CHICAGO – Nine days, six victories.
The Blackhawks’ start to the season hasn’t just been supernova hot, it has been historic.
With one-eighth of the 48-game NHL campaign now completed, the Hawks remain undefeated following a 2-1 overtime victory over the Red Wings on Sunday night at the United Center. The 6-0-0 start is the best by a Hawks team in franchise history, eclipsing the five-win start by the 1971-72 squad.
Nick Leddy scored the winner and Corey Crawford earned the win in goal while playing his second contest in as many nights. Duncan Keith also scored for the Hawks.
“That was a solid game, a tight-checking game against these guys,” said Crawford, who made 29 saves to improve to 5-0-0 with a 1.78 goals-against average and .933 save percentage. “They’re a team that just doesn’t quit – they play the same way all game.”
Johan Franzen scored for the Wings (2-3-0) while Jimmy Howard was the tough-luck loser despite making 25 saves.
The Hawks’ penalty killing continued its stellar play, holding the Wings scoreless in six consecutive opportunities, including 43 seconds of five-on-three play during a second period when the Hawks were short-handed for much of the time. Leading the way were Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger, who helped limit the Wings to five shots on goal in 11 minutes, 17 seconds of having a man advantage.
“In the second period, almost the whole period we played on the PK,” Frolik said. “It was big, especially the five-on-three. That was great play by guys and Crawford making big saves.”
In 23 times short-handed this season, the Hawks have yielded one goal.
“Whether it was the forwards, the ‘D’ blocking shots or the key saves by Crawford, it was a group effort – spectacular kills,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “To me it was the key to the game.”
Keith got the United Center crowd of 21,607 on its feet early in the opening period when he sent a rocket from the left dot over the shoulder of Howard with the Hawks on a power play of their own. Detroit got the equalizer early in the third when Franzen pounced on rebound and beat Crawford through the goalie’s pads.
That set up the game-winner for Leddy, whose shot from the left circle deflected off the stick of Wings forward Damien Brunner and sailed past Howard.
“I joined the rush and it was a three-on-two and (Viktor) Stalberg went wide, cut across the middle and gave the puck to me,” Leddy said. “I just tried to put it far side because the goalie was coming over to my side and it found the back of the net.”
It all equaled a start to a season never achieved by a Hawks team.
“That’s definitely one of a kind,” Leddy said.