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Article posted: 2/23/2013 8:24 PM

Blackhawks in great spot to add for playoffs

By Barry Rozner

Now that the Blackhawks own the NHL record for a points streak to start the season, what exactly does it mean?

Good question.

"We just like that we've been consistent and we're playing good hockey," said defenseman Duncan Keith of the 17-game stretch. "The rest of it ů it's the playoffs that matter."

Yes, the Hawks' approach to the streak has been terrific. It's a nice story, but it means nothing outside of the obvious fact that they are finding ways to win -- or get to overtime -- every night.

They have great depth, chemistry and so far defense and goaltending, but they'll be judged by what happens in the postseason, where they've gone out in the first round the last two seasons.

Historically speaking, it's a little more complicated.

čThe 1943-44 Canadiens (14-game streak to start the season) won it all, but that was 69 years ago.

čThe 1984-85 Oilers (15 games) won it all, but they could put out entire lines of Hall of Famers at a time. They are among the best teams in history, some would say the most talented of all time.

čThe 2006-07 Ducks (16 games) won it all and are the only team on the list from the current salary cap era. Anaheim was one of the most complete and versatile teams in the last couple decades.

"We could beat you any way you wanted to play it," Sean O'Donnell told me last year. "We were fast, we had skill, we could score and we had a lot of guys who were big and physical and loved to hit. And if there was a brawl, I liked our chances a lot."

Anaheim led the playoffs in penalty minutes but had a strong penalty kill and needed only 21 games to win four series.

The Ducks could do it all, starting on defense with a pair of Hall of Famers in Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger, a shutdown duo that was dynamite offensively. The second pair of Francois Beauchemin and O'Donnell logged heavy minutes, and behind them were two No. 1 goalies in J.S. Giguere and Ilya Bryzgalov.

Up front, they had a monster line of Ryan Getzlaf (6-4, 220), Corey Perry (6-3, 210) and Dustin Penner (6-4, 242) that combined for 40 points in the postseason.

They had a phenomenal checking line of Rob Niedermayer, Sammy Pahlsson and Travis Moen, strong offensive players like Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne, Andy McDonald and Chris Kunitz, and a fourth line of brutes who made life miserable for opponents.

They easily handled Minnesota in five games in the first round, beat Vancouver in five games in the second round (three in overtime), and then came their toughest series, facing top-seeded Detroit.

The conference final went six games, with Anaheim winning two in overtime and four games by a total of 5 goals, after being down 2-1 in the series.

By the time the Ducks had a 3-1 lead over Ottawa in the Cup Finals, they had won three games by a goal before blowing out the Sens in Game 5.

It was a complete team with everything, from mental and physical toughness, to great goaltending, top scorers and balance throughout the lineup. Their checking line had 8 points in the Finals, including 3 game-winning goals, and 3 goals in the Cup-clinching Game 5.

That was six years ago and the game has continued to evolve, with the cap forcing constant change and no team in the league possessing that kind of depth and balance.

And though the Hawks don't compare to that Anaheim squad in goal or defensively, the Hawks are playing better team defense than any team in the league and their scoring balance through four lines has been very impressive.

It generates confidence throughout the team that the Hawks can overcome any type of deficit and are always in the game, regardless of the situation.

But as you ponder that Ducks team, what you realize is how far away the Hawks are from a talent standpoint, historically speaking, and you wonder what GM Stan Bowman has in mind for the rest of this season.

The great start has given Bowman every opportunity to go for it this year and he has plenty of young players he can use as trade bait if he wants to add a couple major pieces before the playoffs.

Bowman has had to work very hard to put the Hawks in a position where they didn't have to worry about the salary cap this season and won't have to worry about it next season.

He probably doesn't want to jeopardize that after all he's had to go through the last few years from a cap management standpoint, but the goal is to win the Stanley Cup and the Hawks have put themselves in a great spot with this amazing start.

They can add and they can get even better. The trade deadline is 39 days away.

Stay tuned.

brozner@dailyherald.com

čHear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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