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Blackhawks continue to amaze

by Barry Melrose

With just a few minutes left in the third period of their game with the Detroit Red Wings yesterday afternoon, the Chicago Blackhawks were down 1-0 and all I could think was they had played so well in that game they should have been ahead 3-1 or 4-1. I actually didn't think a loss in regulation would have been the worst thing for Chicago. It would have gotten a monkey off their back since they're going to lose in regulation sooner or later. This streak won't last for 48 games and the Blackhawks were going to win a bunch more games this season regardless of what happened yesterday.

But then Patrick Kane tied the game, he eventually won it in the shootout and a day later the streak continues.

What might be most amazing about this is that there's no shame in losing to Detroit, which is a great hockey club, but now that Chicago survived Sunday, its upcoming schedule isn't nearly as daunting. The Blackhawks play a talented, but struggling Minnesota team Tuesday night and their next four after that are a home-and-home with Colorado, a home game against Edmonton and a trip to Columbus. After Wednesday, Chicago won't have a back-to-back for more than a month, just one of the Blackhawks' next five games is against a team currently in the West's top eight and four of those games are against teams that currently occupy the bottom three spots in the Western Conference standings.

Obviously, it would be getting ahead of ourselves to predict that Chicago could run this streak from 22 games to 27 that easily, but the schedule sets up the possibility that if the Blackhawks continue to play as well as they did against Detroit, they could extend this more than just another game or two.

And what evidence is there to convince you that they won't? This team has got everything. The stars are great, the goaltending between Corey Crawford and Ray Emery has been great and their depth is unbelievable. The Blackhawks have had 12 guys score game-winning goals this season, which is just phenomenal, and they're starting to look very, very similar to the team that won the Stanley Cup in 2010. The depth that team had on its third and fourth lines and eventually traded away to fit under the cap seems to finally be back, and they're just as deep on defense, too. Michal Rozsival and Nick Leddy might be the top pair on a few teams in the NHL, and they would certainly be third and fourth defenseman on most. On Chicago they're the fifth and sixth defensemen because the team is just that deep.

After the comeback Chicago had Sunday afternoon, the aura of invincibility the Blackhawks have around them is just that much stronger. This is a team that expects to win every game and they expect something will happen to get it done for them. That's a great mindset when you're that confident and you can see it in how Chicago plays. Everybody wants the puck. On teams that are struggling no one wants the puck because they don't want to be the guy that makes a mistake. On this team everyone wants to be the guy that makes a difference. That's how you become a good team and the confidence it instills is just filtering down throughout the roster. Take a look at Rozsival. He's doing things he's never done before. He's cycling and dropping the puck and playing with confidence we haven't seen from him in a long time. Playing for a winning team has that kind of impact.

This stretch isn't a fluke. This team is for real and it has everything. The Blackhawks will lose a game in regulation eventually, but they're too strong to let it overwhelm them. I can't see this team just suddenly losing five or six in a row. One loss isn't going to change the mindset of the Chicago Blackhawks.

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