Blackhawks stay hot, one win away from tying NHL record

Blackhawks stay hot, one win away from tying NHL record

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The Chicago Blackhawks defeated Los Angeles 3-2 in a Sunday matinee game in front of 21,843. That was the largest crowd this year but a new season high total may take place this week. The Blackhawks regulation unbeaten streak has stretched to 15 and with a successful outing on Tuesday versus the Vancouver Canucks they will tie the NHL record.

This victory came about as a result of a fast start and a fine performance by goalie Ray Emery which enabled the Hawks to hang on.

Maybe it was a lapse in concentration which led to some penalties and two King power play goals in the final frame. Possibly the Hawks sat back and were too content which allowed the LA offense to come alive. Or maybe we are starting to expect this team to be too perfect. In the end, the Blackhawks outplayed the defending Stanley Cup Champions for most of the afternoon and deserved the win.

Even the most pessimistic Hawk followers have to admit this group has played extremely well. The only question remaining is how long can they keep performing at such a high level. Now that they have come within one game of equaling the Anaheim Ducks unbeaten record from 2006, my hope is the Hawks can accomplish the rest of the mission.

Even though the scoring system in the NHL is of the made for TV variety, designed to give the illusion of parity, tying this record is a great accomplishment. It is also interesting as the schedule has it, the next two challengers are the Canucks and Sharks. There is no love lost between the Blackhawks and either upcoming opponent.

The Canucks, like the Sharks, have been perennial favorites to come out of the Western Conference in recent years. For a number of reasons both fine franchises have spit the bit in the playoffs and haven't been able to capture the Stanley Cup. The Sharks have been a bigger playoff failure as they haven't been able to get to the Finals.

On Tuesday night the Canucks would love nothing better than to crush the Hawks chances at obtaining a share of the record. If the Blackhawks are successful versus Vancouver, a better rested San Jose will be looking to prevent a record setting performance from taking place at the United Center on Friday.

Joel Quenneville will stick with Emery in net as Corey Crawford is still recovering from a concussion. Emery has been solid and his confidence should be sky high.

Although picking up a win in his first outing in Phoenix, Emery had a sub-par performance. He appeared tentative and was making most saves look more difficult than needed. His improvement in his second start in Calgary was almost mind boggling. Emery had one of the finest goal tender performances in recent memory versus the Flames, and has maintained his stellar level of play.

The Canucks have won six of their last eight games and are coming off a shootout loss versus St. Louis on Sunday night. Center Ryan Kesler has returned to the lineup and should be anxious to play in Chicago.

This one has all the makings of a great contest and could mark the 2013 Blackhawks place in the NHL record book.

Al's Shots

This is a much different team than the 2010 Cup winner and I have avoided comparisons.

Not only my opinion, but also of others who have been watching the NHL for a long time, that in 2010 the Hawks had the best third and fourth lines in the league. I'm not ready to make the same statement today but the thought has crossed my mind.

The play of Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger are big reasons why the bottom six forwards have been regular contributors to the winning ways.

My thinking from the beginning on Shaw is he had the ability to be more than a grinder. He had a nose for the puck and the hands to score some goals. I'm not sure Shaw's best position is at center but he has been improving. What stands out is he has avoided taking bad penalties.

My biggest trepidation concerning Shaw was he wouldn't be able to control his emotions and would carry the agitator role too far. That hasn't been the case and Shaw has taken a beating in front of the net and has kept his cool. One look at his chewed up face shows the sacrifices Shaw has made and the team is better for it.

In post game comments Jonathan Toews gave Kruger high praise. The Hawks captain remarked Kruger is fearless and doesn't get the credit he deserves. That's lofty praise and Kruger has shown his toughness as he often takes a big pounding from opponents but never backs off.

As is the case with Shaw, I'm not certain center is Kruger's best position. For now, it doesn't seem to matter he isn't very good in the faceoff circle. It also doesn't matter all that much if Kruger will ever be thought of as a big scorer.

Kruger has excellent vision and his hockey IQ is way above average. He has gotten stronger since last season and has done excellent work along the boards. Kruger has already made a name for himself as a top-level penalty killer.

This is my seventh year of writing opinions on the Blackhawks.

A lesson I learned early on is one of the quickest ways to look like a fool is to sell young players short. Shaw and Kruger's development since last year reminds me to not forget that lesson.

Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook each played their best game of the season versus the Kings.

I will be back on Wednesday morning to discuss the contest with the Canucks.

Follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia

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