Blackhawks living up to post-Cup promise
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Amid the hysteria that was the Blackhawks' 2013 title celebration, the Stanley Cup champs sat down together and came to a decision.
"We made a commitment," said Patrick Sharp. "We knew it was a short summer and we knew with the Olympic break that there was going to be a lot of games coming at us fast."
What they didn't want was a repeat of the 2010-11 season after the last Cup victory, when the Hawks didn't secure a playoff berth until the final day of the season, and had to back in to get in.
Of course, that team was ravaged by salary cap problems and the Hawks lost half a roster in the process. There would be some players departing this time as well, but nothing like last time.
The 2013 champs were ready to go.
"We had our fun," said Corey Crawford. "But we didn't overdo it. We knew when it was time to stop and start working out and preparing for the season.
"There's a lot of professionals on this team. It doesn't mean we didn't enjoy our summer. We just wanted to be ready to play hockey again."
It was a decision made by the players under the leadership of Jonathan Toews, who had no intention of going through the misery of 2011 again.
"The guys care about each other, and that's really what we talked about," Toews said. "We talked about getting ready for each other so we can have a great year, be in a good playoff spot and make another run at the Cup. But it means you really have to be ready to play."
The Hawks are at an impressive 84 points after 60 games, more than anyone had a right to expect when you consider that the NBA champion Miami Heat finished five days before the Hawks and started their regular season a month after the banner-raising in Chicago.
Anaheim was done six weeks before the Hawks, as was St. Louis, while Colorado received eight weeks of extra rest.
So where does the Hawks' 84 points in 60 games compare to past champs? Here are the results from the NHL's salary-cap era, from best to worst:
• The 2008 champion Red Wings were at 86 points through 60 games in 2009.
• The 2013 champion Hawks are at 84 points this season.
• The 2011 champion Bruins were at 77 points in 2012.
• The 2009 champion Penguins were at 74 points in 2010.
• The 2007 champion Ducks were at 69 points in 2008.
• The 2010 champion Hawks were at 68 points in 2011.
• The 2012 champion Kings did not play a full schedule in 2013 due to the lockout, but based on where they were at this point in the schedule, the Kings in 2013 would have been at the equivalent of 67 points after 60 games.
• The 2006 champion Hurricanes were at 65 points through 60 games in 2007.
That 2009 Red Wings team — the only one with more points through 60 games than the current Hawks — went back to the Stanley Cup Final and had a 3-2 series lead against Pittsburgh before the Penguins came back to win Games 6 and 7 by 2-1 scores — including the last game in Detroit.
Detroit had defeated Pittsburgh for the crown the previous season, and those two clubs are the only teams to make it back to a Final — win or lose — since 2001, when 2000 champ New Jersey lost to Colorado.
The average for defending champs since the lockout of 2004-05 through 60 games is 72 points, 4 points better than the 2010 Hawks and 12 points fewer than the current Hawks, who had a terrific start to the season — with players anxious to make their Olympic teams — followed by a sluggish stretch in January (4-3-6) after the Olympic teams were announced.
But with a nice road trip (3-1-2) and picking up 8 of a possible 12 points — despite the shutout Friday night in Phoenix — the Hawks have done what they wanted to do going into the Olympics.
They promised each other last June when they went their separate ways that they wouldn't be hung over when the season began.
They promised each other that this wouldn't be 2011 all over again.
They promised each other that they would carry a good record into the break and have a shot at the best record in the NHL at season's end.
And they have lived up to their word.
• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.
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