Crawford leads Blackhawks to best start ever - FOX 32 News Chicago

Crawford leads Blackhawks to best start ever

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

To set a franchise record with a 6-0 start to the season is significant, but to do what hasn't been done before while playing six games in nine days is very special. On Sunday, Detroit fell to the Blackhawks in OT 2-1. By breaking the club record while defeating the hated Red Wings just added to the accomplishment.

The Hawks began the evening looking a step faster than an injury riddled Detroit squad. The Wings were off on Saturday and it didn't benefit them initially, but as the night wore on fatigue set in for Chicago. The Hawks couldn't establish a forecheck on a less than stellar group of Red Wing defensemen. This was especially noticeable in the third frame as they couldn't penetrate the Wings zone.

The Red Wings are trying to find themselves after the retirements of the great Nick Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom. Both long time Red Wings were top power play participants as each scored close to half their goals with the man advantage. Detroit could have used them last night as they went 0-6 on the power play. So far this season the Chicago penalty killers have been great, allowing only one goal in 23 power play attempts.

For many Blackhawk faithful Corey Crawford still has more to do to prove he is a top net minder. Crawford followed a solid effort in Columbus with a top performance versus the Red Wings. Crawford has given his mates a chance to win in all five of his starts. Although it is early in the season, Crawford currently is the number one ranked goal keeper in the NHL.

The Wings Jimmy Howard was beaten by a very good shot by Duncan Keith. In his best games Howard probably doesn't go down as quickly and isn't beaten to the short side. Nick Leddy's game winner was deflected but once again a sharper Howard might have saved the shot which went in under his left arm.

Goal tenders often bear the brunt of the focus when their team struggles on offense. Hockey logic points to other factors as a cause for the Hawks win. When a road team is the fresher club and is given six power play chances and doesn't dent the twine their goalie needs to be perfect. Howard wasn't up to the challenge but Crawford did shine as he was perfect during 11:17 of Red Wing power play time.

Six games is a small sample but in this case accounts for 1/8 of the season. So far the Blackhawks rank fourth in goals scored and sixth in goals allowed in the NHL. The power play is tenth best while the penalty killing unit ranks second. The Hawks discipline has been very good as they are the fourth least penalized team in the league.

Taking a look ahead the last stop in January is in Minnesota on Wednesday night. The Hawks will then begin a twelve day, six game road trip which will include a swing out to Western Canada. They will then return to the United Center on February 12 to begin a seven game homestand.

Al's Shots

Michael Frolik has been impressive this season. He and Marcus Kruger have been effective killing penalties. Frolik is flying and looks confident. Versus Detroit he recorded a team high four shots.

Viktor Stalberg made a nice read and pass to Leddy on the game winning goal.

Leddy is beginning to display his skating prowess. On the game winner Leddy started the play deep in his own zone and raced up ice to receive the pass from Stalberg.

Keith is a streaky shooter and he ripped a nice shot to score in the first period and hit the post late in regulation time.

Last season Keith had a poor shooting percentage (2.5%). That had a great deal to do with the power play woes. This year Keith's shooting percentage is 11.1 %.

Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson are a +8 and a +6 collectively.

Interestingly, Keith is a -4 and Brent Seabrook is a -5.

Andrew Shaw and rookie Brandon Saad have yet to record a point. From a plus minus standpoint both have not been too bad, Shaw is even while Saad is a -1. If either were having problems defensively they would be more quickly replaced.

I will be back on Thursday to share some thoughts about the game versus the Wild.

Follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

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