We are already two-and-a-half weeks into the 2013 NHL season, and what an exhilarating two-and-a-half weeks it has been. We have witnessed the early downfalls of teams such as the Florida Panthers and the Washington Capitals, and the early successes of teams such as the Tampa Bay Lightning and the San Jose Sharks.
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But the most surprising team, without question, is the team playing in the Windy City, the Chicago Blackhawks. Up to date, they are one of the two remaining teams without a loss, despite the fact that they do have two overtime losses. But not to worry, because those two overtime losses are why they sit on the top spot of the Western Conference with 16 points.
In the Western Conference quarterfinals last season, they were ousted out of the playoffs earlier than they hoped, as the Phoenix Coyotes defeated them 4-2 in the series.
But what’s behind their success?
A few trivial stats may be the reason for their newfound success – after ranking 27th in the league last year, the Blackhawks are now league leaders in penalty killing. They have also shown the ability to come from behind, ranking first in winning percentage after trailing in 2013. But the real catalyst for success is their defense, as within the past year they have improved from 22nd best to 3rd best in goals-against per-game.
The Blackhawks have a very enticing schedule going forward. Starting February 12th, they go on a seven-game home stand and, after that, four of their next seven will also be played in the United Center. Additionally, eight of their 14 games in March are against teams lower than the 8th seed. April, however, things will get a little more interesting: 11 of their 14 games are against teams with winning percentages. They have the momentum and the home-field advantage, as 22 of the remaining 39 games will be played at home.
But the fact that they lost their only games in shootouts against possible playoff contenders should get the fans pretty fired up for the 39 remaining games. A repeat of the 2009-10 run to the Stanley Cup?
A repeat looks like it is definitely a possibility.