Streak? Fluke. Tampa Bay Lightning at Chicago Blackhawks preview

The challenge is to not settle and to keep wanting to thrive. The fluke goes through Chicago in tonight's tilt.

Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois
When: 8:30 PM | Tickets: Check availability
Media: Sun Sports (cable) |970 AM WFLA (radio) | Twitter Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Second City Hockey, The Committed Indian

Six games in a row is a fluke, seven would be a streak.

That line comes off almost like I'm insulting the club, don't it? What they've done so far isn't good enough; they've got to do more to have achieved something here.

The line isn't mine, though. It's paraphrased from a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning roster. He used the saying repeatedly in the past, as if to say he wasn't satisfied, they weren't satisfied. So-man-wins-in-a-row was a fluke, add another one and that'd be a streak. But don't be satisfied with that new sum, because it's a fluke too. Add another. Keep going, keep pushing and keep achieving. Don't be satisfied.

This was 2011-12; the player was Tyler Johnson who was playing for the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL (with Jon Cooper as his head coach, with Ondrej Palat as his wingman, with Radko Gudas and Mark Barberio playing defense). The streak fluke lasted 28 games, from February 10th, 2012 until the end of the regular season. They kept forging ahead despite complications caused by injuries and call-ups from the Tampa Bay Lightning which raided their roster of veteran talent from time to time.

The AHL is not the NHL, the best professional hockey league in the world. The compete level is higher, the skills of those involved are much greater, there is less room for gaffes, and even playing a perfect game can lead to a regulation loss because the opposition is just that damned good.

For the record, the longest NHL regular season winning streak in league history is 17 games, with the achievement held by the Pittsburgh Penguins. The feat happened 21 years ago in the waning days of the 1992-93 season. Six in a row pales in comparison, and is nothing more than a fluke...

Now, seven in a row? That'd be a streak...

That's not exactly going to be an easy task tonight as the Bolts square off at United Center and face the Chicago Blackhawks. It's the last game of the current three game road trip for Tampa Bay. The Hawks are 4-6-0 in their past 10, below what you'd expect from the club. It puts them in 4th place in the tight Central Division where the St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets and Hawks are all jockeying for position.

The club remains led offensively by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, but the offensive production of both (they have 23 points combined) is just a hair above others on the roster. Perhaps that should be looked at as a balanced attack, as Brandon Saad, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Brad Richards, Brent Seabrook and Marian Hossa can all bite you if you're not paying attention. Big names, big talents... But the club isn't getting top-heavy production out of any of them.

And they don't exactly need to either, they've only allowed 28 goals in 15 games this season, that's 13 less than their own total to this point (41). Thank goaltender Corey Crawford for that one. Corey is among the league leaders in Goals against Average at the moment standing with a 1.75 GAA and a .932 save percentage. In fact, all three netminders who have suited up for the Hawks this season (Crawford, Scott Darling and Antti Raanta all boast save percentages above .930 and goals-against averages below 2.05. That's not just amazingly consistent, it's intimidating as well.

The thing is, while keeping the score down looks to be a strength for the Blackhawks, they struggle in such affairs - they're 4-6-1 in those contests. The Lightning in one-goal games is 5-2-1.

Tampa Bay is 3rd overall in the NHL right now on the power play, converting 26.4% of their opportunities with the man advantage. Chicago, conversely, is 18th overall; they score 19% of the time. It's the penalty kill where things get ugly for the Bolts and exceedingly proficient for the Hawks: Chicago has a 91.1% kill-rate (Al Capone called from beyond the grave and stated his approval) while Tampa Bay is in a nose dive while a man down... Right now they're only stopped 76.1% of opposing power plays - 25th in the league. That's a huge drop-off from how things stood before this trip started.

We'll try to get you updates on starting goalies and the status of Alex Killorn as the day goes on.

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