With another September day comes yet another season preview; today features the Chicago Blackhawks, who had, to say the least, an odd season. After winning the Stanley Cup in 2009-2010, the ‘Hawks lost on the final day of last season, leaving the door open for Dallas to win and clinch an eight seed; Chicago fans owe the Wild a steak dinner for not allowing this to happen. In the playoffs, the Blackhawks quickly fell behind the Canucks three games to none; amazingly, as if the championship team of two years ago had suddenly been revived, they won the next three games. However, the comeback was not completed, as Chicago was left heartbroken after being defeated by an overtime goal in the decisive seventh game.
Over at Blackhawk Up, John Schultz previews what he (and likely most hockey fans) believes will be a much better season in Chicago. Part of his post can be seen below.
Make no doubt about it, that’s the mission this year. After suffering through the worst post-Stanley Cup cap crunch of any team since the lockout, the Chicago Blackhawks have re-emerged with most of that core still intact and retooled for what we hope is another deep run in 2012.
Looking at the names on the roster, one can’t help but get giddy with anticipation. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Dave Bolland, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook; is there a better core group in the NHL? The simple answer is “No.” Aside from solid years from the departed Brian Campbell and rookies Corey Crawford (.917 Sv%, 2.30 GAA) and Brian Bickell (17 G, 37 Pts), these guys for the most part dragged around a group of has-beens and never-should-have-been-yets, and still came within an overtime goal of taking down the Presidents’ Trophy winners and hated rivals, the Vancouver Canucks. With a long summer to recharge and another year’s experience under their belts, this still young crew will have a much better – and much deeper – supporting cast this season.
GM Stan Bowman pulled off this summer what many thought impossible just one year earlier: upgrade the bottom half of the roster, replenish the supply lines, and create additional cap space for potential in-season reinforcements.
To read the rest of this Blackhawks’ outlook, click here.
Last year, of all teams, the defending champions were one of the few to fall to the Devils at home in the first half. This season, the Blackhawks will be the last Western Conference team to visit the Prudential Center (of the regular season, at least; hopefully, there is one more), as the teams’ lone matchup comes on March 27th. As the sixth-to-last game of the season, this matchup could be of extreme importance to the Devils, and should be a large challenge late in the year. Chicago hasn’t visited New Jersey since their Stanley Cup victory, and it should be fun to watch our team faceoff with the stars that team features each night.
Now, let’s take a brief look at the Blackhawks. Blackhawk Up does a terrific job outlining how this offseason, despite not being the flashiest of all in terms of high-caliber signings, was a very good one in Chicago. The offseason before this one was quite strange, as the ‘Hawks had to dump much salary before looking to repeat last year.
Regardless of those moves, the Blackhawks still have plenty of talent on the roster. The likes of Kane, Toews, Hossa and Sharp lead a forward group with sufficient depth. There is a good supply of veterans amongst these forwards, and youth as well. Defensively, the ‘Hawks are very strong, and are the perfect veteran group to play in front of young goaltender Corey Crawford, who showed much promise last season between the pipes. The team’s largest concern seems to be their penalty kill (as John discusses); however, the necessary moves were made this offseason to give these units a new look, and while they might not be anything to write home about, Chicago should be improved in this regard.
Last year was a surprisingly weak one for the ‘Hawks, even after they had to send off, among others, Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien. Overall, the team may have had some trouble finding the right combinations after these pieces left, but a year’s work should help this issue. Chicago will have a great chance, with an very strong team, to prove they are still among the NHL’s elite this season; however, they will have to compete with the likes of Vancouver, San Jose and Detroit, who would also be quick to make this claim. Overall, this Blackhawks squad looks destined for a less nerveracking run at a playoff spot, and should be battling for home ice in the first (and possibly second) rounds by the regular season’s end.
Tomorrow’s preview will feature the Colorado Avalanche, who, while seemingly in rebuilding mode, went out and made some moves with an eye on next year’s playoffs.