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MUSICK: Hawks keep on streaking

Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 11:13 p.m. CDT

CHICAGO – Take it from someone who knows. An extra-large, biggie-sized, mega-stuffed winning streak is as tough as it seems. At least, that is, if you believe Phil Salvagio. He is the coach of the San Diego Sockers, who recently won 48 consecutive games in the Professional Arena Soccer League. “It’s no picnic,” Salvagio said. Nope. Picnics are nice and easy. You pack some sandwiches, you find an open patch of grass, and you spread out a blanket before sitting down to enjoy your meal. This? This is tough. This is the Blackhawks, who continued their dazzling, history-making start with a 5-3 win Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild. A sellout crowd of 21,836 crazies ventured out on a snowy night to watch the red-hot Hawks (20-0-3) extend their point streak to 23 games to open the season. Move over, Michael Jordan and Ryne Sandberg. This city needs room for another 23. Jack Bauer, you’re next. Earlier this week, USA Today quoted a math professor who calculated that the Hawks’ record-setting start was likely to happen once every 700 years. Hey, maybe so. I didn’t do so well in math. Why else do you think I’m working here? But I do know that a streak like this is tough. Or, at least, I think I know it’s tough. Salvagio knows he knows. The Sockers’ 48-game streak started in December 2010 and lasted until Jan. 27, when they lost in overtime to the Dallas Sidekicks. The streak spanned two championships and an undefeated season “We could have lost so many games,” Salvagio said with a chuckle. Ring a bell? How about Feb. 2, when the Calgary Flames scored with 35 seconds remaining in the third period to seize a 3-2 lead against the Hawks? That would have ended the streak, except for the fact that Jonathan Toews tied the game with 2.3 seconds to go, and the Hawks went on to win in a shootout. Or what about Feb. 25, when the Edmonton Oilers carried a 2-1 lead into the third period only to see Marian Hossa and the Hawks rally for an overtime win? The most recent (and most exciting) comeback happened Sunday in Detroit, when Patrick Kane erased a one-goal deficit with 2:02 remaining and toyed with Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard in the shootout round to deliver the win. It all works together. The Hawks play well. They win games. They gain confidence. The more confidence that the Hawks gain, the easier it is to play well and win games, which in turn leads to more confidence. On and on it goes. Salvagio knows the mindset. He has enjoyed the Hawks’ point streak from afar. “To win 22 games, the whole team has to believe they’re not losing,” Salvagio said. “If someone gets close to them, then it’s [a question of], ‘Who’s going to be the hero?’ “Because they’re going to win. That’s how the Blackhawks are feeling right now. They know they’re going to win.” Of course, Hawks players can’t say such things out loud. That would seem arrogant. It’s better to play dumb and offer a surprised shrug: Gee, we won again? I think the Hawks know exactly how dominant they are. The rest of us can shrug in amazement. Because a streak like this is tough. Yet it’s going to end. I don’t know how and I don’t know when, but I do know it can’t last forever. It happened to the Connecticut women (90 consecutive wins) and the UCLA men (88) in college basketball. It happened to the Los Angeles Lakers (33) and baseball’s New York Giants (26) and the New England Patriots (21). It will happen to the Hawks. And it will be a bummer. Salvagio remembers what his locker room felt like after the streak ended in Dallas. “There was no music, no beers, nothing,” Salvagio said. “It was just silent.” But do you know what? Even though their streak ended, the Sockers kept rolling. They’re playing in the semifinals this weekend as they pursue another championship. Pretty soon, the Hawks should know the feeling. “All that really matters, to tell you the truth,” Salvagio said, “is if you’re holding the trophy at the end.”• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at tmusick@shawmedia.com and on Twitter @tcmusick.

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