The game of this lockout-marred season took place Tuesday night in Chicago, where the Blackhawks looked to equal the record for consecutive games with at least a point to begin a season. The Hawks looked home and cooled to tie the record in the third period, but the Canucks had other ideas, scoring two late goals to send the contest to overtime. Because Vancouver failed to win the game in regulation, Chicago had the record tied before the game went into an extra session. OT solved nothing, so it was on to a shootout where the Blackhawks eventually prevailed. Their record to start the season is 13-0-3. Not too shabby.
The Canucks and Hawks hate each other, loathe each other, despise each other more than any other in the league. Each game is a war of attrition – they have been since the Hawks and Canucks met in the playoffs in 2009. Playoff battles the next two seasons heightened the rivalry to a fever pitch. For these reasons – and the looming record – Tuesday night’s game was an absolute beauty, the kind the NHL needs more of.
Even if they fail to break the record, Chicago can say it ran with good company. Sunday’s victory over defending champion Los Angeles tied them with the 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers for the second-longest point streak to start a season. The all-time record of 16 games is held by the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks. Both the Oilers and Ducks went on to the win the Stanley Cup in those seasons. The third-longest streak is owned by the 1943-44 Montreal Canadiens (14 games). They too went on to capture hockey’s holy grail.
The Blackhawks enter Friday’s home game against San Jose having banked 29 of a possible 32 points thus far. They are nine points better than Vancouver, the club that many people viewed as the favourites in the Western Conference. And they’ve gone a third of a season without losing a game in regulation. Think about that for a moment.
This not-so-merry month is typically viewed as the dog days of the NHL season. We’re used to seeing uninspired hockey, brought on by tired, injured players. The playoff usually aren’t too far off; nor are they just around the corner. Very few games in February typically fall into the category of ‘special.’
Well, every game the Hawks play these days is special – and they will be until the streak is ended. History could be written on Friday – and that’s reason enough to get excited about hockey in February.