At the end of October, we looked ahead to a November schedule that looked like it would provide a rough test for the Blackhawks. With most of the top teams in the Western Conference on the schedule, and the annual Circus Trip taking the Hawks on the road for two weeks, it was clear that November would provide an opportunity for the Hawks to gauge their play against the best in the West.
November is now over, and the Hawks got a pretty good idea of where they stand in the West: one of the elite.
The Blackhawks ended November 8-2-2 (18 pts), and finished the Circus Trip an impressive 4-1-1.On the Circus Trip, the Hawks put seven goals on both the Calgary Flames and the San Jose Sharks in the midst of an eight-game winning streak that raised the Hawks to national prominance.
Cristobal Huet had a solid month goal, allowing only 2.00 goals per game and earning a 7-2-1 record for the month. His play raised him to the Top Five in the NHL in goals against average and put the Hawks near the top of the conference standings. For the month, the Hawks outscored their opponents 39-25, or 3.25-2.08 per game.
Huet was aided by superb defense from nearly every position. The Hawks continued their dominance on the power play kill, only allowing seven goals on 39 power plays (an 82.05 percent kill rate). When you factor in that the Hawks scored four short handed goals in November, including the spectacular three-goal effort in San Jose last week, the Blackhawks have established arguably the best PK unit in the game.
Many players had good offensive months, but perhaps the most suprising player in November was Troy Brouwer. Usually a third or fourth line wing, Brouwer led the team with three power play goals among his nine points (four goals, five assists) in the month. Duncan Keith led the team with 13 points in 12 games, recording one goal and 12 assists in the month. Patrick Kane led all goal scorers for the Hawks with five; Kane also had seven assists in the month.
Jonathan Toews missed the first two games of November because of his concussion but rebounded to score four goals and record six assists for 10 points in just 10 games. Toews had two power plays goals as he and Brouwer led a resurgent unit for the Hawks that improved by scoring 10 goals on 38 power plays in the month (26.32 percent conversion).
Oh, and we haven’t even started talking about the arrival of Marian Hossa in the lineup. the great two-way forward has already contributed two goals in just three games and is playing physical defense on both sides of the ice. Despite the Hawks losing Dave Bolland to back surgery early in the month, they have continued scoring and moving the puck well, even with players like Kris Versteeg occasionally picking up ice time in the circle.
As the Hawks come home for most of the month of December, the Eastern Conference teams come calling. The Blackhawks got a good idea of where they rank among the heavyweights in the Western Conference in November and should feel fairly confident heading towards Christmas.