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Kristi Loucks The Hockey Writers

Published on Wednesday, December 2, 2015





The Wrap Around: Kane and Able

As usual, Rick Rischall and I have been collaborating to bring you The Wrap Around. The time has come for us to wrap up the Circus trip and of course, we’ll have a look at Kane’s continuing points streak as well. So without further ado, Rick why don’t you take it away.

Closing Time

The annual Circus Trip has come to a close. Once again it has been a successful one by most measures, with the Blackhawks taking eight out of a possible twelve points (3-1-2). In fact, this is becoming the norm for the annual trip.

Yes, fans will bemoan losing to the Kings after leading 2-0 at the end of two periods, but they literally stole two points the night before in Anaheim. They scored two goals in the last 111 seconds to tie the game, and then won in overtime. This after being shut out, and generally outplayed for the first 58 minutes versus the Ducks.

There were also two streaks of note broken on the final game of the trip versus the Kings. First, the Blackhawks lost despite leading 2-0 going into the third period. That has not happened in 42 games!

The Streak Continues

Just as impressive, if not more so, Patrick Kane scored a goal in the first period against the Kings, thus setting the record for American born players with a 19 game point streak (and counting). In fact, on Monday night he added another goal, making him just one game shy of tying the Blackhawks franchise record of 21 games, set by Bobby Hull during the 1971-1972 campaign. What do you think Kristi, does he get it?

At the start of the trip I was hoping for six points, and believed anything more was gravy. After three games, I got greedy and asked for a sweep of California, but got five out of six points. Just how important are those points? Well, the Blackhawks as of Tuesday morning sit in fourth place in the Division, having skated past Minnesota. In fact, after the Circus trip they had crept ahead of Nashville as well, but the loss on Tuesday gave Nashville a leg up.

The Circus Trip once again appears to have done its job for the team. They appear to have righted their early season road struggles, and ended up just two points behind their record of last year after the same trip. Taken as a whole, I am happy with where the Blackhawks are right now, and how they are playing. Kristi, do you agree?

A Second Opinion

Rick, I do agree. There is no reason for fans to panic. This team is just getting started. They have always been a series kind of team. The priority for the Blackhawks is not always to win every game and earn the President’s Trophy (not that they would turn it down), it is to win enough games to get to the playoffs. Then the real work begins, and that is where this team is battle tested.

The road trip started off a little lackluster, but the Blackhawks turned it in their favor in California, winning two out of the three and grabbing a point in LA. I don’t think a let down in Los Angeles is anything to be concerned with, after the heroics in Anaheim, it was almost expected. Of course, it would have been great to see them sweep the California leg of the trip, but five points is not too shabby.

Kane and Able

As to your first question regarding the Blackhawks record set by Bobby Hull, I absolutely think Patrick Kane can take that record. In fact, I think he will extend the streak to 24 games. Kane is obviously a special kind of player, and my hope is that he can extend the streak for a good long time. Though, I will say that seeing it end once he breaks it would not be in the least bit upsetting to me, because I think to some extent he and the team are playing a little tighter because of it.

I would be thrilled to see Hull’s record broken, and it would be a ton of fun to see any player take a run at the record set by Wayne Gretzky at 51 games; Though I think that is highly unlikely in this era of hockey. Having said that, I’d rather not have it become a focal point for the Hawks, because I think it can start to get into players heads.

At the end of the day, I think the Blackhawks would agree that winning hockey games would be the higher priority. Even Kane mentioned after the game against the Wild on Monday that he wanted to move on from the record.

For the Blackhawks, going forward the focus is going to have to shift to playing a solid 60 minute game. They have had a few slow starts, with Anaheim being a slow first 40 minutes. They will have to make sure they are starting on time, and they really need to find the answer for the first line, or any other line to get in on the scoring with some regularity.  Fortunately, the defense has gotten into the scoring act with Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Duncan Keith adding tallies in the last few games, but the Blackhawks will need more production across the board as they move through the season.

It would be great if Trevor Daley could break out, as he has looked better since the trade rumors started to take flight.  Daley is the type of player that once he gets on the score sheet, he should be able to get into a rhythm.  Until he does, he is going to grip the stick a little tighter, and second guess his shot.  He does need to lay off the costly penalties though.  That has gotten a little frustrating to watch.

The last thing the team needs when they are behind is to roll the penalty kill several times in a single period, and Daley is not the only guilty party here. The penalties simply make any kind of momentum dissipate, and it can be a real killer when they are coming from behind.  Like coach Quenneville always says, momentum is gained by the team that scores on the man advantage, and we are giving opponents way too many chances.

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