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Blackhawks Mon Dec 02 2013

Successful Road Trip Catapults Blackhawks On Top In West

Thumbnail image for GB blackhawks icon.png Two weeks ago today, the Blackhawks were bound for its annual circus trip out west, which meant seven games in 12 nights. The defending champs were tied with the Anaheim Ducks for most points in the West with 32, and all eyes were looking towards game one of the trip against the Avs in Colorado.

The 5-1 loss against Patrick Roy's squad was hard to swallow in kicking things off, especially with all the controversy surrounding goalie Semyon Varlamov and wanting to pour on as many goals against as possible. But after the dust had settled and turkey and stuffing digested, the Blackhawks found themselves back in the comfort of their own beds, resting from jet lag off its most successful road trip in recent memory.

Call it a kick in the pants or merely adjusting the western time zone to their internal clock, but the Blackhawks were able to get back on track and pretty much wipe through its remaining games, including a couple of nail-biters that sparked memories of Game 6 in the Stanley Cup Final.

After disposing of Winnipeg, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Dallas and Phoenix, the Blackhawks find themselves as the first team to 20 wins and five points ahead in the division over the Blues. Not that it's time to start counting points and whatnot, but it is fun to look over the standings as a measuring stick after a long, successful road trip.

One of the big reasons for the win streak can be credited to Patrick Kane's point streak. Kaner was on fire, notching a point each game for 12 straight before being halted by Kari Lehtonen of the Stars. (Kane only was six games shy of Phil Kessel and Eddie Olczyk for tying the longest point streak by an American-born player with 18.) Kane amassed 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) and helped his team to a 9-2-1 record during that stretch.

Another item to note was the emergence of new backup goalie Antti Raanta with starts in Calgary and Phoenix. Raanta's .929 save percentage and 2.00 goals against average was enough for two wins, backing up the most explosive offense in the league, and a sight for sore eyes for an overworked Corey Crawford.

Usually these long trips conjure up thoughts of wishing for at least 5-2 game split on the road, or even a 4-3 record just so long as everyone comes home in one piece. A 6-1 record just might be enough for everyone to forget about why Marc Trestman decided to kick a 47-yard field goal on second down.

December has the Blackhawks home for nine out of their next 14 games, including round two against the Avs two days after Christmas. It's great to have the boys back home, and it's even more comforting to know this team can pull away when they need to, even on the road. We're nowhere near the halfway point yet, but coming off a road trip like that is enough to get anyone excited about what's to come.

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