The Chicago Blackhawks saw an impressively lengthy streak come to an end Sunday night in Nashville.
No, it wasn't their regulation unbeaten streak, which was at 11 games coming into the tilt versus the Predators, and reached 12 games after a 3-0 win. The answer lies in the goals against column, which remained at zero for the first time in 630 days.
Prior to blanking the Predators, you had to go back two seasons to find the Blackhawks' last shutout, a 5-0 rout of the Vancouver Canucks on April 21, 2011. (And if you aren't counting playoffs, it reached even further back, to March 23 of that year.) It was long enough for the launch of Did The Blackhawks Get A Shutout?, inspired by the site that tracked Scott Gomez's goalless drought last season.
The site finally got its chance to answer in the affirmative Sunday, and that's a screengrab of the moment at the top of this page. (I have censored out the profane exclamation of surprise at the bottom, in respect to Family Day here in British Columbia).
Yes, the Chicago Blackhawks finally kept a team off the board, but of course they did. Considering the tear they're on to open the season, the way they seem to be having their way night after night, you knew it was only a matter of time before they rent the veil of shutoutlessness and put an end to that streak.
And don't think that, just because the Blackhawks have another, sexier streak in progress, Corey Crawford and co. weren't giving much thought to ending this one. "Come on," Crawford told the Chicago Tribune. "I knew. I knew. With around five minutes left I didn't want to think about it too much, but I knew about it."
But what about that other streak, the 12-game unbeaten one? How long until that one sees its conclusion?
It may not be 630 days long, but Chicago's regulation unbeaten streak is a far more impressive. (Also, their fans probably prefer it.) The Blackhawks matched their franchise-best start on January 26, when they opened the season 5-0-0. That was 7 games ago and they've still yet to lose in regulation. How long can they keep this up?
Well, we're writing about them now, which will likely act as a full-blown curse, so probably not much longer. But there are a lot of reasons they might be able to fend off our curse.
First of all, they managed to fend off the rallying power of a catfish toss Sunday night:
Catfish magic is powerful magic -- watch it turn this alligator into a pair of boots! -- but it had no affect on the Blackhawks, who are just doing too much correctly right now.
It starts in goal, where, as mentioned, Crawford just posted only the 6th regular season shutout of his NHL career. Goaltending was Chicago's largest question coming into this season, and Crawford has done well to quell concerns, posting a 1.62 goals against average and a .935 save percentage, both among the league leaders for starting netminders.
His play through the season's first 12 games was enough for ESPN's Scott Burnside to suggest he be Team Canada's number one goalie in Sochi, which is insane, but still a testament to Crawford's strong start.
Of course, the Blackhawks are anything but a team that relies on their goaltender. Case in point: Crawford only needed to make 17 saves Sunday, so effective were his skaters at keeping the Predators at bay.
Chicago's stars have been their stars from day one.
Jonathan Toews remains one of the NHL's most seriously competitive captains. I was especially struck by a shift in the third period Sunday night when he lost his footing and then the puck during some Chicago zone pressure, then slammed his stick against the boards in frustration. The Blackhawks were leading comfortably at that point, but it didn't matter that the game was already well in hand. Toews was pissed.
That's because he's is always on, but the best sign for Chicago is that Jonathan Toews Always Mode appears to have finally been achieved by Patrick Kane, who has 19 points through his first 12 games and 9 goals, both good for second in the league. He's been Chicago's MVP so far, showing remarkable chemistry with Marian Hossa, scoring big goals, and skating literal circles around his opponents in the offensive zone. There were times last season when pundits suggested trading him. So far this season, that looks like the craziest thing Chicago could do.
Behind the stars, young guns like Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad have done well to help bolster the Blackhawks' depth, another question mark for Chicago last season.
It's all working for Chicago now, which should concern the rest of the conference.
So should the fact that it's happened, for the most part, out of town. Chicago has only played 2 home games in their first 12. Their first homestand of the 2013 season begins Tuesday, when a visit from the Anaheim Ducks opens a run of seven straight at home.
The Blackhawks recorded the franchise's best start ever with their sixth straight win on January 27. Since then, they've moved on from team history to league history, where they're approaching some of the NHL's best starts. The Anaheim Ducks started 12-0-4 in 2006-07. The Edmonton Oilers went 12-0-3 in 1984-85.
Both teams went on to win the Stanley Cup.
That's still a ways off for Chicago, of course, but if the Blackhawks keep playing the way they are, they're a shoo-in to hoist the Cup, since it's tough not to when you just keep winning.
Follow Harrison Mooney on Twitter at @HarrisonMooney
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