Blackhawks Enter All-Star Break in First Place

Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel/ Getty Images

Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel/ Getty Images

The high-flying and defending Stanley Cup champions Chicago Blackhawks head into the all-star break in first place in the Central Division and Western Conference.

It has been a great start to the season for the Blackhawks and we have seen several achievements from a team standpoint and from a player standpoint.

Here are some highlight topics from the first half of the season.

Patrick Kane’s Point Streak and Historic Season

No U.S. born hockey player ever had a point streak that reached 20 games. The record was held by current Blackhawks television color commentator Eddie Olczyk and Phil Kessel who each had point streaks that reached 18 games.

Kane’s point streak began on Oct. 10, 2015 against the Columbus Blue Jackets when he scored a goal. 26 games later it ended on Dec. 15, 2015 against the Colorado Avalanche.

The last time the NHL saw a point streak go over 20 games was back in 2010 when Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins had 25 consecutive games of tallying at least one point. Five years later Patrick Kane surpassed Crosby’s record by one game.

The NHL point streak is very rare. It took five years until the NHL and the fans saw an incredible point streak record.

During Kane’s point streak, he began receiving national recognition. As a hockey fan, I know the NHL is not popular on ESPN and they rarely show highlights of the NHL. However, when Kane’s streak hit 10-15 games they began recognizing him on ESPN. He instantly became the highlight of the NHL during the first half of the season because of his incredible play.

Besides his point streak, Kane is on pace for a career year. Through 53 games, Kane has scored 30 goals, 43 assists and 73 total points, according to ESPN.com. The only other time he has scored 30 goals in a season was back in 2009-2010. According to ESPN.com, Kane is on pace to score 46 goals, 67 assists and 113 total points. He has never had a season in which he scored over 100 total points.

As of now, Kane is the clear front-runner for MVP. He has played phenomenal this season and has put his off-the-ice issues behind him. He’s not just the Blackhawks MVP, but the NHL’s MVP as of right now heading into the all-star break.

Rookie Phenom Artemi Panarin

When the Blackhawks traded away Patrick Sharp to the Dallas Stars and Brandon Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets, it was vital that they get a player who could score for them. In the Brandon Saad trade, they received center Artem Anisimov who has been terrific on the second line with Patrick Kane.

In April 2015, Chicago signed Artemi Panarin to a two-year contract. The 24-year-old rookie has had a remarkable start to his rookie season. In 53 games, Panarin has 17 goals, 29 assists and 46 total points, according to hockey-reference.com. Among rookies, Panarin is first in goals, first in assists and first in total points, according to NHL.com.

No one thought at the beginning of the season that Panarin would be playing at such a high level. But playing on the same line as Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin has thrived in his role on the second unit. NHL experts predicted the Rookie of the Year would either be Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres or Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers. But heading into the all-star break, Panarin is the lead candidate for Rookie of the Year.

Corey Crawford’s Career Year

Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford won his second Stanley Cup last season and has been a force in the net once again this season.

Crawford won a career-high 33 games in 2010-2011. This season, Crawford has 28 wins and is on pace for 47 wins, according to ESPN.com. Not to mention he also leads all goalies in shutouts with seven.

If it were not for Crawford, who knows how good this team would be this season. Yes, the Blackhawks have a talented team on offense and defense, but if you do not have a solid goalie in the net, it is hard to win in the NHL.

Even though the 31-year-old is having a career year, he ended up not making this years all-star team. With 28 wins, 12 losses and a 2.14 GAA, he should have been on the team over Nashville Predator’s goalie Pekka Rinne. But if you look at the bright side of Crawford not making the all-star team, it gives him much needed rest going into the second half of the season.

Blackhawks 12-game Winning Streak

Patrick Kane was not the only one who had a historical streak this season. The Chicago Blackhawks won a franchise record 12 consecutive games.

During their winning streak, the Blackhawks surpassed the Dallas Stars in the Central Division and Western Conference. Before the Blackhawks began their winning streak, they were in fourth place in the Central Division and in first place for the Wild Card. 12 games later, Chicago went from a Wild Card team to the number one team in the Conference.

With consistent play from the second line and from goalie Corey Crawford, it solidified the Blackhawks into first place. Despite slow starts from Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, the two have picked up their games in the last month to help the Blackhawks.

Chicago, who has 70-points, lead the Dallas stars by three points. However, Dallas has played three less games than the Blackhawks. If Dallas gets off to a hot start to begin the second half of the season, we could see the Blackhawks fall into second place. But as of right now, it looks like it will be either Dallas or Chicago who will taking that number one spot in the Western Conference.

Joel Quenneville Passes Al Arbour for Second-Winningest Coach

On Jan. 12, 2016, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville passed Al Arbour for second on the all-time wins list with 783 wins.

Quenneville has had an incredible career as a head coach. He first became a head coach when he took over the St. Louis Blues job. After being fired from the Blues, he took over as head coach of the Colorado Avalanche, but eventually left the team. When Chicago let go of Denis Savard, they went with a head coach who has had head coaching experience in the past – that being Joel Quenneville.

Coach Q has taken the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cup championship series and won all three. He has been an icon for Chicago sports and is considered one of the greatest Chicago coaches of all-time. Quenneville is a terrific leader and is respected by all of his players.

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews 2015-2016 All-Stars

With the terrific play of Patrick Kane this season, it was a no-brainer that Kane was named co-captain of the Western Conference. However, it was surprising to see Jonathan Toews make the all-star team.

Toews is having a down season – which is why I found it to be surprising to see him make the team. According to NHL.com, Toews has 19 goals, 16 assists and 35 total points. According to ESPN.com, Toews is on pace for 54 total points, which would tie his career low when he scored 54 points as a rookie – not counting 2012-2013 when the lockout happened.

Artemi Panarin should have made the team before Toews, but news broke Thursday that Toews will not make the trip to Nashville due to an illness. According to NHL.com, Toews will be suspended one game, due to NHL rules.

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