It’s sometime late in the second act that the Joker makes a major statement in the Batman film “The Dark Knight”. Fittingly shot in the City of Chicago, the Blackhawks too, have reached their point of liftoff – it’s time. Just as the Joker whispered, so will the Hawks on January 28th when they head out west to face the Los Angeles Kings – the whisper, “and here we go…”
It’s nothing new for anyone in this city to talk about the Blackhawks’ abilities to change gears, thrive under pressure and plainly get the job done when it needs to be. However, that wasn’t the case last season – specifically a Western Conference Final Game 7 on home ice at the United Center. Sure the whole world wanted to somehow find a way to blame Nick Leddy for the goal after it deflected off his wardrobe. But if you’re one of those people, you missed the last twenty minutes of the game, you probably were too drunk to pay attention. Because those last and fateful twenty minutes were the most frustrating.
I remember looking across the bar at the crowd of Hawks fans poised to watch them take their two goal third period lead and cruise into their second straight Stanley Cup Final, one they most certainly had a 98% chance of winning. But that wasn’t the case – the case was they blew it – plain and simple. There are many that find no fruit in the sentiment, “learning from a loss” but the measured and true competitors and leaders certainly do.
Jonathan Toews, the captain of the Hawks made no mistake reminding the media, the city and his teammates that they’d blown it and in the same statement to the media, reassured that they’d learn from it. So far it seems that they’ve been paying attention and focusing their attention when it must be focused. (i.e. the circus trip, that fateful game in Montreal to break a slump, the last two games before the All-Star break) But the regular season, the Presidents Trophy, hell, even home ice advantage isn’t the goal of the Chicago Blackhawks… the Cup is… and well, they’re finally able to see it looming off in the distance.
“There’s not going to be much left in the season. It’s going to go by real quick. And we’re going to be ready.” – Niklas Hjalmarsson
With the Blackhawks only having thirty five games left on the schedule, the remaining two full months of the season will certainly fly by. It seems a minute ago the season was just beginning, now it seems to be ending. Currently, the Hawks sit three points out of first in the Central Division with a record of 30-15-2 compiling a total of 62 points.
I couldn’t say for certain, but it seems that the NHL schedulers have the knowledge that the Hawks will need the road trips they get, at exactly the times they’ll need them. Even more convenient is the teams they’ll be facing and have faced at these pivotal moments throughout the season. When the Hawks return to the ice January 28th, it will be on the road against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings. Then comes Anaheim, then San Jose, then Minnesota, then Winnipeg, and finally Saint Louis. Measuring stick to say the least, and it will be the second time this year.
This would be a trip daunting to many teams in any sport, but as we know the Hawks revel in situations such as this. The reason being, they want nothing more than the opportunity to shift gears and hit the gas – it’s just the way this team is, and how this group of guys work. And it all starts with their leader, Captain Jonathan Toews.