Oct 15, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw (65) and right wing Patrick Kane (88) celebrate Shaw
As we all know, our beloved Chicago Blackhawks kick off their 2014 Circus Trip in Alberta, Canada tonight in the first of six straight contests on the road. No other NHL franchise endures such a stretch of consecutive away games in a season, and while on paper these contests are six, relatively early regular season games with little, to no implications, for the Hawks, they provide a tremendous opportunity.
We all know that in the NHL your regular season record can quickly become irrelevant in the playoffs, as it’s only squads that are truly built for the post season that can make serious runs at the Stanley Cup. Luckily, the Blackhawks have been one of those teams during the past five years, but this is not a given quality, it has to be developed, and herein, the Circus Trip gives the Hawks the chance to not only develop, but greatly expand upon this aspect of their game. Here are the three reasons why:
#3 – Three Words: Confidence, Confidence, and Confidence!
Wins in the NHL are not easy to come by, no matter who you are or who you’re playing. Especially wins away from home ice. Especially wins away from home ice against Canadian teams with notoriously fanatical fans. The Blackhawks will have to face this kind of hostile environment not once, but thrice on the Circus Trip, followed by a quick detour down to California to take on the current Western Conference-leading team and last year’s Stanley Cup champion. Saying the Hawks have an uphill battle ahead of them is being polite. Saying that hill in front of the Hawks is an erupting volcano is a bit more accurate. This is why the Circus Trip being a pH test for the Blackhawks is a spot on analogy. If the Hawks are able to come out of this away-game onslaught with a winning record, they’ll emerge with a whole new level of confidence in what they are capable of as a team; a confidence not easily shaken, that will carry them far into the regular season, and even into the playoffs.
#2 – Learning to Succeed in the Face of Prolonged Adversity
Such confidence is not easy to come by, and it certainly isn’t through luck. Playing an opponent on their home ice is an adverse circumstance, but doing it for a prolonged period of time is something else entirely. To succeed in the face of such harsh surroundings, the Hawks will have to dig deep and really show what they’re made of, and in the process discover whole new levels of resourcefulness and grit. If that process sounds familiar, it’s because it’s exactly what it takes to win the Stanley Cup. The NHL is replete with teams that could not find ways to sustain success in prolonged adversity, because it is not easy to learn. The Circus Trip provides the Blackhawks an opportunity to get ahead of the curve in this regard, and weather themselves for the continuous adversity they’ll be facing in the playoffs.
#1 – Creating Sustained Success
There’s a reason teams that have gone on prolonged winning streaks during the regular season tend to win the Stanley Cup: they learned how to sustain their success. To succeed is one thing, but to perpetuate that success is another. To win multiple consecutive games takes tremendous discipline and perseverance, which are by no coincidence what’s needed to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. Once again, these attributes are no easy to acquire, and once again, the Circus Trip gives the Blackhawks a tremendous chance to hone and refine these qualities. The Hawks cannot be satisfied going 3-3 on this prolonged hiatus from Chicago and call it “a good learning experience.” Putting together a winning record during the Circus Trip says one thing about the caliber of the Blackhawks, but putting together a winning record via a multiple game winning streak says quite another. If the Hawks cannot only come out of the Circus Trip with a winning record, but one that includes three, four, or even five straight victories, it’ll pay tremendous dividends come playoff time.
Yes, the Blackhawks have displayed all the aforementioned characteristics before and have reaped their just rewards, but this is a new season, and this is a whole new Circus Trip. Nothing is given in the NHL, and the Hawks are a franchise that knows this all too well. In the end, the Circus Trip still is just six games early in the regular season with no immediate impact, but for us fans, one thing is certain: we’ll be getting a good look as to what kind of team our Blackhawks are over the next couple weeks. Here’s hoping they look like the champions we know they are…
FOR THE DAGGER!