Today will mark the start of the annual “circus trip,” and perhaps a proving ground for what may lay ahead for the Chicago Blackhawks. As the Blackhawks travel to Edmonton to face the Oilers for the third time, they have it in their minds to be a different team.
This season has been anything but uneventful, as the Blackhawks are in unfamiliar territory after just ending a four-game home losing streak. Two of those losses coming at the skates of the Oilers and really exposed a serious flaw in the Blackhawks: A lack of urgency.
While the Oilers have beaten the Blackhawks twice recently, they are currently in a slump of their own, seeing as these are the only two wins in the past eight games. Having lost his last three appearances, it appears that the only team Nikolai Khabibulin can beat is his former team.
In the past two years the notable road trip has been a proven success and has served as a mid-season jolt to the team. In 2008, the Blackhawks compiled a 3-2-1 record en route to a 10-1-1 December.
Last season, they compiled a 4-1-1 record that included a blowout, special teams victory in San Jose. Not only was it a bold statement to other teams, but nationwide, it cemented them amongst the league elite.
A year later the Blackhawks look to continue the success they saw on home ice Sunday night against the Anaheim Ducks in a 3-2 overtime victory. For the very first time all season long, it looked as if the Blackhawks wanted it more and proved so by accumulating 43 shots on goal.
Instead of waiting for bounces to go their way, the Blackhawks can be accredited for hard work displayed. The puck seemed to be moving much more smoothly and the confidence on the defensive end started looking more familiar.
At some point you have to be the one that steps up and creates a play. Waiting for a rebound or a deflection will only give return if you put in the hard work to get the puck on the net. As the season continues on the Blackhawks have become more accepting of their strengths and weaknesses.
They are seemingly more understanding about the fact that regardless of who was the nucleus of last year’s Stanley Cup team, it takes the six on the ice at any given moment to win or lose a game.
Every night should be a humbling process. There isn’t a “Top Six,” there is a “Top Twelve.” There isn’t a “Top Four,” there is a “Top Six.” It takes a team to win a game and at this juncture the checking line is just as important to the Blackhawks success as the top scoring line.