Yes, Blackhawks fan’s it’s that time of a year, the kickoff to the 2015-16 NHL season. Before we go into a season preview, tonight is a big night for the Blackhawks. They welcome an original six team when the New York Rangers pay a visit to the UC. They will raise the Championship Banner, get their rings and we all will once again party like its 1999. However, once that banner is up it is back to business for the Blackhawks to defend as Stanley Cup Champions.
The Season Ahead
The Hawks have one of the most coveted groups of core players in the league. These six have had their names engraved on the Stanley Cup all three times. Any team in the NHL would jump at the chance to have any of these guys. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Marian Hossa and Niklas Hjalmarsson. If the Blackhawks have any chance of repeating these guys will need to stay healthy and all have solid seasons. We know these guys are physically tough, but they need to be more mentally tough this year, especially with the off-ice turmoil regarding Patrick Kane. The thought of him being yanked out of the lineup due to legal proceedings is something that I am sure is in the back of everyone’s mind.
The Blackhawks have to feel good with the 1-2 punch with their goaltenders Corey Crawford and Scott Darling. With two cup rings Crawford should finally be able to silence his critics. He is truly one of the best in the game. Darling just played 14 games last season, but his stellar 1.95 GAA and .936 save percentage shows he is capable of taking a larger workload to keep Crow healthy and ready for the postseason.
The Blackhawks have some new faces and for the champs to repeat these guys have some big shoes to fill with the salary cap situation sending Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad, etc. to new teams. Several new faces will play significant roles this season. Trevor Daley, Artem Anisimov, Artemi Panarin, Viktor Tikhonov and Ryan Garbutt are the new kids on the block and the must know new names on the roster. This group needs to step up to any role coach Q asks them to play, Sharp and Saad, etc. were huge parts of last year’s cup run.
The question I keep getting, will the Blackhawks repeat? The diehard fan in me says yes, of course they will. The realist in me knows just how hard it is to repeat as champions. In the NHL the last time that happened was 1997-98 by the Detroit Red Wings. I am foolishly going to go with my heart and go out on a limb here and predict, that in fact the Blackhawks will repeat as Stanley Cup Champions. Place your bets in Vegas now! They will finish with 104 points, 3d in the Central and once again put an incredible cup run together in the post season. Can’t wait to watch this season unfold, Go Hawks!