December 2, 2013 / 10:46 am

Second Wind: Last Team Standing

Not much is going right for the city of Chicago right now. With the Bulls and Bears both struggling to find wins, many Chicagoans are spending their days thinking of Jordan and Payton rather than Rose and Cutler. It’s difficult to believe that there is a remedy to this problem, especially considering what both teams mean to the city. For so many years the Bears and Bulls were the only teams worth following during the dreary winter months, but that’s not the case anymore.

Like Buddy the Elf is here to spread Christmas cheer, a certain group of men dressed in red are around to help lift Chicago’s spirits. No, it’s not Santa Claus or the Mounties from our friendly neighbors to the north. And no it’s not even Ron Burgundy –although Anchorman always does seem to lighten people’s spirits. It’s the Chicago Blackhawks!

Though it may surprise many in Chicago who are only used to following them during the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the spring, the Blackhawks do play a game that is considered a “winter sport”. As much as it may surprise the masses, the Chicago Blackhawks are once again dominating the NHL (National Hockey League for those who don’t know) with a 20-4-4 record (click here for an explanation of what that means).

So let’s take a look at the year that has been so far.

Remember that little guy with the mullet? The one who took home the Conn Smythe Trophy for the Most Valuable Player of the Stanley Cup Finals last year? Well he’s playing like an MVP again…just minus the mullet. Coming fresh off a 12-game point streak, right-winger Patrick Kane has been, as Harry Potter would say, “brilliant” so far this year. He currently leads the team in goals (16), points (30), and power play goals (7). He has also tallied five game-winning goals. Only 25 years of age, Kane has once again shown the hockey community why he is one of the best young players in the game.

A friend of his –many know him as “The Captain” or “Captain Serious”– has also been putting on an award winning performance. Centerman and team captain, Jonathan Toews is another player that Chicago has come to love in the playoffs. Also only 25 years old, Toews has become one of the best all-around players in the game. Already with his name engraved twice on the Stanley Cup, the man with the “C” on his sweater is up to his usual hard-nosed, selfless-leader style of play this season.

With these two young stars leading the way, some of the more veteran talents have flown under-the-radar through the first three months of the year. Wingers Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp have both tailed at least 10 goals and 20 points, while defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have anchored yet another strong defensive unit for the Blackhawks.

If there were one thing to take away from Chicago’s second Stanley Cup celebrations in the past four years it would be this. One of the most memorable speeches in Chicago sports history came from the man who recently received a contract extension to protect the Hawk’s goal for years to come. With a 17-4-3 record, Corey Crawford is leading the charge for this year’s Chicago Blackhawks. For as many pucks as Patrick Kane has put in the back of the opposing team’s net, Crawford has stopped thirty five and a half times that number. With a save percentage of 91.3, “Crow” finally got to take a break the other night after starting 15 straight games. Though it might be normal to string so many starts together in the playoffs, that many continuous games in the regular season is no easy task. Crawford has done a great job for the team so far this season, and is expected to come out with another YouTube hit later this year featuring recently acquired former Blackhawk Kris Versteeg.

So for those who have been depressed with the Chicago sports outlook, you’re welcome. You can thank me for showing you a way to avoid suffering through the rest of the Chicago winter.

The Blackhawks are title contenders once more. With a young, energetic group of Canadians, Swedes, and Russians, with a few American mixed in, this melting pot of young talent is poised to make a strong push to win their second cup in as many years. With so much suffering in the Chicago sports fan base right now, everyone owes it to themselves to sit back, relax, and watch their hockey team beat opponents so bad, they’ll be asking to switch sports. It is the season of giving after all.

-Matthew Dlugie