If history repeats itself with this year’s Blackhawks, coming out of October with a winning record bodes well for making the playoffs.
The importance of finishing October above .500 has historically proven to be a key for the Hawks. In fact, only once in the 13 campaigns (2002-03) at the United Center did the Hawks end the opening month with a winning record and fail to make it into the into the playoffs.
Chicago ended October over .500 in 1995, 1996 and 2001 on their way to postseason play. Last year, the Blackhawks ended October at .500 (6-6-0), and fell just 3 points short of the playoffs, and that failure to make the postseason was largely due to the rash of injuries in December.
The addition of all-star Brian Campbell has aided the strong start. Last season, Hawks blueliners registered 46 goals, paced by Duncan Keith's 12. Dustin Byfuglien scored eight of his 19 goals before switching from defense to forward.
The huge advantage the Hawks enjoyed at the old Chicago Stadium didn't initially translate to the United Center. Unlike the days of the Original Six, all new NHL buildings must adhere to the same size ice surfaces. The Chicago Stadium (188 feet in length instead of 200), Madison Square Garden (190) and Boston Garden (186) gave the home teams a slight edge because the rinks were smaller.
The old Stadium’s length off 188 feet instead of 200 may not sound like a lot, but it allowed the Hawks to build its roster with more physical players instead of concentrating on speed. Moving to the United Center in January 1995, the Hawks were forced into drafting players with more speed. The rule changes in 2005 allowing two-line passes, team payroll caps and reducing the neutral zone also added the need for players with more speed, size and mobility.
Let’s hope past history for Octobers at the UC continues for the Hawks this season!
Harvey Wittenberg was the Blackhawks' public address announcer from 1961-2001.