It’s an ominous six-game trip that starts with Calgary, which already has won at the United Center, and includes four teams that are ahead of the Blackhawks in the Western Conference points race.
While the Hawks know the next 10 days will be a challenge, they also leave Chicago packing a good vibe.
They are 17-7-1 in their last four November circus trips, including a 6-1 mark last year. And in the strike-shortened 2012-13 season, which began in January, the Hawks were 5-0-1 in their first six games in the Mountain and Pacific time zones.
“This is hopefully going to make our season if we come off this road trip [well] and carry that momentum,” winger Bryan Bickell said. “Points are huge in this division and this conference.”
Bonding on the road
It doesn’t hurt to have their caliber of players. But the Hawks also credit their success on long road trips to spending time together and bonding.
“We go out for dinners, see each other every single day,” Bickell said. “Sometimes, it’s like, ‘I wish this guy wasn’t here because he’s so annoying.’ Like [Andrew] Shaw, because he doesn’t shut up. No, it’s a good time, and a time for building cohesiveness.’’
To be clear, that was an affectionate needle at Shaw-sy, who’s an agitator on and off the ice.
“He’s annoying,” goalie Antti Raanta said with a smile. “It’s great to have that kind of guy on your team. If he scores a goal in practice, he’s always yelling to you. It’s fun. It’s fun to silence
that guy, also. But you need guys on the team that are talking all the time. It’s great to have him around here.”
Coach Joel Quenneville plans to play backup Raanta in Edmonton or Vancouver this weekend. . . . goalie Corey Crawford is second in the NHL in goals-against (1.88). . . . Quenneville has been especially impressed with the way Crawford has stayed solid despite the personnel shuffling in front of him: “I think it’s just focus, concentration, rebound control, alertness. Overall, he looks sharp. Right from the get-go, he’s been on top of his game.”