If you had asked me before the season what the Blackhawks greatest strength would be, I don't think I would have said team defense.
Well, guess what. The Blackhawks biggest strength is their team defense.
The Hawks recorded their fourth shutout in their last six games Wednesday night as they came away with a 3-0 victory at Detroit. This is the second time the Hawks have shut out the Red Wings in the last four days. They defeated Detroit 3-0 at the United Center on Sunday. That's the first time the Hawks have shut out the Wings in back-to-back meetings since January 21, 1971 and March 21, 1971.
And how about backup goaltender Antti Niemi? In 10 games, he's 8-1-1 with four shutouts after earning Wednesday's win. As much as I've bitched about starter Cristobal Huet in the past, he's been solid this year -- 16-8-2 with three shutouts. I'll always wonder about Huet until I see him win in the playoffs, but let's give credit where credit is due. Huet has been far more good than bad in the Hawks' net.
So far, the Hawks have allowed the fewest goals in the NHL with 74. The New Jersey Devils have allowed 75. No other team in the league has allowed fewer than 80.
With Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Kris Versteeg, etc., all on the roster, I figured offense would be the Hawks strength. As it turns out the power play is middle of the pack (17th coming into Wednesday's game). Overall, the Hawks are a respectable ninth in the league in goals for with 108, but it hasn't been the fireworks display that some might have expected.
However, the defensive performance has been far better than anyone could have dreamed. The Hawks will need that come playoff time, and if the power play ever clicks, this team will be a real tough out down the line.