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Between the Dots: Blackhawks' hot start reaches record proportions

by Bob Verdi / Chicago Blackhawks
Photo by Bill Smith / Chicago Blackhawks

Gone, long gone, are hockey nights in Chicago imported from Detroit. Sunday evening, it was all but unanimous: Of the 21,607 crammed into the United Center, virtually everyone came to watch the Blackhawks make history—which they did with a 2-1 overtime victory, their sixth in a row, a franchise record takeoff.

When Nick Leddy shot an arrow past goalie Jimmy Howard 2:45 into sudden death, the building erupted. It had been noisy for three hours or so, of course, even during stoppages in play. Only a few Red Wings loyalists occupied seats—there used to be hundreds, thousands—and a familiar serenade greeted them.

“DET-ROIT -----------!! DET-ROIT -------- !!

But Leddy’s drive culminated a gritty stretch—six games in nine nights for the Blackhawks, and on the ninth night, a half dozen Detroit power plays extinguished without damage. This is quite remarkable stuff. Like every team in this post-lockout mode, the Blackhawks did not hold a practice until two Sundays ago. They have not staged a normal practice since before their opener in Los Angeles. Yet they are the scourge of the National Hockey League, having passed the 1971-72 Blackhawks, who began their regular schedule with five consecutive wins.

The Blackhawks clicked early on a power play. Brent Seabrook slipped the puck to sidekick Duncan Keith, who drilled it from the left dot over Howard’s right shoulder. Johan Franzen tied it early in the third and the Red Wings—who were off Saturday night—seemed inclined to use their fresher legs toward more. But Corey Crawford, airtight again, would have none of that.

These Blackhawks must keep on keeping on to hang with the Blackhawks of ‘71-72. That team came to camp in ill-humor, having lost the Stanley Cup the previous spring to the Montreal Canadiens. The Blackhawks led the finals, 2-0, and Game 7 at the Stadium, 2-0, only to fall, 3-2. Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito—all three team Hall of Fame ambassadors—played in the series and still can’t erase it from their memory banks.

That year the motivated Blackhawks played 39 home games in the Stadium and lost only three (with eight ties). Remarkably, two of those home losses were in consecutive games. The overall Stadium record was amazing: the Blackhawks collected more points (64) than they allowed goals (63).

The Blackhawks swept Pittsburgh in the first round of the playoffs, but then were ousted in four straight by the New York Rangers. A month after the Blackhawks were eliminated, their fans braced for an awful truth. The rumors had teeth. Hull accepted an offer from the Winnipeg Jets of the World Hockey Association.

These Blackhawks are going nowhere except Minnesota Wednesday night. They will get a lot of sleep between now and then. And despite the schedule of 48 games in 99 days—or is it 99 games in 48 days? —there will be time for practice. Coach Joel Quenneville loves to teach.

Can he draw up a plan for 7-0?

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