Blackhawks closing in on hottest NHL start ever
Here's how the Blackhawks are looking at their improbable 12-0-3 record after 15 games: It's not how you start but how you finish -- as in winning the Stanley Cup.
By defeating the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 on Sunday at the United Center, the Hawks have gained at least 1 point in 15 straight games to begin the season, leaving them one game shy of Anaheim's NHL record of 16.
The Hawks can tie the record Tuesday against Vancouver at the UC.
"What's important to us is making the playoffs, and once we get there the real season starts," Jonathan Toews said. "That's a long ways away and there's a lot of work left to do. When you get to that point no one really cares or remembers these streaks at the start of the season.
"It's always fun when things are going your way and having fun to be able to match records or beat them or whatever it is. But the main thing is we're having fun, playing well as a team, and we keep improving."
The Hawks built a 3-0 lead on goals by Brent Seabrook, Toews and Patrick Sharp, then hung on for the win, surviving 2 late power-play goals from Mike Richards.
Ray Emery made 25 saves to run his personal record to 5-0. The 15 straight games with at least 1 point is a testament to goalies Emery and Corey Crawford.
"Absolutely, goaltending is key," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Goaltending is important to everything about your team: the confidence it has, the consistency, not changing the way they approach times in games.
"Having the right demeanor is important, and both guys have done an excellent job."
Sharp's goal, which came 56 seconds into the second period, turned out to be the game-winner and was his first goal in 11 games. Sharp had last scored Jan. 24 at Dallas.
"It's a tough league, and it's tough to score goals," Sharp said. "I feel like I'm still an effective goal scorer in this league and I've got a lot more left in me. I've scored goals my whole life."
Seabrook opened the scoring at 6:29 of the first period when he took a slap pass from Duncan Keith and beat Kings goalie Jonathan Quick from the goal line left.
Keith also assisted on Toews' power-play goal at 10:32 that made it 2-0.
"From the first shift there Duncs and Seabs were moving the puck well, and they had some jump in their step," Sharp said. "Obviously it resulted in 2 goals.
"That's been one of the keys to our success early, our back end and how well they move the puck, how well they skate. It really helps and makes our forwards' job that much easier."
Kings coach Darryl Sutter didn't like the fact Quick was without a stick on Seabrook's goal and that the Hawks were allowed by referees Ian Walsh and Steve Kozari to knock it away.
"Our goaltender should have been allowed to have a stick," Sutter said. "They pushed it away and it should have been a penalty."
While the Hawks are streaking, the Kings are struggling as defending Stanley Cup champs. The loss dropped them to 5-6-2. They are 12th in the Western Conference, 15 points behind the Hawks.
"More significant being at the quarter pole is the fact that we have guys with zero goals," Sutter said, alluding to Drew Doughty, Simon Gagne and Dustin Penner. "I don't even think I would be in the lineup if I had zero goals at the quarter pole.
"We had some young players on defense that didn't play very well today and some forwards up front that weren't ready for the heavy lifting."