Its surprisingly hard to find things to say about a hockey team that is playing almost perfectly. You see criticism is so much easier to write than praise.
However, first and foremost, the hot button issue of the day...
1. Jonathan Toews was right to fight Joe Thornton
I could ramble on about this for a while, but I'll attempt to keep it brief. I'm going to go against the mainstream here and say Toews had every right to fight Jumbo Joe and I applaud him for doing so. I'm defending Toews, and would do so with any player in similar circumstances, because he is an experienced, responsible player, who rarely ever acts in such a fashion, who has taken an unreasonable amount of shit from Thornton over the years and who felt that this was something that he needed to do as a player to stick up for himself. Was it a stupid decision? Well I think any time someone instigates a fight there's a degree of missing rationality, putting your team shorthanded and exposing yourself to the risk of injury but I've never been in their shoes, so I can't exactly pass judgement on their assessments of what they feel they need to do in those situations. But was it selfish? Well, I do think it says something when the players defend Toews' actions like they did. I think that speaks to the team's support of his decision, which is all that really matters. Being part of a team sometimes requires that kind of unconditional support, even when the individual may be in the wrong. Its that kind of support-system that enables a successful team to function. And selfishness is definitely not a serious issue with Toews. So no, I don't think it was selfish because his teammates did not deem it as such. And let's be real, this is an extremely rare occurrence. Its not like this is the norm or will happen again soon. Plus its Jonathan Toews, he can do what he wants and its not like you can stop him, so shut the hell up.
2. The Blackhawks have one of the best goaltending tandems in the NHL right now
How big of a 180 is this from last year, when goaltending was a gargantuan question mark? Statistically, you could argue that the Blackhawks have the best tandem right now. The Hawks are the only team with both goalies near the top of the league in goals against average (Crawford - 1.65, Emery - 2.21) and save percentage (Crawford - .935, Emery - .930) Crawford and particularly Emery have stunned everyone, including other teams and this one-two combo is among the league's best right now.
3. The young players have been a huge part of the Blackhawks success
Its pretty apparent that guys like Marcus Kruger, Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw and Nick Leddy, all playing their best hockey as Hawks, have really given this team a new dimension of speed, skill and will to win, which really complements a core group of guys that have had some issues with focus and desire the past few seasons. They may not have the largest roles or be on the scoresheet every night, but the little things they do and the elements they bring are what make this team such a threat and what helps drive them and their success.
4. The James Neal trade will go down as one of the most one-sided in history
What I would give to have this guy on my fantasy team. I've been trying to trade for him since the season started. But seriously, this guy is unreal. Of course playing with the likes of Crosby and Malkin will do that to you, but Neal is honestly up there with Stamkos as one of the premier finishers in the NHL. Was a 40-goal, point-per-game player last year. He's already got 11 goals this year, tied for the league-lead. He's a potential future Olympian. Not to mention the Penguins also got Matt Niskanen, who's a pretty good defenseman in his own right. Terrible trade for the Stars, awesome trade for the Penguins, definitely the most lopsided in recent memory and will go down as one of the most one-sided of all time.
5. The Vancouver Canucks have a highly inflated record
All day long I have to listen about how good the Canucks are. Sure, they're 8-3-2, 3rd best in the conference, I'll give them that. But lets dig a little deeper. So far they've played 13 games. 7 of them have been against their division. In those 7 games they're 6-0-1, outscoring the opposition 22-10. And what about non-division opponents? They're 2-3-1 and have been outscored 19-13. In other words, they've been very successful at beating up the likes of Calgary (14th in the Western Conference), Colorado (13th), Edmonton (11th) and Minnesota (10th), who just happen to be four of the lowest scoring teams in the entire NHL. This leads me to believe that that 8-3-2 record is inflated due to the low quality of competition they've faced. The sample size is still somewhat small but the upcoming weeks will show just how good the Canucks really are, as 17 of their next 20 games are against some tough Pacific and Central division opponents.
Thanks for reading.