In a 48-game season, every game is magnified, every two points more crucial than ever.
And every game against the St. Louis Blues -- a popular pick to win the Central Division, if not the Stanley Cup -- is as big as they come. So the Hawks were particularly pleased with Tuesday night's 3-2 victory over the Blues in the home-opener at the United Center.
"Yeah, we talked about that at the beginning of the game, the meaningful two-four point games when we play St. Louis, knowing we expect them to be a top team in our conference," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "And after watching them play early on and in this game, we definitely know they're going to be around when it counts. These are four-point games that could be the differential in being ahead of one another, so lets make sure we prioritize these points when we play St. Louis and it was played like that [Tuesday]."
The Hawks played Tuesday night with the same sense of urgency they had in the season-opening weekend at Los Angels and Phoenix. It's a mentality they'll need to maintain for the duration of the brief season, particularly during the first few weeks of the season, when the Hawks play 10 of 12 games on the road.
"It's one of those things where we talked about it, especially with all the road games," Patrick Kane said. "We had to get off to a good start, and what a good start means, who really knows as far as points? But for us to come out and have six points at this position, if you told us that at the beginning of the the season, obviously we'd take it."
The trick is to not let up. Last year, the Hawks raced out to the top of the Western Conference standings before a nine-game losing streak sent them tumbling to the sixth seed in the playoffs. With only 48 games to build up points, there's even less of a margin for error this season.
"It doesn't matter who we play out there, we've got to set that standard for how we're going to play every single night," said captain Jonathan Toews, who acknowledged that that standard slipped the last couple of years. "Sometimes we would play a handful of great games in a row. Sometimes you don't always win, but we always seem to kind of slip up and get away from that team game and lose our identity a little bit. This year that's one of those things we want to focus on early -- sticking to that checking mentality and that work ethic mentality, and we're going to have success."
Contributing: Mark Potash