Their NHL-record start is all well and good to the Chicago Blackhawks, but they’re hoping to make it a mere footnote on their way to accomplishing the ultimate goal of winning another Stanley Cup.
Chicago looks to keep rolling while winning a ninth straight meeting with the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night.
The Blackhawks (14-0-3) surpassed the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks by earning at least one point in their first 17 games with Friday’s 2-1 win over San Jose. The record, though, means little to them in the grand scheme of things if they fall short of a championship.
“The guys should be proud of the achievement, the accomplishment,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I just think we shouldn’t be happy with where we’re at. We just want to keep trying to get better.”
Ray Emery improved to 7-0-0 with a 2.10 goals-against average after making 26 saves for Chicago, which is tied with Boston allowing a league-low 32 non-shootout goals.
“(The record) is a notch in your belt,” Emery said. “(But) the start of the year is the worst time to do it, I think. You’d rather do it at the end, but it’s great.”
While Emery has been solid, it appears Corey Crawford who has a 1.65 GAA but hasn’t played since suffering an upper-body injury Feb. 12, is ready to return.
The Blackhawks have confidence no matter who is in net, though.
“They’re making some big saves when we need them and we’re going to keep needing that going forward,” defenseman Duncan Keith said. “The goaltenders have been great and a big key to our success.”
So has the play of the team’s role players. Viktor Stalberg - six goals and an assist in his last five versus Columbus - scored the tying goal in the second period Friday before rookie Brandon Saad scored the winner short-handed in the third.
While Chicago’s plethora of well-known stars like captain Jonathan Toews Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa garner most of the attention, it has been able to roll four productive lines and three solid defensive pairings during its record-breaking start.
“When you have that depth, everything’s easier,” Keith said. “It doesn’t come down to one or two guys. It’s a group effort.”
The Blackhawks have dominated this series of late, outscoring Columbus 37-15 over the last eight meetings and allowing two goals or fewer in each of the last five.
It doesn’t appear the Blue Jackets (5-11-2) will be able to keep up this time around, either, as they enter this contest with a league-worst 12 points after falling 2-1 to St. Louis on Saturday.
Columbus has dropped four of five on its six-game road trip, though coach Todd Richards again thought his team made steps in the right direction.
“I think you look at the game and we sound like a broken record, but we did a lot of good things,” Richards told the league’s official website. “Maybe it’s a little harder to compete in certain areas where we can finish, but a lot of things we just didn’t get rewarded for.”
Hossa has three goals and five assists during a six-game point streak against Columbus, while Toews has four goals and four assists in his last five.