The Chicago Blackhawks are off to their best start in franchise history, running this early season win streak to six games. Watching this team for just a few minutes, it isn’t hard to understand why.
They’re getting contributions from up and down the lineup. The big names are coming to play. Those on the blue line are playing much better than they did last year. But two main reasons for their success early on is the improvement on special teams and the growing confidence in the man between the pipes.
There are a few words you could use to describe the Blackhawks’ play on special teams the past couple of seasons. Putrid would be a good one. Whether it was on the power play or on the penalty kill, the Hawks just couldn’t seem to get it right. That hasn’t been a problem this year.
The Hawks have a power play goal in five of six games this year and have them scored by seven different players for the season. Their man advantage unit currently ranks in the top 10 in the league. It’s not going to be a score every time, but it has helped them generate momentum this year, rather than taking it away.
What has been even more impressive is the penalty kill. The Hawks have surrendered just one power play goal for the season, including holding the Detroit Red Wings scoreless on six power plays on Sunday night. The PK unit of Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik has been particularly impressive. The guys out there on the kill are aggressive, and it’s really been fun to watch.
Say what you will about the shutout streak, or lack thereof. Corey Crawford has been excellent for the Blackhawks this season. He currently boasts a .933 save percentage and 1.78 goals-against average. Crawford could never get another shutout again, post those numbers, and be considered one of the best in the league. He looks very confident back there, and that’s great news for the Hawks.
There’s no doubt that the Blackhawks have the offensive firepower to keep up with anyone in the league. But if they want to succeed in the postseason, it’s going to take some serious improvements from last season on special teams and in goal. We’ve seen those improvements so far. If they can keep this up, this team is a terrifying matchup for many teams in the Western Conference.