Later this month, the Chicago Blackhawks will hit the road for two weeks while Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey inhabits the Madhouse on Madison
In recent circus trips, the Chicago Blackhawks have been able to bond as a group and come away with significant points heading into the holiday season.
Every year it seems ‘Hawks fans ride the emotional roller coaster that is the regular season. We’ve griped about the second line center position, the “too cute” power-play, and more recently the swiss cheese penalty kill. But our fearless captain Jonathan Toews reminds night after night that the season is a marathon, not a sprint. He also makes no excuses for poor play and takes all the hard questions from the media, letting other players move on to the next game.
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Similar to the concept of the “Monday Morning Quarterback,” fans and the media have the luxury of dissecting the problems of the Blackhawks without even grazing the ice. Although faults may be more clear to us watching from the 300-level, I know the guys playing in the game see it too.
The idea here is that all teams have slumps and streaks throughout the season for different reasons. Chemistry is one of those things that is so important in hockey yet completely intangible. But when players start working together, it can be a beautiful thing. And when you win that shiny cup at the end of the season, all those problems seem to drift away.
The Circus Trip enables the Blackhawks to piece together a machine that seems to be disassembled every offseason by the salary cap. But a few weeks away from home with just the boys, the Blackhawks take on the “us against the world” mentality and bond over the one thing that makes everybody happy; winning. And the irony that this trip runs through the Thanksgiving Holiday couldn’t be more perfect.
Handling the long road trip
When the Blackhawks leave town this year for the two week Circus Trip, they will focus on playing smart road hockey games. Usually this means playing a low-risk style that puts the pressure on the home team in their own zone.
The Blackhawks will try and play a perfect game and wait for their opponent to make a mistake. This style has worked quite well for the ‘Hawks on the road and lets snipers like Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin feast on their prey.
Since 2013, the Blackhawks have played 19 games over the course of 3 circus trips. In those 19 games, the ‘Hawks have posted a 14-3-2 record.
A reason for the recent success is coach Quennville’s approach. Like Joe Maddon of the Cubs, Coach Q likes to keep things loose in the locker room. He will give veterans plenty of days off to keep their bodies and minds fresh throughout the season. On the Circus Trip, the Blackhawks have often scheduled activities for the players to keep their minds off of hockey. The guys are known to also get in a game of mario-kart or two here and there.
Bottom line is that this trip will help solidify a team that already seems to be finding some chemistry. We all knew coming into this season that depth would be a problem but these growing pains have been enjoyable to watch. The emergence of Richard Panik and Artem Anisimov was unexpected, but Motte, Schmaltz, and Forsling are slowly getting better. This trip will provide the youngsters with knowledge of how to win on the road. And hopefully we’ll all get to see a prank or two on Blackhawks TV.
Who to watch for: Patrick Kane
The MVP is picking up right where he left off last year and is currently 2nd in points and tied for 1st in assists. This road trip will give Kane the opportunity to jump ahead on the leaderboards as he has scored 9 points in each of his last 3 Circus Trips.
With Kane reunited on the 1st line with Jonathan Toews, there will be plenty of opportunity for production. The Blackhawks have been cleaning up the penalties which increases Kane’s time even strength and on the power-play.