The Chicago Blackhawks have been playing some exceptional hockey as of late to accumulate a 15-0-3 record. But are the Blackhawks peaking too early this season?
It's a fair question to ask considering how well the Blackhawks are playing in such a tight and shortened 48-game schedule.
Eighteen games in a row without a regulation loss to start the season is an NHL record—realistically, a drop-off is due to come very soon, possibly against the St. Louis Blues when the 'Hawks go to visit them.
But that's all speculation, and what this Blackhawks' team has done to start the season is unrealistic in itself. Just how long can they keep up their winning ways?
Fatigue is due to set in and along with it a losing streak or two. Along with a losing streak come the realities of a 48-game season: injuries, lackluster play and the occasional goaltending mishap that costs a team a few games.
The only hope is that these hit sooner rather than later—as in, playoff time later. It's what the Blackhawks have been saying all throughout this amazing point streak, that their only goal is the win the Stanley Cup. Once the regular season is over, it's done, and the 'Hawks start out with a fresh slate just like every other team that made the postseason.
Captain Jonathan Toews is focused on the task at hand and says that his main goal is in the playoffs (via Jon Greenberg of ESPN):
"We're excited that we're playing good hockey. The last game there to set the record was exciting for us. We know it's nothing more than that. We've got a long way to go. A lot of work left to do before we get the playoffs. That's where we really want to perform."
We saw this last season, when the Blackhawks took on the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round of the playoffs. They went 6-1-3 in their final 10 games of the season to nab the No. 6 seed and seemed to be peaking at just the right time.
The Blackhawks were confident that they could get the job done against the hard-working Coyotes.
But the realities of a long season took a toll, and everything that seemed to be working for the Blackhawks had suddenly failed. Plus, Mike Smith had come up big on numerous occasions to sink the 'Hawks. The Coyotes would go on to defeat the Blackhawks in six games—three of the Coyotes' wins coming on United Center ice.
Toews says that the 'Hawks have matured from last season and learned a few things along the way (via ESPN):
"I'd say we're very responsible. We've matured from where we were last year, and we understand it's a lot of fun to go out there and play tight games and to win every single night. It's more fulfilling to play a team game and do the little things right and come away with two points instead of kind of hoping for offense and trying to beat teams by scoring goals. When that doesn't work for you, it's even more frustrating."
History tends to repeat itself more often than not, and the Blackhawks should be wise to this. It's impossible to prepare for a losing streak, more specifically, injuries to key players. Depth is the key to consistency, and the Blackhawks have certainly showed that this season.
The third and fourth lines have paid their dues and helped the 'Hawks in key areas this season. This, of course, has led to the near-impossible 15-0-3 record. Depth will also be responsible for holding off any kind of losing streak that may hit the Blackhawks later on.
This may seem negative, writing about a losing streak when the Blackhawks are in first place in the Central Division by 11 points, but it's only been 18 games.
Only time will tell how the Blackhawks will react when they finally do lose a game, but one thing is for certain: losing streaks will hit every team in the NHL this season, it's reality.
Follow James Maahs on Twitter for all the latest on the NHL and Chicago Blackhawks.