Before the 2013 season started, there was a lot of talk about how important it would be to get off to a fast start with the shortened schedule. Of course, it's always important to get off to a fast start, but nobody could have possibly imagined a team storming out of the gate the way the Chicago Blackhawks have.
Thanks to their 3-0 win over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night, the Blackhawks have now played 20 games to open the season without a regulation loss, extending their record-breaking streak.
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This win might have come with a bit of a price, however. Starting goalie Corey Crawford left after the first period with what is being called an upper body injury. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said, via the Chicago Sun-Times, that Crawford is day-to-day, and that this injury is unrelated to the one that kept him out of the lineup last week when he missed four games.
Veteran backup Ray Emery came off the bench and was excellent in relief, helping lead Chicago to its third shutout of the streak.
And how about that streak?
If you go back to last season, the Blackhawks have now played 26 consecutive regular-season games without a regulation loss. Their most recent one was all the way back on March 25, when they dropped a 6-1 decision to the Nashville Predators.
While the Blackhawks remain unbeaten in regulation this season, every other team in the league has lost at least two games in regulation, while only two (Boston and Anaheim) have lost fewer than four.
What's incredible about this is their upcoming schedule doesn't really look that difficult on paper. As of Thursday night, their next nine games (Colorado three times, Columbus twice, Detroit, Edmonton, Dallas, Minnesota) are against teams with a combined record 66-78-26 (that's a points percentage of just .464). So they could continue piling up points at an incredible pace.
They already have an eight-point lead over Anaheim for the top spot in the Western Conference, while the Ducks are the only team in the conference that's within single digits. The closest teams in the Central Division are Detroit and Nashville, each already 14 points back.
It would take an incredible collapse for them to not win the Central Division at this point.