uspw_7072236It’s hard to imagine anyone stopping them at this point. The Chicago Blackhawks have taken to the 2012-2013 with a 14-0-3 start and won its fourth straight on Friday night to set an NHL record for the best start to a season.

Having earned points in each of its first 17 games, the Blackhawks topped the previous record set by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2006-2007 season.

The record-setting win came at the expense of the San Jose Sharks and rookie Brandon Saad, who popped in a short-handed winner to put Chi-town in the driver’s seat.

Ray Emery was in the Blackhawks’ net, making his fourth straight start. He improved to 7-0 with the win, stopping 26 shots in the 2-1 victory.

Not only did Friday night set an NHL record, it was the first time all year that the Blackhawks had what could best be termed a full line-up. Goalie Corey Crawford, defenceman Brent Seabrook and forward Daniel Carcillo were all back from injuries. Marian Hossa was also back after a questionable hit at the hands of Vancouver’s Jannik Hansen.

So what does this mean for the Chicago Blackhawks?

The Ducks won the Stanley Cup in their record-setting season, for one thing, and rode the starting momentum all the way through the season. Given the fact that the current season is an abbreviated one, getting off to a hot start certainly serves as an even greater advantage.

Some more numbers: 10 of Chicago’s 14 wins came in regulation. Three of those came against the Sharks. Two wins came in overtime. Two wins came in the shootout. The only “losses” for the Hawks were shootout losses, but they still collected the points needed to set the record.

There are a few details that could theoretically diminish this accomplishment. Obviously the idea of snagging points in overtime losses confirms the fact that the Blackhawks aren’t undefeated. It also plants their record-setting achievement in a certain context against NHL history.

It also matters, at least somewhat, that the abbreviated NHL schedule means that there will be no inter-conference play. Chicago has been testing themselves against some reputable foes, but they haven’t exactly taken on a full complement of the league’s teams.

Nevertheless, it’s an impressive accomplishment and it illustrates that the Blackhawks are, at least right now, the team to beat in the NHL.