DETROIT – Admit it. You thought it was over.
Finished. Kaput. The end of a glorious 21-game stretch during which the Blackhawks have slapped away opponents like Corey Crawford pushed away shots during what turned out to be a heart-pounding Sunday in the city formerly known as Hockeytown.
You were ready to acknowledge that The Streak, like everything in life, has to eventually come to a close. You were ready to close the NHL record books and move on with your life, prepared to call it good, cursing Detroit, and perhaps the entire state of Michigan, every step of the way.
But then, just when you had given up hope, knowing full well that at some point this season, the Hawks will, Gulp!, lose in regulation, Patrick Kane came to your rescue in a 2-1 shootout win over the Red Wings, saving you from doing who knows what had the Hawks’ unbelievable season-long streak come to an end Sunday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena.
Disaster was averted and everything was again right in your hockey-loving world.
But here’s the thing. After scoring not only the game-tying goal with 2:02 remaining in regulation but then adding the game-winner in the shootout, Kane stood in front of his locker and had the audacity – the unmitigated gall – to say that he and his teammates haven’t become infatuated with the fact that no one seems to be able to find a way to beat the Hawks.
“It’s been a fun ride,” said Kane, who at first sounded like someone ready to concede the Hawks’ current run of success. “And it’s not over yet. We want to continue to win.”
Somehow, some way, the Hawks have continued to win, running their record to 19-0-3 in a game that had playoff hockey written all over it, even though the NHL powers that be are determined to drive a rift between the two rivals when they realign the league. The Hawks have continued to win despite rotating goalies between Crawford and Ray Emery and despite the fact that the role of hero has bounced around the Hawks’ lineup more than it did around the net throughout Sunday’s heart-stopping third period.
And yet, that’s what has put the Hawks at a different level this season. They just find ways to win no matter the circumstance and no matter who ends up adding another game to The Streak.
Sunday, it was Kane and Crawford. But Tuesday night, when the Hawks seek to move The Streak into its mid-20s at the United Center against Minnesota, it easily could be someone else. And knowing this team, it probably will be. But no matter who delivers the heroics, the result never changes.
The Hawks just keep winning and winning and winning.
“That’s the best part of the run right now,” Kane said. “It seems to be a different guy every night. It’s been a blast.”
Yet, for all the talk over how long The Streak can and will continue, Kane insists the Hawks still haven’t played their best hockey. Even though they still haven’t dropped a game in regulation, there’s still room for this team to improve. OK, when you’re talking about a string of 22 games the Hawks have registered at least a point, it’s hard to find negatives.
The power play comes to mind for starters, but considering how Kane’s late-game heroics came after the Red Wings were whistled for delay of game, giving the Hawks a man advantage, we’ll save that for another day.
But this much is for certain. Even when they’re not at their best – as they weren’t Friday night against Minnesota and as they weren’t for the much of the third period Sunday – the Hawks still find ways to win. That’s usually a defining trait of championship teams: Even when they appear beatable, they just refuse to lose.
So for now, though, enjoy another win. Put on your Patrick Kane jersey and celebrate another step in what has already been a historic season. OK, so you may have had to sweat the latest win out a little more than you would have liked, but for a resilient team that keeps finding ways to win – Sunday just became another day in a run that, at least for now, shows no signs of ending.
• Jeff Arnold is a sports reporter with The Northwest Herald. Write to him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @NWH_JeffArnold.