Yes, that title is probably a certain level of sacrilege. But let’s talk about it a bit.
The Chicago Blackhawks, as all or nearly all of you are well aware, are currently riding a 12-game win streak heading into tonight’s affair against Tampa Bay. They set the franchise record for most consecutive wins Tuesday in Nashville, and they made it look pretty effortless.
Winning 12 consecutive games in any professional sport is impressive, to be sure. The craziest bounce or flukiest play could blow any win streak — or losing skid, for that matter — sky high in an instant. That the Blackhawks have been able to sustain this success for several weeks, especially after up-and-down results prior, is a tribute to their veteran leadership, the growth of some of their young players and some luck.
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But let’s really understand what we’re looking at here. There are two aspects of this streak that suggest it isn’t worthy of overemphasis from the Blackhawks fandom, at least not at this time. Sure, they’re five games away from tying the NHL’s all-time top win streak of 17, but a lot can happen in five games.
So what exactly am I talking about? First, look at the quality of teams the Blackhawks have defeated thus far in their streak: Arizona, Colorado (twice), Ottawa, Pittsburgh (twice), Buffalo, Nashville (twice), Montreal (twice) and Toronto. How many of those teams would be in the playoffs if the season ended today? One, and it’s because the Coyotes play in the awful Pacific Division. Which of those teams has the most points right now? The Avs at a whopping 51, good enough for fifth place in the Central Division (but second in the Pacific). Colorado and Arizona are the only two of those teams playing above-.500 hockey in their last 10 games, but neither is really that far above the even mark.
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Again, rattling off 12 straight wins is impressive in the grand scheme of an 82-game professional sports season, regardless who you beat. But acting as though the Blackhawks are world-beaters when they’ve essentially knocked off a lot of struggling and downright bad teams would be silly, especially when three playoffs teams are due up through the rest of the week in Tampa, Florida and St. Louis. While it’s been great to see the Blackhawks rack up a ton of points and secure their playoff positioning, let’s not engrave the Stanley Cup just yet.
Speaking of tons of points, that brings me to my second argument. In spite of their 12-game run, the Blackhawks hold just a five-point edge in the Central over Dallas (two games in hand) and St. Louis (Blackhawks with a game in hand). The Stars’ hot start has kept them around, and the Blues are waking up after a rough run.
So, really, there are more important things at play here — specifically home-ice advantage in the playoffs. Winning is obviously the key to that, but we also need to be aware that the Blackhawks aren’t running away with the division just because of this recent sprint. I mean, look at the Panthers, who saw a 12-game win streak end recently and are now just seven or fewer points clear of five divisional opponents. NHL competition can be cutthroat, and the Blackhawks certainly can’t get caught up in their own success with the Stars and Blues breathing down their necks.
It’s always great to enjoy a win streak, but appropriate emphasis needs to be placed on such a run as well. Of course, if the Blackhawks get to 17 straight games — which would be a phenomenal feat — we can have a new discussion.