The 2013 season was one that carried no shortage of narratives for the Chicago Blackhawks. After a brilliant season that saw them capture their fifth Stanley Cup title in franchise history, the one that we’re going to be hearing a bit about over the course of the next several days/weeks is where this team ranks in the history of the NHL.
While it’s obviously true that this was a shortened season, with the teams playing 48 games due to the lengthy lockout, that doesn’t dismiss how terrific this team actually was. They were as dominant as any team in history, in proportion to games played, and they have the hardware to prove it.
The Hawks got off to the best start in the history of the National Hockey League in 2013. They went 24 games this year before they saw a regulation loss. Over that span, they won 21 of those games, with the three losses coming in shootouts. Which means, for exactly one half of the regular season, nobody defeated the Hawks in actual hockey.
That start, along with a solid second half, helped to propel them to the President’s Trophy. Despite the negative aura surrounding that trophy, as every team since 2008 had failed to do much of anything in the playoffs, the Hawks shook it off and carried their regular season success over into the postseason.
In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Blackhawks faced elimination only once, and they bounced back from it like elite teams do. Facing a 3-1 deficit to the Detroit Red Wings, they managed three consecutive wins, including an overtime thriller in Game 7. Neither of the other two Western Conference teams to face the Hawks managed to make it out of the fifth game.
After advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals, the rest is really history. The Hawks were outplayed by the extremely physical Boston Bruins at times, but they managed to stand their ground, and even hit back a little bit, in eliminating the Bruins in six games, capped off by an incredibly thrilling 17-second span that included a pair of goals to give them the 3-2 win in the clinching game.
This was a Blackhawks team that finished with a winning percentage over .800. Their regular season win percentage was .802, third best in history, going 36-7-5. Out of 75 games played overall, including the postseason, they lost only 19 games. Shortened season or not, that’s an incredible win rate.
The Blackhawks led the Western Conference in offensive output, finishing second in the league with 3.10 goals per game. Defensively, they were the best club in the league, holding opponents to a fantastic 2.02 goals per game, finishing with a fantastic +53 goal differential. They boasted solid special teams, though the power play faded as the year wore on.
It’s impossible to sit here and declare these Blackhawks the greatest of all time. Different eras make that difficult, on top of the fact that the Montreal Canadiens and their 24 titles have some of the most dominating teams of all time. But give this team their due. They dominated the league this year like few teams in history have, and certainly will take their place among the best ever when we look back at this season.
The best thing about what the Blackhawks managed to do in 2013? This team is going to remain mostly in tact. Which means it’s not out of the realm of the possibility, by any stretch, that there is still plenty more to come from Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and co.