Don’t look now, but the Blackhawks have re-discovered their Cup-winning form

Expectations are a funny thing, aren’t they? The Calgary Flames garnered heavy praise early in the season for their pluckiness and effort, but have already found themselves out of a playoff spot and falling. The Sabres somehow have people talking playoffs instead of Connor McDavid, despite sitting 12th in the East. Meanwhile, the predictably good Chicago Blackhawks are flat-out great, so they’re barely a blip on hockey’s radar.

But man, take note: Chicago is now 12-2-0 in their last 14 games, and are starting to look an awful lot like the teams they iced that brought home Stanley Cups.

The Hawks have had big offensive weapons every season for awhile now, that's not news, but it's really their defensive acumen that's allowing them to roll over opponents. And, in the years they managed to claim hockey's biggest prize, they've always locked it down tight in their own zone.

Check out their NHL rank by year in goals against per game:

Season Goals against per game NHL rank Result
2009-10 2.48 6th Stanley Cup
2010-11 2.68 12th 1st round exit
2011-12 2.82 22nd 1st round exit
2012-13 2.02 2nd Stanley Cup
2013-14 2.58 12th 3rd round exit
2014-15 1.97 2nd ??

Keep the puck out, and the wins pile up, as the Blackhawks of past and present have highlighted.

They've posted this year’s stingy number despite going nearly three weeks without their starting goalie Corey Crawford in net. I'm fairly convinced you could put a ladder and a paint bucket in the crease and Chicago could still win games. Being the best possession team in hockey - which the Blackhawks are - tends to make things easier on goaltenders.

A contributing factor to their low goals against per game is their penalty kill, which has also been hockey's best in 2014-15.

And when the Hawks can kill penalties, guess what...

Season Penalty Kill percentage NHL rank Result
2009-10 85.3 4th Stanley Cup
2010-11 79.2 25th 1st round exit
2011-12 78.1 27th 1st round exit
2012-13 87.2 3rd Stanley Cup
2013-14 81.4 19th 3rd round exit
2014-15 90.9 1st ??

They tend to fare pretty well.

This, combined with the Blackhawks ability to stay out of the box (they're currently taking a meager eight PIMs per game, third fewest in hockey), is just another way the Hawks are making life difficult on their opponents.

Because the hockey world expected the Blackhawks to be good, it seems just how good they are is being overlooked.

We've all got questions about some surprising teams - is Nashville for real? Are the Islanders for real? Can the Red Wings keep this up? - but the gold standard this year is once again Chicago, who seem to have rediscovered their Cup-winning formula: D up, son.

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Don’t look now, but the Blackhawks have re-discovered their Cup-winning form
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