Johnson: Everyone’s eargerly watching the Blackhawks
Flames actually could have stopped magical winnning streak in its tracks before it got started, save for Emery’s Feb. 2 heroics
Michael Cammalleri isn’t by nature a prudish sort. Isn’t inordinately scandalized by sensationalist behaviour.
So he’s quite happy to watch those brazen exhibitionists from Chicago keep right on streaking.
“I hope they win every game until we play them,” he said, laughing. “No, really. I do. But that’s not for a while, right? When? March 26th?
“Well, OK, not until March 26th. You always want to be the giant killers, right?
“Hey, it’s cool.
“The chances of this kind of thing happening are very rare. The odds ... well, I wouldn’t want to even begin to calculate them. So, obviously something special. That’s why we’re talking about it, right? We’re all watching. Every day when you check the scores, the first one you search for is Chicago’s. Did they win again? Did they keep the streak alive?
“That’s what everyone’s asking.”
The Blackhawks are the undisputed talking point — not to mention the utter scourge — of the National Hockey League right now. They’re winning big. They’re winning by a whisker. They’re winning beautiful. They’re winning ugly.
They’re threatening to leave everyone else in their wake.
A 3-2 OT squeaker over the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night at the United Center, courtesy of Marian Hossa’s ninth goal of the season, pushed Chicago’s implausible unbeaten-in-regulation streak from the start of this truncated season to a difficult-to-wrap-your-head-around 19 games (16-0-3).
Now, no one’s taken back that the Hawks are good. Just scroll down the roster. Jonathan Toews. Patrick Kane. Patrick Sharp. Marian Hossa. Duncan Keith. Brent Seabrook. Etc., etc., etc.
But THIS good ...?
“It’s funny,” mused Flames’ defenceman Mark Giordano, “but every time I see they’ve won, I keep thinking about the night we played them early in the season. We had ’em with two seconds left. Two seconds. We could’ve ended this streak before it even got going.
“And then they win in a shootout.
“But I guess that’s the kind of thing that happens when you go, what?, 19 games without losing in regulation.
“Now it’s at a point where every team they face wants to end this thing. But they’re feeling so good about themselves, they’re so confident, that they keep finding a way.”
Giordano could only manage a wry smile when asked if, during his entire hockey career, all levels, he’d ever been a part of anything approaching equivalent, even remotely in the ballpark.
“Me? No. I wish.
“I’ve been part of seven-, eight-game streaks. And those feel pretty sweet. But 19 ... I can’t even imagine.
“It’s actually pretty unbelievable, what they’re doing, especially with the parity in this league right now.”
Calgary boss Bob Hartley also hearkened back to that Feb. 2 date at the Scotiabank Saddledome, when Hossa equalized with 2.3 seconds remaining in regulation and Ray Emery spit back a career-high 45 shots in the ChiHawk net, allowing the visitors to steal out of town with a deuce (“That was criminal,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville raved afterwards. “They’ve got to call the cops after that performance. (Emery) stole two points. He was spectacular. I’ve never ever been outplayed, outchanced like that in my life. That was a special performance.”).
“We totally outplayed them that night,” sighed Hartley following Tuesday’s morning skate at the Xcel Energy Center. “That’s the way things go. They scored with two seconds left and they’re still unbeaten. Sometimes this game goes in funny ways. You want to win all the games but winning the right games sometimes can set you on your way.”
The Minnesota Wild just happen to one of only three teams to take the maximum two points off Quenneville’s thundering herd so far, and get another crack at them — their chance to end the streak, if, that is, it remains intact until then — on March 5th in the Windy City.
“Ah!” exclaimed Minny defenceman Ryan Suter, when the subject of the surging Hawks is brought into conversation. “Amazing. Just amazing.
“You ride a hot streak like that, you’re usually lucky if you get five, six games out of it. This is ... they’re just not coming down. It’s kinda scary, actually.
“I don’t know if teams’ mindsets when they play them are ‘Oh, no ...’ or what. I can’t explain it. Who could? It’s nuts. It’s obviously surprising, the length of the streak, but with the wealth of talent they have there, I guess anything’s possible. And they’re proving it.”
And the chance to perhaps be the ones, the streak-busters, come March 5th? Good thing, or bad?
“That,” said Suter, “is a good question.
“Actually, it’d be kind of nice to have someone else get it over with before then. When a team’s that hot, it’s tough to stop.”
Michael Cammalleri, for one, thinks differently. He wouldn’t be chagrined, not in the slightest, if the Hawks could somehow push this crazy binge all the way up to 32 games.
“March 26th, you said?
“That’d be fine by me.
“Until then, I hope they keep right on truckin’.”
George Johnson is the Herald’s sports columnist. E-mail him at email@example.com
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