By collecting a regulation win Friday night over the San Jose Sharks and improving to 14-0-3, the Chicago Blackhawks are officially off to the best start in NHL history, having earned at least one point in their first 17 games to start the season. The record was previously held by the Anaheim Ducks, who went 12-0-4 to start the 2006-07 season.
All three of the previous teams that amassed streaks of 14 or more games with at least one point to start their seasons finished those years by winning the Stanley Cup. The Blackhawks will hope to join the 2006-07 Ducks, 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers and 1943-44 Montreal Canadiens on that list.
Chicago's record didn't come easy as the Blackhawks fell down 1-0 with just 15 seconds remaining in the first period after Patrick Marleau collected his 11th goal of the season. The Hawks kept chipping away, however.
Viktor Stalberg knotted the score at 16:40 of the second period and 20-year-old rookie Brandon Saad scoring a shorthanded goal that proved to be the game-winner early in the final frame. Ray Emery stopped 13 shots in the third period and 26 overall to help seal the record.
So what is making this edition of the Chicago Blackhawks so hot?
A big reason is that Chicago's best players have been its best players.
Patrick Kane is off to a remarkable start, leading the team with 23 points. He is trailed in order by Jonathan Toews (15 points), Marian Hossa (14), Patrick Sharp (14), Duncan Keith (11) and Brent Seabrook (8). When the big guns are rolling, the results tend to be more favorable. It also helps that the Blackhawks have a lot of big guns.
The crazy stat that has been repeated ad nauseum during the streak is Chicago going 8-0-2 on the road in 10 of its first 12 games this season. It's repeated because it's ridiculous. None of the previous teams that had record-setting streaks had to play the majority of its early schedule on the road like Chicago.
Additionally, the goaltending, believed to be a potential weak spot for the Blackhawks coming into the season, has actually been a real bright spot.
Corey Crawford was carrying the mail in net before going down with an upper-body injury Feb. 12 and had been spectacular. However, with the streak on the line, Emery really stepped up in Crawford's absence, having started each of the last four games of the streak. Emery is now 7-0-0 on the season and putting up career-best numbers with a 2.10 goals-against average and .930 save percentage.
The Blackhawks have also been terrific defensively as a team. Chicago has four players with 25 or more blocked shots and eight players with double digits in takeaways.
Toews has continued to establish himself as one of the better defensive forwards in the NHL with a team-best plus-10, 23 takeaways and he's winning 61 percent of his faceoffs. Meanwhile, veteran defenseman Johnny Oduya has proven to be an excellent complement to previously established top-four guys in Keith, Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson. Oduya's plus-9 is tops among defenseman and trails only Seabrook and Hjalmarsson in blocked shots with 37.
Perhaps the most interesting stat of them all is that 11 of Chicago's 17 games during the streak have been decided by one goal. So the road has certainly not been easy.
The streak will have to end sooner or later (right?), but no matter what happens, the Blackhawks are now part of the history books.