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One Minute Remaining: Opening game not always a barometer for season ahead

by Harvey Wittenberg / Chicago Blackhawks

When the Blackhawks begin their 88th NHL season in Dallas on Oct. 9, is there any indicator of a successful season? Naturally, there is a lot that can happen between the opener and the schedule's finale in Colorado on April 11.

In 87 seasons, the Hawks have won 66 season openers and qualified for the playoffs 64 times. There's no doubt that the 2013 Stanley Cup champions set the tone, setting a league mark by tallying points in their first 24 games (21-0-3). That campaign began with the Hawks ruining the banner-raising ceremonies for the 2012 champion Kings in Los Angeles. Last year, the Hawks opened at home with a 6-4 victory over Washington.

Recalling the 2013 championship, the playoff comeback against Detroit on Brent Seabrook's overtime goal in Game 7 was only overshadowed by the infamous "17 seconds" triumph in Game 6 in Boston in the last 77 seconds of the game.

While the 2010 season opened on "neutral ice" in Finland with a 4-3 shootout loss to Florida, the championship run the following spring also unfolded in dramatic fashion. Coach Joel Quenneville called Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals at the UC against Nashville the turning point—when Patrick Kane scored shorthanded in the closing seconds of regulation to tie the game against the Predators. Then Marian Hossa came out of the penalty box in overtime to score the winner. Kane repeated his heroics in the clinching Game 6 in Philadelphia with his OT goal.

The 1961 champions opened the campaign in a 1-1 tie with Detroit, but with the likes of eventual Hall of Famers Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull, Glenn Hall and Pierre Pilote. they conquered Montreal and Detroit in the playoffs.

The Cinderella 1938 champions barely made the playoffs and had a losing season record, which included being shut out 3-0 in the opener. However, with a rare roster of predominantly American-born players, they knocked off the favored Toronto Maple Leafs in a Final that required them to dress a minor-league goalie in the series opener.

Chicago's first Stanley Cup in 1934 came behind the brilliant goaltending of Charlie Gardiner and a goal in the second overtime by Hal "Mush" March in the clinching game against Detroit. So while winning the season opener is no guarantee of re-capturing the Stanley Cup, I feel that the current Blackhawks roster is very capable of bringing back another championship to Chicago's fans!

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