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Streaking Blackhawks great for NHL
The Chicago Blackhawks are piggybacking on LeBron James. Why not? What’s funny is the way Gary Bettman and the greedy NHL owners are piggybacking on the Blackhawks, or actually hiding behind them.
Lockout? What lockout. It’s already forgotten, as the 'Hawks are saving Bettman’s backside with their outrageous winning streak. Or, non-losing streak. No wait, non-losing-in-regulation streak.
Whatever it is, it continued Wednesday, stretching to 24 games — the halfway mark of the season — as Chicago beat Colorado 3-2. The 'Hawks, playing their fifth game in seven days, were leg-weary after the first period. They suffered injuries. They were outplayed. They were sloppy.
They were losing. And then?
Same as always: The impossible. Jonathan Toews scored a short-handed goal in the third period. Then Daniel Carcillo, who hadn’t scored all season after spending 14 months on bad knees, scored with 49.3 seconds left. 'Hawks win.
This is the NHL’s Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa moment, at least as close as this league can come. Especially with a non-losing-in-regulation streak. That’s not a steroid reference, but instead one about a thrilling record-breaking diversion.
“Most people will think we pulled that game out of you-know-where,’’ Toews said. “But we’re working at it. If you don’t think you’re going to win, there’s no point going out there.’’
The Blackhawks are giving the NHL something to look at in the first half of the regular season. That in itself might be their most amazing accomplishment, especially in a season that started late because of a labor fight.
The hockey season was going to go completely unnoticed by everyone except for the puckheads out there. But when the 'Hawks tied Detroit with two minutes left in regulation on Sunday, giving NBCSports a strong rating, they became a national story. Then, they won in a shootout.
Now, the argument is over which is more impressive: Chicago's streak or the Miami Heat’s 16-game win streak. See, no one in the NBA would be asking anything like that, or even noticing the NHL. The argument, bringing LeBron into the NHL discussion, is a dream for Bettman.
The answer, by the way, is that the Blackhawks’ streak is better.
Their streak loses something by hockey math, meaning they’ve actually lost three games. You get a point in the standings just for going to overtime, so the Blackhawks’ streak is actually just that they’ve never lost in regulation.
They have three shootout losses. If the NHL is going to have shootouts, then the length of game now includes them. And with five minutes left Wednesday, and the score tied, it hit me that for the Blackhawks to continue their streak, they needed to finish regulation tied. For Colorado to end it, they needed to score again.
It’s an unbalanced equation, with one team having to play for more than the other.
Still, the goal for any team is to keep getting points in the standings, and this is how the standings work. No one has ever started a season with 24 games with a point. Meanwhile, the Heat’s streak isn’t even half as long as the NBA record.
On top of that, because of the lockout, the NHL season is jammed into a ridiculous timeframe. Five games in seven days for the 'Hawks? The Heat have played five in the past nine days.
But I think, too, maybe there is more of a randomness to a hockey streak, more ways that a game can end on a fluke than in basketball. If a basketball team scores 100 points in a game, there’s no reason for a fluke to end a streak.
Any oddball thing can happen in a hockey game where you score only a handful of times per game. On Wednesday, Colorado took the lead when Matt Duchene shot a puck that hit off Chicago goalie Ray Emery’s butt, then went into the net.
See? A fluke goal in a game with just five goals. It’s incredible that the Blackhawks hadn’t been victimized that way all year. Also on Wednesday, the 'Hawks had a power play that ended just as they lost the puck. So by fluke of timing, the Avalanche player stepped out of the box behind the 'Hawks defense for a breakaway. Once, the puck bounced off the glass, strangely up and over the net, landing right in front of the goal.
You don’t get bad bounces in basketball.
Someone asked 'Hawks coach Joel Quenneville if anyone could have thought this streak would have happened.
“Nobody in their right mind,’’ he said.
Well, the streak is actually just window dressing for a great team. Not that the NHL has any problem with window dressing now. It beats irrelevance.
The Blackhawks are just too fast for everyone, and pass too well. Their defense is swarming and frantic. Almost one-on-one, in a way. Their focus is never-ending.
Once, one of Colorado’s players was chasing the puck, just ahead of one of the 'Hawks. When he got to the puck behind the net, he spun back and didn’t realize that another Chicago player was already there.
“You might not be feeling great, might not have the same pace as you’d like,’’ Quenneville said. “Sometimes it’s a tough process.’’
Sooner or later this is going to end, but the 'Hawks are going to be the face of the NHL all season now. And it’s a much better face than Gary Bettman’s.
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