Every NHL coach will agree that getting a season off to a fast start will go a long way in determining success. Certainly there is no better example than the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks, who set a league record last season by picking points in their first 24 contests with a 21-0-3 mark.
|The Blackhawks celebrate after clinching the Stanley Cup for the second time on April 12, 1938.|
I don't know of anyone who is still around that was at the Chicago Stadium in 1934 and 1938 to see the Blackhawks capture the Stanley Cup on home ice.
While home ice is always preferred as an advantage, the Blackhawks have managed to take home Lord Stanley's trophy the last three times in enemy territory: 1961, 2010 and 2013. In fact, in the last six years, Los Angeles was the only team to win the Cup on home ice when they ousted New Jersey in six games.
|Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks will begin the tough task of defending their 2013 Cup title on Oct. 1, when they raise their championship banner before taking on the Washington Capitals.|
With every team targeting the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Blackhawks will try to become the first NHL team to repeat since 1998, when Detroit accomplished that feat (coached by Scotty Bowman, current Blackhawks Senior Advisor to Hockey Operations).
Chicago became the first squad to capture both the Presidents' Trophy for the league's best regular-season record and the Stanley Cup since Detroit turned the trick in 2008. And by becoming the first team to win a second title since the hard salary cap went into effect and setting a new record by starting the season with a 24-game point streak, the players know their opponents will use every contest as a measuring stick against them.
While this is only the seventh time in Blackhawks history that they have faced off in the playoffs against Boston, it all started in 1926-27 when Chicago joined the NHL.
The Bruins won that first series in two games based on total goals (10-5). In 1938, when the Hawks won their second Stanley Cup despite a losing record, Boston had the best regular-season record, but lost in the semis to New York. The Bruins won the Cup in 1939 and established an NHL record with 74 points in 48 games, which was broken this season by the Blackhawks, who collected 77 points.
There are 26 NHL teams that would rather be using hockey sticks instead of golf clubs while the Blackhawks and their three counterparts continue the battle for the Stanley Cup. Chicago became just the 21st team in NHL history to overcome a 3-1 series deficit to move on. Of course, the triumph came with some controversy, when Niklas Hjalmarsson's goal with 1:47 remaining in regulation was negated by a referee's whistle while two players were fighting near the Detroit bench. Fortunately, Brent Seabrook's goal at 3:35 of overtime has helped ease that angst as the Hawks have moved to the conference finals.
I don't want to mislead you, because besides the work I do for the team, I am a Blackhawks fan! It is easy to criticize a referee's call. All you have to remember is Game 6 at Detroit, when I'm sure most of the Red Wings faithful questioned the penalty shot call that resulted in Michael Frolik's game-winning goal to tie the series.
I was fortunate to be sitting in the first balcony at the Stadium on April 4, 1959, for Game 6 of the playoff semifinals against the Montreal Canadiens. Montreal was up 3-2 in the series against Chicago, which was making its first playoff appearance in six years and facing the defending champs. Red Storey was considered the best referee in the league; it wound up being his last NHL game.
The Hawks kept taking the lead, but the Canadiens tripped Ed Litzenberger once, then scored to tie the game.Then two more times, Bobby Hull was tripped in the third period, and both times the visitors took the puck up ice to score and win the game 5-4 in the final 90 seconds, and ultimately the series.
All three times, Storey failed to call a penalty against the Canadiens, and fans showered the ice for more than 30 minutes. When the game ended, two fans ran onto the ice trying to get at him, but were halted, one by the stick of Montreal's Doug Harvey. NHL Commissioner Clarence Campbell was at the game and was asked about Storey's officiating. He told the press that "Storey choked!"
So while the whistle prevented Hjalmarsson's goal last Wednesday, Seabrook eventually came through. Remember, the referees try to call them as they see them, and hopefully their decisions don't affect the final score. Go Hawks!
This has been a season of sports streaks, with the Blackhawks setting two and aiming for another NHL mark.
The Hawks went 24 games to start a campaign without a regulation loss, earning at least a point in every contest. Ray Emery became the first NHL goalie to start a season with 12 straight victories.
Now the Hawks have a chance to set a new NHL mark for most points in a 48-game season—the previous high belongs to Boston, who recorded 74 points in 1938-39 on their way to the Stanley Cup. The last regular 48-game schedule was in 1941-42, although the labor-shortened campaign of 1994-95 saw Detroit rack up 70 points in 48 contests.
Reviewing the streaks that the four previous Chicago Stanley Cup winners enjoyed takes us back to 1933-34. That squad wound up 20-17-11 with a second-place finish in the American Division, and their longest string of wins was seven games (4-0-3). The Hawks were paced by goalie Charlie Gardiner, who beat both Montreal teams in the NHL back then (Canadiens and Maroons) before the team defeated Detroit for the Cup with a dramatic overtime goal in Game 4 of the best-of-five series.
The 1938 champions remain the only NHL team to claim the Cup with a losing regular-season record (14-25-9), doing so with a roster that boasted eight American-born players. They had just one modest three-game win streak. In the playoffs, they knocked off Montreal, then New York. In meeting the favored Maple Leafs for the finals, they had to use minor-league goalie Alfie Moore in the opener. Chicago won that game 3-1 and grabbed the Cup by winning the best-of-five series 3-1.
The 1960-61 winners were paced by Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Pierre Pilote and goalie Glenn Hall. They posted a 29-24-17 mark and had a seven-game win streak. In the playoffs, they upset the Canadiens in the semis as Hall shutout Montreal in the last two games and then dispatched Detroit in the finals.
The 2010 Cup champions set a franchise regular-season mark with 112 points in the standings (52-22-8) and enjoyed an eight-game win streak during the campaign. The playoff run saw the Hawks oust Nashville, Vancouver and then sweep San Jose before Patrick Kane's dramatic overtime goal in Philadelphia brought the Cup back to Chicago for the first time in 49 years.
With a record-breaking streak to start the season, the Hawks hope to carry momentum into the playoffs and bring the Cup back to their loyal fans!
The Blackhawks retired the 5th jersey in team history on this date in 1998 when Hall of Famer Denis Savard's No. 18 was lifted to the rafters of the United Center.
On this date in 1992, Jeremy Roenick became the first American-born Blackhawk, and the third in team history, to score 50 goals in one season. He reached the milestone in his hometown of Boston, as Chicago edged the Bruins 2-1.
Tony Amonte scored the first hat trick in the United Center on Feb. 22, 1996 against St. Louis. Amonte went on to record 63 points (31G, 32A) during the 1995-96 campaign.
On this date in 1944, a "perfect game" is played at Chicago Stadium. The game ends in a scoreless tie, and there are no penalties called.