On Friday night, history was made at the United Center.
And the game that set the record for the Chicago Blackhawks perfectly captured why this team has yet to lose in regulation through 17 games.
The Sharks came out with a physical, attacking first period that ended with a late Patrick Marleau goal giving the visitors a 1-0 lead.
But the final 40 minutes were dominated by the Blackhawks.
Chicago was credited with 23 shots in the final two periods and took control of the ice. Viktor Stalberg got the Hawks on the board with his fourth goal of the season late in the second, a period in which San Jose only put six shots on net and the Hawks killed two penalties.
In the third, the Hawks were once again short-handed twice in the first six minutes. But the attacking penalty kill paid off when Brandon Saad beat Antti Niemi. It was the first short-handed goal of Saad’s young career, and also his first game-winner.
And that is what made this game a perfect way for these Blackhawks to set an NHL record.
The two goals in the game came from players that aren’t household names. Not only was Saad credited with the game-winner, but he had three hits and two takeaways in the game as well.
In net, the team’s would-be back-up netminder stayed undefeated (in regulation or overtime); Ray Emery made 26 saves, including 13 in the final period, to improve to 7-0-0 to begin the year.
Chicago’s penalty kill was perfect once again, and continued to rely heavily on Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger. Frolik skate 5:01 short-handed in the game, and Kruger contributed 4:02 to the kill while Jonathan Toews was only needed for 2:06 short-handed in the game.
For his part, however, Toews continued to dominate at the dot. The Blackhawks captain won 15 of 19 faceoffs.
In the second period, coach Joel Quenneville began mixing up the lines and it paid off. Andrew Shaw played a fantastic game and was credited with four hits and a takeaway, but was sent to the penalty box in the closing seconds after a dangerous hit from behind on Joe Pavelski.
The hit, right in front of the Sharks’ bench, was followed by Ryan Clowe leaving the bench to defend Pavelski. He was given a minor penalty for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct; there was a large rip in Shaw’s sweater as he skated to the penalty box.
There were outstanding performances all over the roster from the Hawks.
Patrick Kane, who assisted on Stalberg’s goal, was fierce on the forecheck and was credited with a team-leading three takeaways in the game. Kane has now registered a point in all but two of the Hawks games this year.
On the blue line, Quenneville was once again able to spread out the ice time effectively and it paid off. Duncan Keith led all Chicago defensemen in ice time, but only skated 22:29 in the game. Keith was credited with a secondary assist on Saad’s game-winner.
Johnny Oduya, who skated 20:13 in the victory, played a marvelous game. He was credited with three hits, three blocked shots and the secondary assist on Stalberg’s goal. Brent Seabrook played 21:17 and had two hits and two blocked shots in his return from a… lower-body… injury. And Niklas Hjalmarsson was credited with two blocked shots and one hit in 20:51 on the night.
Chicago killed all four San Jose power plays in the game, improving their perfect mark against the Sharks to 11 penalties successfully killed in three games. In the Sharks’ other 13 games, they’ve scored 14 powerplay goals in 67 chances (20.9 percent).
Dan Carcillo returned from injury in the game as well, and led the team with five hits in only 8:20 on the ice.
One number that was noticeable, though, was the ice time for Dave Bolland in the game. Bolland was limited to only 11:37 and won six of 10 faceoffs. After the game, Quenneville told the media that Bolland is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
The Hawks are having fun on the ice, and it shows. They’ve played a tough early schedule and have dominated.
And now, these Blackhawks are in the record books.