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Blackhawks Fri Feb 06 2009

11 and O, Canada!

Things are looking up for the Blackhawks at the mid-point of their season-long 8 game road trip. Following last night's 5-2 victory over the Calgary Flames, the Hawks are assured of at least a .500 record on the extended jaunt, going 4-1 so far. And with the team facing the slumping Vancouver Canucks tomorrow and cellar-dwelling Atlanta Thrashers and St. Louis Blues next week, the Hawks could be poised to post an impressive record in a month that finds them on the road for all but 3 games.

Seeing the Hawks succeed in Western Canada is a welcome sight for fans. After struggling on these trips often the past few years, the win over the Flames, combined with Tuesday's 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers, has the Hawks a perfect 11-0 against Canadian teams heading into Vancouver tomorrow. Chicago swept the season series against the Northwest-division leading Calgary for the first time since 1992-93.
If the team beats the Canucks tomorrow, a return engagement with Vancouver and trip to Montreal in late March will be the only obstacles to a perfect record against their neighbors to the Great White North.

Also worth noting, and I'm entirely remiss of mentioning it last week in the midst of Super Bowl hype, is the Blackhawks 4-2 win in San Jose. The Sharks are leading the Western Conference with 78 points in 49 games, and are poised to go deep in the playoffs, but the Hawks controlled the game and outplayed San Jose for one of their biggest wins of the year. It's a huge confidence builder for the league's youngest team, who had struggled in beating the league's top teams, winless in 6 tries against San Jose and Detroit. In fact, the Hawks hadn't beaten the Sharks in their last 12 games, dating back to October 2005. Especially ego boosting for the Hawks is taking down San Jose in the Shark Tank, where they had only lost once in regulation all season. Finally getting past the Sharks and building on that momentum the rest of the road trip could give the Hawks a strong surge into a favorable March schedule, where 11 of their 15 games are at home, including a final game against San Jose March 25.

With only 7 points seperating the Hawks from the Central-leading Red Wings, with a game in hand, a prolonged winning streak and increasing confidence could push the Hawks into a race down to the wire, especially with a home and home series against Detroit closing out the season. The Hawks have proven they can win fairly consistently this season, now they need to prove they can battle and beat the elite teams come playoff time.

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