If the Blackhawks earn a point against San Jose on Friday night, setting an NHL standard for best start to a season, expect the United Center ice to be littered with a variety of items from admiring patrons.
Hats are always appropriate for hockey celebrations. Rose petals tossed at the skates of Hawks players are justifiable after a 14-0-3 start. Saucy undergarments?
Revel in the moment if you like, but don't be dispirited if the Hawks are unwilling to receive the affection.
"Nobody here is caught up in the swirl," team President/CEO John McDonough told the Tribune on Thursday. "Nobody around the United Center even talks about it."
I'd expect nothing but the proverbial one-game-at-a-time approach from any team's executives, coaches and players. The same guys who swore a fast start was critical in this 48-game season now are saying "what matters is how you finish."
That's what they have to say. Otherwise they come off sounding like they're drunk on their early success.
"As soon as you take your foot off the gas and start to pat yourselves on the back, that's when you get hit in the mouth," left wing Patrick Sharp told us Thursday on WSCR-AM 670.
That's all true, but what the Blackhawks have done in the first one-third of the season radically has changed the expectations for the eventual finish. To date, the Hawks have answered every question, on and off the ice.
Marian Hossa, despite being leveled Tuesday night by Vancouver's Jannik Hansen, has been a force. Hossa's pair of second-period goals to tie the game 3-3 was a perfect exhibit of his unique game-changing ability.
Jonathan Toews is healthy. And productive. And all things you want from a captain. Toews is a team-best plus-10.
The Blackhawks' penalty-killing units succeed at an 87.9 percent clip, third best in the NHL. The Hawks' kill was so good it created two breakaway opportunities on the Canucks in the first period Tuesday.
Perhaps the biggest difference-maker has been Patrick Kane, who leads the team with nine goals and 13 assists. It appears Kane got the memo reminding him of how he became a rock star.
Just as athletes reserve the right to change their tunes to find the next challenge, it's perfectly fair for fans to raise their expectations when a team is as dominant as the Hawks have been. The Blackhawks have proved they're the best in the West.
Last April, the Hawks couldn't buy a goal against Mike Smith in their first-round series loss to Phoenix. They've scored a dozen goals in two wins against the Coyotes this year, both in the desert. The most recent, a 6-2 beating Feb. 7, caused Phoenix coach Dave Tippett to question his team's heart and intelligence, including captain Shane Doan.
San Jose? Check. The Hawks have beaten the big, bad Sharks twice.
I'm content to let Joel Quenneville, his staff and players take the day-by-day approach. Meanwhile, the rest of us have garnered enough evidence to expect this club to go back to the big dance.
"I don't think that's a fair assessment," McDonough countered. "There's still two-thirds of the season left to go. And this is a game with two different seasons."
Fine. Go pore over tape of the Blue Jackets, Sunday's opponent, after this game against the Sharks. Just know the bar has been set so high that anything shy of a trip to the Stanley Cup finals is unsatisfactory.
And I'll be the first to stuff the suggestion box with this: Ultimately, the Hawks have to win the Cup finals in six games or fewer. Game 7 would take place June 28.
There's a Rush concert in Tinley Park that night. Like several Hawks players, I'd like to go see the Canadian power trio.
Special contributor Dan McNeil hosts "The McNeil and Spiegel Show" weekdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on WSCR-AM 670.