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Spiegel: In The Midst Of Excellence

Marian Hossa slips home the game-winner in overtime against the Oilers. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Marian Hossa slips home the game-winner in overtime against the Oilers. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

spiegs Matt Spiegel
For the last decade, Matt Spiegel has been a nationally syndicated...
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By Matt Spiegel-

(CBS) So this is what it’s like to be in the midst of true excellence.

Did anyone at home really believe the Blackhawks were going to lose that game to the Edmonton Oilers? Because the crowd at the United Center did not.

There was a palpable, gleeful calm on the face of virtually every person seen on the way in. It was the same with those roaming around the 200 level, and people in their seats cheering or observing.  Not sure I’ve ever seen anything quite like it.  It’s the serenity and joy that comes with knowing the team you came to see is the best at its craft, and the accompanying expectation of excellence.

Someone was going to tie that thing up in the third period. Even as the Hawks trailed after the second intermission for just the third time this season, the point streak wasn’t going anywhere. The crowd knew it, and the Blackhawks knew it too.

There’s been plenty of good fortune. But there are hockey reasons for this kind of streak. It’s not just dumb luck, even in a sport notorious for the role that “chance” can play. Have there been good bounces and hops for a moving puck? Sure. Crossbars hit by the opposition, and improbably blocked shots? Of course.

But watch the effort of every single player as they relentlessly, hungrily chase the puck. See the sometimes bemoaned incomplete players on the roster poking at defensemen, chasing them into the corners, extending possession in the zone. See individual battles won all over the ice.

Eventually, the ridiculous skill at the top of the roster gets a chance to showcase itself. So you see Patrick Kane find space to set himself up for a gorgeous backhand power play goal in the first. You see Patrick Sharp, Globetrottering his way to the goal in overtime, effecting chaos and a juicy rebound. And then you see the powerfully artful Marian Hossa tap a second rebound to himself, creating a hole to slam the game winner home.

That building is grinning, leering madness right now. It’s pretty special to look slowly around and up at the seas of humanity standing, stomping, waving their arms on every level.

As there would be in the face of any regular season success, there’s now the requisite talk of how none of this is meaningful if they don’t win the Stanley Cup. People say these moments of excellence will seem pointless if the ultimate goal is not achieved.

Would a title be better than not winning one? Of course.

Is that a higher goal than an unbeaten string of games leading to a record most of us didn’t know existed? Absolutely.

But, can the Blackhawks win that title right now, here in February? No. So diminishing the pleasure and fun of this improbable run is silly. Everyone knows what the big picture is. But we’ve all been through enough sports badness to deserve enjoyment when a team is this good.

And man, are they good.

Listen to Matt Spiegel on 670 The Score weekdays from 9am–1pm CT on The McNeil & Spiegel Show.