UA-59049186-1 2018 Chicago Blackhawks Preview - Good if it Goes

2018 Chicago Blackhawks Preview

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After a trying 2017-18 season that saw the Blackhawks lose Corey Crawford for an extended amount of time, be unable to find anyone to adequately replace him, and finish in last place in the division as a result, the Hawks look to rebound. In the off-season, they addressed their shortcomings as a team by…uh…not really doing a whole lot. Bold strategy, Stan, we’ll see if it pays off. The one major addition was goaltender Cam Ward, who looks to be the starter until at least the end of the month – that’s the target for Crawford’s return. Ward got lit up by Detroit in the pre-season, but otherwise looked like he can be at least adequate. If that’s the case, that should take a bunch of pressure off the defense and allow them to start looking to make plays. We’ll see how much of the defensive woes a year ago were truly on the defense and how much of it was an inability to trust their goaltender.

On offense, the team looks to get Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad scoring again. The 1RW spot next to those two is somewhat of a question mark, though, as Dylan Sikura was assigned to Rockford, Vinnie Hinostroza was traded to Arizona to entice them to take Marian Hossa‘s contract off Chicago’s books, and the team didn’t bring someone else in. John Hayden‘s game would seem to fit with those two – perhaps Toews and Saad can help him take the next step. Alex DeBrincat had a strong rookie campaign – perhaps he could help that line start scoring.

Patrick Kane will be Patrick Kane. I’d pair him up with Schmaltz and whichever guy isn’t put with Toews and Saad. Or if the team is serious about Dominik Kahun, take a look there. Kahun comes to the Hawks after getting noticed during the Olympics playing with Germany. Last year, in the Deutshce Eishocky Liga, Kahun put up nearly a point per game: 12-29-41 in 42 games with EHC Munchen.

The bottom six does not appear to be very strong. Artem Anisimov can get to the net, but is rather mediocre at the dot. Chris Kunitz could give you a little something if he’s still got something in the tank. Marcus Kruger will be a solid defensive 4C, but that’s it.

The defense starts the season with Connor Murphy and Gustav Forsling on IR. Henri Jokiharju will make his NHL debut. Brent Seabrook shed some weight this past off-season. He started awfully slow a year ago before bouncing back a little bit, though not enough for what the Hawks are paying him and expecting of him. We’ll see what the new slimmer Seabrook has. Duncan Keith didn’t have the greatest of years last year, but is still a strong defended and should be helped significantly by stability at goaltender.

Corey Crawford is expected back near the end of the month – any major hopes for the season really ride on him being healthy and a Vezina contender. Cam Ward was mentioned already.

Prediction

For the second straight year, the season hinges on Crawford. I do not like that strategy. I did not like it last year and I do not like it now. If he’s healthy, I think this is a playoff team. To be a Cup contender, they need Crawford to be a Vezina contender, bounce-back years from Toews, Saad, and the entire defense, and to find quality depth.

99 points, 4th place Central Division, Western Conference Playoffs 1st round

Twitter: @KSchroeder_312

 

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