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A Banner Year

For the second time in four years, the Chicago Blackhawks have clinched the Central Division title. It was the 15th Division Championship in franchise history. Chicago would carry the momentum to capture the President’s Trophy. The Blackhawks’ first in over 20 years. Another banner gets raised to the rafters in Chicago.

Chicago’s hot start to the short season might be the first fact to deserve credit for the division’s top honors as well as the league’s best record. But the truth is, while the Blackhawks did have a fantastic start to their season, a record-breaking one in fact, it was their hard work through thin ice during the rest of the season that was able to give them a top spot.

“To have the start to the season that we had and to keep playing consistently is an amazing thing for our team,” said Captain Jonathan Toews. “We’ve shown a lot of character, we’ve definitely learned from our mistakes the last few years and we’ve grown.”

While some of Chicago’s top scorers and key players spent some time on injured reserve (see; Patrick Sharp, Marion Hossa, Dave Bolland) and others have had a red-hot season all year long (see; Toews, Patrick Kane), the Blackhawks pushed through the troubled times with a big thanks to the depth in their roster (see; Nick Leddy, Brandon Saad, Vicktor Stahlberg).

Rereading some past articles, Chicago’s goaltending was in question at the beginning of the season. Now the only question regarding Chicago’s netminders is, which of the two will have more highlight reel moments? Corey Crawford has significantly raised his play from last season and has proven that he is NHL-starter quality. Ray Emery is evidence that the term “backup-goaltender” can be translated as ‘just as skilled and talented as the starter especially on nights when I’m hot and decide to stand on my head like a masked acrobat.’

The special-teams is on solid ground. Killing off 21 straight penalties is no easy feat, although the Blackhawks made it look like all NHL teams should be able to accomplish it. On a regular basis.

A Banner Year
EDMONTON, CANADA – APRIL 24: Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks keeps an eye on the play during the game against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place on April 24, 2013 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
(Photo by Perry Nelson/Getty Images)

The last time Chicago took home a Division Championship banner was in 2010.

That season turned out pretty well.

But the playoffs are about to start. The regular season is just about over. Teams are still fighting for the remaining playoff slots. Desperation, urgency and aggression are more prevalent than ever.

And while the regular season can be considered a grueling marathon, the NHL playoff race is the sprint from hell. The other Western Conference teams behind Chicago will make an attempt to discredit that new banner raised, not to mention teams out East that will have a swagger all their own, with something to prove to ‘that other half of the league.’

So the road to this point was rough, but fruitful. The road ahead will be tougher, but fraught with potential. Every Stanley Cup winning team faces similar hardships while igniting the magic, all in a single season. That perfect chemistry gets your name etched in sports history forever. Chicago had that three years ago. If you look closely, and pay attention, there are glimmers of it again.

DaveSchauer

DaveSchauer

David Schauer is an award-winning, professional writer who has been involved in organized hockey for over twenty years. He has been published hundreds of times; about the same number of times he has been checked into the boards.
DaveSchauer

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