One thing is inevitable for the Chicago Blackhawks: they have a lengthy road trip twice a season, once in November and again from the end of January to the middle of February. It’s not their fault, just the Ringling Brothers Circus and Disney on Ice respectively rolling into town. The schedule is adjusted accordingly, and the team packs a few weeks worth of clothes for their temporary life on the road.
Last season’s two road trips were less than stellar, with the Blackhawks being bulldozed 9-2 by the Edmonton Oilers on November 19, 2011 as the highlight (or lowlight) of what fans call the Circus Trip. That trip was split 3-3, while the second road trip, the Disney Trip, happened as the Blackhawks were experiencing their worst losing streak in history. Thankfully, the streak was snapped toward the end of the trip when they beat the New York Rangers 4-2 on February 16.
Times have changed. The Blackhawks of this season are undefeated, including four road wins. With the exception of their 5-2 opening game win against the Los Angeles Kings, they’ve fought hard in each road game and pulled themselves back from a sure loss. The Blackhawks are stronger on all levels, including special teams and goaltending, and it shows more than ever when they don’t have a home crowd cheering for them.
Perhaps their biggest test will come when they meet the San Jose Sharks on February 5. Like the Blackhawks, the Sharks are undefeated and have fought hard for their 12 points. If neither team loses any games between now and then, it will be a battle for the top of the Western Conference. The other games seem daunting on paper, but on the ice the Sharks seem to be their biggest obstacle.
When the Blackhawks return to sweet home Chicago, they’ll know just where they stand as a team both in points and chemistry. If they can keep their winning ways and not try to fix what isn’t broken, they’ll put the rest of the Western Conference on notice.