2013 Chicago Blackhawks are new NHL record holders - FOX 35 News Orlando

2013 Blackhawks are new NHL record holders

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

With a 2-1 win over San Jose, the Blackhawks set a new NHL record by recording at least one point in 17 consecutive games. The Hawks took the record to another level by winning 14 of those 17 contests with only three shootout defeats and capturing 31 out of 34 possible points.

On a night when the Blackhawks offense couldn't kick into high gear, their defensive play remained strong throughout. To say this club has a knack of winning is only a part of the story. What has made the 2013 Blackhawks a special team is their ability to succeed in close games. Out of the 14 wins recorded, only six have come by more than one goal.

Head coach Joel Quenneville has to be given a great deal of praise as he has steered his troops perfectly.

Coach Q. was known as a hands-off coach in the past, maybe a little too much so, at least by his critics. Quenneville looked for matchups during games but kept the throttle wide open and hoped for the best. The 2010 Stanley Cup winners were able to play at a very fast pace and let their offense be the their best defense.

This season Quenneville has tweaked things just enough to fit his personnel. Everyone is more responsible on the defensive side of the puck. Gone are the seemingly endless attempts at long passes to come out of the defensive zone. When a stretch pass happen these days it stands out.

Quenneville has been able to instill more pride in team defense, whether it is by back checking aggressively or blocking shots. The Hawks play as a unit, every player on the same page from the highest paid to the lowest, no one has cheated on their responsibilities.

There is renewed pride in special teams with the penalty killing efforts being top notch. To go hand in hand with the other improvements has been two goaltenders who have seldom let in a soft goal. The strong play by Corey Crawford and Ray Emery helps their teammates to relax and play with confidence.

In what could be called nothing less than a stunning improvement over last season, Emery in particular has been outstanding.

If not for his strong efforts the Hawks would not have set the new record. Because Crawford was injured, suffering a suspected concussion, Emery has started in seven of the 17 games and has recorded a 2.10 GAA with a .930 save percentage.

Emery is probably lucky to be able to walk, let alone play in the NHL.

In 2010, he was diagnosed with avascular necrosis, the same disease that ended the sports career of Bo Jackson. Emery's case was found early on and he underwent hip surgery to help alleviate the problem.

The medical procedures have advanced since Jackson suffered with his hip problems but it took an enormous amount of perseverance for Emery to make it back to the NHL. It has been reported that on some days Emery would go through up to 12 hours of physical therapy. He needed to learn to walk again and took part in extensive treatment including ballet lessons to rebound from his disease. In many ways Emery is a skating miracle.

Many players deserve praise, but one in particular is Patrick Kane.

In most games Kane has led the Hawks offense and also has shown the effort to get back defensively. Versus the Sharks Kane dialed his play up to a high level in the final period. When Kane has the puck and is skating well he is a treat to watch and a nightmare for the opposition to defend. Kane has established himself as a premier playmaker in the NHL, and has also become a more complete player.

On Friday night, Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi helped the cause by allowing two soft goals. The Blackhawks and Sharks split scoring chances over the first 40 minutes but when it was money time the home team shined.

San Jose chased the Hawks for much of the third period and suffered their third consecutive loss to Chicago this season. It is not easy to beat an opponent in any team sport three times in a row.

Next up will be the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets and if there is ever a text book letdown spot this is it. The Hawks normally have little trouble with the Jackets although this season did have a hard fought 3-2 victory in their only meeting.

The Blackhawks stayed mentally tough throughout this long streak and their focus will be tested on Sunday night.

Al's Shots

Daniel Carcillo returned to the lineup and was used on the fourth line as well as on the top unit. Carcillo's role will be one where he slides up and down the lineup.

Rookie Brandon Saad scored the game winner and was shuffled from the top line to the fourth line during the night.

Saad shows NHL talent as he has good size, strength and speed. When he learns how to play off other players he will be an even better fit with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.

For now, Saad has a place on the team and he has caught Quenneville's eye. You can always tell what a head coach is thinking by watching the ice time and when a player is used in certain situations.

Saad, as a young rookie, has been on the ice in crucial games in the late going plus overtime. He also is part of the Hawks outstanding penalty killing unit.

No doubt Coach Q. thinks a lot of Saad.

I will be back Monday morning.

Follow me on Twitter @Al Cimaglia

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