Road Warriors: Blackhawks Dominate on Circus Trip

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Every winter, the Ringling Brothers’ Barnum & Bailey Circus sets up shop for two weeks in Chicago’s United Center, performing for Chicago residents in The Greatest Show On Earth. Unfortunately, that means the Greatest Show On Ice gets temporarily evicted and the Blackhawks go on a two week road trip spanning 7 games. This time of year, seven games could be crucial to a team’s success and the Blackhawks needed to have a solid performance to stay near the top of the brutally tough Western Conference.

The trip got off to a rocky start, with a devastating 5-1 drubbing by the upstart Colorado Avalanche. The Hawks looked tired, lost, unmotivated. It was NOT the way to begin two weeks of living on the road with a lot of travel. The majority of the trip would be played against western teams, in a west by southwest expedition against some of the top teams in the Western Conference. Whatever Coach Quenneville said after that game must have lit the fires, because the Hawks came out flying and didn’t look back. Here’s a few stats showing just how dominating they were after the Colorado loss:

-23 goals in 6 games
-10 goals allowed in those 6 games
-9 assists for defenseman Duncan Keith
-9 combined points for Smith, Bollig & Kruger, one of the best 4th lines in the league
-4 Goals for Andrew Shaw #shawfacts

Patrick Kane also looked solid on this trip, with 5 goals and 4 assists, showing that he has not lost the touch that kept him at the top of the league last season. Jonathan Toews dominated the faceoff dot, and also kept his name on the scoresheet.

The goaltending, which was awful in the first game, tightened up for the rest of the trip. Corey Crawford  posted a .948 save percentage, backstopping the Hawks to victory. Rookie backup Antti Raanta, filling in for an injured Khabibulin, also made waves with his performance, winning two of the last three games on the road, only allowing 4 goals on 55 shots.

If Hawks owner Rocky Wirtz gets his wish, this will be the last time Chicago has to go on an extended Circus Trip. In planning meetings with the Bulls, the Circus and United Center Management, Wirtz explained that he’d like to see the schedule change a bit, as the Hawks and Bulls are already forced out in February for Disney On Ice. The hawks and Bulls both have a much better record under the giant Chicago metal roofing, so it would be great for both teams to keep them in the city as much as possible.

Regardless of whether they’ll have to hit the road again next year, the Blackhawks proved that they have what it takes to remain a solid contender in the West, and even exceeded expectations.