A red-hot end (and a timely Dallas Stars loss) helped the Chicago Blackhawks make the playoff last season, but they’re hoping to make things a little easier for themselves in 2011-12. As CSNChicago.com’s Tracey Myers points out, the early grade is “so far, so good” – they began Saturday’s action atop the Western Conference with 19 points.
Myers points out that their 8-2-3 record yielded four more points than they did at the same point during the 2010-11 season, even though they played in two extra contests (Chicago was 7-7-1 for 15 points). Sure, they’re scraping together some charity points with six of 13 contests going to overtime or a shootout, but at this point it’s all about building up a solid winter coat for tougher times.
The tantalizing part for the Blackhawks is that there’s room for improvement, too. While they’re fifth-best penalty kill will come down to earth from its 89.5 percent success rate, their power play should almost certainly improve from its 10.4 percent mark.
They’re hammering shots on goal and playing sufficient defense through the first month-and-change, which is a great sign for the league’s second most recent champions. The Blackhawks might even build up a divisional lead that proves too much to handle for the struggling Detroit Red Wings, which is reason enough to stay focused early on.
Either way, a more robust Blackhawks team has to be much happier about the way things are looking through this first span.
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It’s going to be interesting to see if Hammond can replicate the success he had last season, when he came out of nowhere to go 20-1-2 with a 1.79 GAA and .941 save percentage, and finish seventh in Vezina voting.