Hawks’ Pacific Division Gauntlet Part II of III: California


Jan 5, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) moves the puck against San Jose Sharks defenseman Jason Demers (5) and left wing Matt Nieto (83) during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

So far, not so bad…on the first portion of our beloved Chicago Blackhawks’ six game road trip aka the Pacific Division Gauntlet they played the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks, and after a disappointing OT loss, overcame a two goal deficit against a hated rival and went on to notch a decisive win. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take three out of four points, and from a morale standpoint, the way the Blackhawks once again humiliated the Canucks was huge.However the most difficult part of the Hawks’ Pacific Division Gauntlet starts tonight in Cali-forn-i-a against the San Jose Sharks, followed by a visit to Los Angeles to take on the Kings, and at mid-week finishing things up on the coast with a contest against the Anaheim Ducks. All three of these teams are Western Conference powerhouses and barring any major slides, playoff bound, not to mention the Ducks are still sitting comfortably at the top of the NHL standings.  Taking on these three teams and coming out victorious will require the Blackhawks to keep all their cylinders firing all week.

Yet, there is good news, and quite a bit of it to boot. First and foremost, the Blackhawks have beaten all of these teams. This season the Hawks are 2-0 against the LA Kings, and 1-0-1 against the Sharks and Ducks. So suffice it to say, the Blackhawks have figured out how to win against these squads, and having a proven and successful game plan against an opponent is half the battle. The difference this time around is the Hawks will be taking on these California teams on their home ice, which makes things more difficult, but given how well Hawks fans travel, I’m sure we can count on quite a sizeable contingent of red jerseys in the stands to root on their Blackhawks in hostile territory. And when I say hostile I mean in the loosest sense of the word considering the self-absorbed city of LA only realizes it has two hockey teams when they win a Stanley Cup or they realize there’s ice where the Lakers court used to be.

Furthermore the Blackhawks are playing Sharks and Kings teams that are in the midst of a three and two game losing streak, respectively, so let’s hope their funk continues this week. The Ducks however have been maintaining their winning ways and will certainly be looking for some payback after the Hawks broke up their eight game win streak last time these two teams tangled.

Speaking of Anaheim, you’ll recall my earlier articles detailing how important it is for the Hawks to learn how to beat the Ducks considering there is a very good chance the Blackhawks will come across this formidable team in the post season. However, the other day when ESPN took a break from covering what LeBron James had for lunch and gave the NHL five minutes of air time, analyst Barry Melrose made the interesting point that for all their regular season success, the Ducks aren’t a team that’s built for the playoffs. It was an excellent point and spot on; since their 2007 Stanley Cup win, the Ducks have failed to make any deep playoff runs, so maybe my post season Anaheim worries are a bit out of proportion.

Nevertheless, the Ducks, as well as the Sharks and Kings, are dangerous teams and if the Blackhawks are going to put together a winning record against these franchises this week they’ll need to tap into their champion’s resolve. Let’s start dreaming in California Hawks fans!