark for the Blackhawks’ success this season: The team is 7-0-0 when he has a multi-point game in 2012-13.
Sticking to the game plan: Lots of ink was spilled coming into the game about the impact of Phoenix forward Raffi Torres and whether the Blackhawks would try to retaliate for his season-ending hit on Marian Hossa in last year’s playoffs. However, to a man, the Chicago dressing room insisted that the best revenge was getting two points in the standings, and the play mostly reflected that.
Torres and Jamal Mayers dropped the gloves early in the first period, and after that, the Blackhawks played a focused, consistent game, while Phoenix drew an additional six penalties in the frame.
“I realize what my job is at this point,” Mayers said. “It still doesn’t excuse what happened, but I give Torres credit: He was willing to go.”
In fact, the Mayers fight with Torres may have been an early catalyst for the team.
Kane said the fight “gave me chills. He pumped up everyone on the bench and got everyone going.”
Protecting the netminder: Ray Emery had another solid performance, yielding just two goals on 24 shots. But the defenders in front of him limited Phoenix's scoring opportunities.
To wit: Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson combined for nine blocked shots between them, half of the Blackhawks’ 18 as a team. The Coyotes, who average more than 32 shots per game, were limited to just 24 against the Blackhawks. The Phoenix blueliners, who led the NHL coming into the game with 111 shots on goal this season, got just seven through to Emery.
The Blackhawks now move on to Nashville, where they will take on their Central Division rival Predators, themselves on a four-game win streak. It will prove to be another big test for the Blackhawks, who have visited five other hostile buildings on their West Coast swing.
“We have a little bit left on the road trip, so hopefully we can finish that strong, too,” Kane said.