Their road wins are credited as part of their success. This is a huge turnaround from last season, when they struggled with an 18-18-5 road record. Let’s not recall that awful game in Edmonton that spoiled Patrick Kane’s birthday or the road half of their series with the Calgary Flames that was a bust in the Saddledome. This time, the Blackhawks are beginning the shortened season with 10 of their first 12 games on the road, and they’ve been undefeated in regulation.
Another reason for the Blackhawks keeping their spot has been their ability to win the second half of their back-to-back games. They’ve only had two sets of those thus far, but both back end games were against tough, hated rivals (the Phoenix Coyotes and Detroit Red Wings). This is most likely the result of coach Joel Quenneville’s approach to the season by not practicing on game days as they usually do in order to rest the team as much as possible.
Those positives hide the fact that there are still problems in the Blackhawks’ game, namely their power play, which is at 20.6%. As the young season progresses, it seems as though the power play is regressing. It started out strong, but it’s in danger of sliding to its 2011-12 season level, which was 15.2% at season’s end. It’s not so much that they allow goals to be scored, it’s that they treat their power play like it’s a penalty kill and rarely score. It’s a heady feeling when a power play goal is scored, but the frustration feels endless between them.
The Blackhawks are on top because their transformation from the past two seasons is paying off. If they want to stay on top, they need to learn from the mistakes they’ve made in these first nine games and become virtually unstoppable.