The Blackhawks have had their best first half since they moved to the United Center 13 years ago, earning 55 points before the All-Star break. But as head coach Joel Quenneville would point out, we haven't won anything yet.
The Hawks' true test will come in the final 25 games leading up to the regular-season finale with back-to-back games against arch-rival Detroit on April 11 and 12. Dressing the youngest roster in the NHL, the Hawks are no longer surprising Central Division opponents, especially with the rivalries heating up.
The Hawks' first half success is fairly easy to explain: The special teams have been in the top third of the league and Nikolai Khabibulin and Cristobal Huet have both provided solid goaltending, giving the Hawks a chance to win every night.
But that hard-to-explain ingredient "team chemistry" is the key factor that makes the difference for this young team.
In the past few campaigns, the Hawks had maybe one or two lines that could provide some scoring punch. Thus far, three lines have been spreading the scoring around, which has put the team among the top-six in scoring (not forgetting, of course, the efforts of the so-called fourth line which have added more than their expected share of goals).
Let's take a look back at some previous campaigns:
The previous Hawks team with the best first-half record at the U.C - the 2001-02 squad - hit 50 points after 41 games on their way to 96 points and a third-place finish in the division.
Goalie Ed Belfour won both the Calder and Vezina Trophies with the 1990-91 team at the Stadium. That Hawks team had 53 points at the 40-contest mark during the 80-game slate. The Hawks finished first in the division with 106 points.
Two years later (1992-93) in an 84-game schedule, the Hawks had 51 points through 42 games with Jeremy Roenick on his way to his second straight 50-goal campaign as the team finished tops in the division with 106 points.
The 1982-83 team racked up 52 points in 40 games on their way to 104 points and first place in the Norris Division, with Denis Savard, Steve Larmer and Al Secord setting a team record for a line with 132 goals and 297 points.
Surprisingly, the best Chicago marks for points at the halfway point came in back-to-back seasons (1970-71 and 1971-72 in a 78-game schedule). Led by greats Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Pit Martin Tony Esposito and Dennis Hull, the Hawks had 59 points in 1970-71 and 58 the following year at the mid-point.
The question this season will be: can this young Hawks team maintain their current pace and break that 107 Chicago point mark? If the "special chemistry" continues and the home fans keep coming out in droves... well, I'll let you imagine the possibilities.