The Chicago Blackhawks just keep rolling along.
Heading into tonight’s action, the ‘Hawks lead the NHL with 25 wins and a plus-39 goal differential. Their stars — Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith — are playing like stars and the club has been on an absolute tear since mid-November, going 16-3-1 in their last 20 games.
It’s been another dominant start from one of the league’s most dominant organizations — something we’ve come to expect from Chicago, a Stanley Cup champion twice in the last four years.
So… how does one go about covering a team that just keeps doing what it usually does? To find out, we did a Q&A with CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers about the ‘Hawks campaign thus far.
PHT: What’s been the most compelling storyline for you to follow this season?
TM: That’s a tricky one. There are so many things we already know are set with the Blackhawks that you’re playing up every line change they make. And even those are rare. Probably the biggest storyline is, “could this team win the Stanley Cup again?” We’ve said the word “dynasty” with this team, and one more Cup would probably solidify that.
Still, the competition gets tougher by the year. How the Blackhawks continue to stack up to it, and stay near the top of the conference, is always interesting.
PHT: If you had to pick a team MVP, who would it be?
TM: Another tough one with so many great performances thus far, but right now I’d go with Patrick Kane. Of Kane’s 18 goals this season [entering Monday’s game vs. Nashville], 13 have come in third periods. That’s pretty impressive and a testament to how he comes through in clutch situations.
He went through the same slump that plagued a lot of his teammates in the first month or so, but he’s looked more like himself since the Circus Trip.
PHT: How did the passing of Clint Reif affect the players and coaching staff?
TM: It was a horrible day. You could see in coach Joel Quenneville’s eyes when he announced Clint’s passing that the Blackhawks lost a brother. Teams always talk about being a big family and they are. They spend so much time together and are so close, and that goes for the staff, too.
The Blackhawks closed ranks that day, no pregame interviews and none for TV or radio during the game. They won that game for Reif but you could tell, by Tuesday when they played the Jets, that the emotional toll had hit them. It was understandable.
PHT: Is there still a debate over who should play second-line center? How has Brad Richards fared in that spot?
TM: Well, there’s no debate at the moment. Richards was brought in for this. And when Quenneville put he, Kris Versteeg and Patrick Kane together right before the Circus Trip, the Blackhawks started getting what they expected when they acquired him.Richards found chemistry with those two and they’re back together as he returns from injury. We all know how this works with the Blackhawks: you stay in a particular spot as long as it’s going well.
Right now, it’s going well for him there.
PHT: What keeps the Blackhawks motivated during the regular season?
TM: I think it’s the fact that, the better they do early, the less pressure is on them as the regular season winds down. This team knows how to win, knows how to get into the postseason. That’s not a problem.
But they had to jockey for position down the stretch last year and that’s something they’d rather not do again this spring. They want to save their best, keep their energy high for the playoffs. Playing well early, getting ahead of the pack – if there’s any such thing in an ultra-competitive Western Conference – is what drives them.