Thursday, October 13, 2016
Blackhawks poised for a serious run at another Stanley Cup
Shortly after the Blackhawks lost a tense Game 7 might-have-either-way gone in St. Louis in April, a steamer, ready to spit fire coach Joel Quenneville approached a podium after the game that seemed to I could not survive the night.
"Huge disappointment for me," Quenneville growled.
Huge, because Quenneville knew then - as it does today - that any team with the firepower of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews Jersey and Artemi Panarin and goaltending notch by Corey Crawford should not be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
But they found a circular on a talented team and blue, in fact, saw the squad Quenneville was not only wrong, but also to feel the effects of three arduous post-seasons in a row.
Now, a new season is upon us and re-energized Hawks will drop the puck against - who else? - The Blues at the United Center on Wednesday night.
Does the extra rest, the youthful enthusiasm of six rookies and the return of Brian Campbell allow the Hawks to the summit of Mount Everest NHL again? Only time will tell, but here are some reasons fans should be optimistic about next season.
When the Hawks were expelled by San Luis, his six defenses in Game 7 were Duncan Keith Jersey, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Erik Gustafsson and David Rundblad.
In addition to the first four names, the D has been seriously improved with the signings of Campbell, Michal Kempny and Gustav Forsling.
Campbell is a true fourth defense, something that deeply Hawks lacked last year, and his return was by far the best thing that happened to this team in the offseason.
If injuries hit, Michal Rozsival can intervene or players who can be called Rockford, all part of the grand plan of GM Stan Bowman to make sure there are plenty of choices on the blue line.
"This is probably the deepest core group D we've had," said Niklas Hjalmarsson. "It's good for (those of) us who have been here for a while, perhaps to push each other harder, to not feel so sure."
As the regular season comes to an end last spring, the Hawks were bungling as a team of one line, Corey Crawford was injured and Duncan Keith was serving a six-game suspension that forced him to miss the party the series against the Blues. And more he felt a little off.
The team clearly lost the leadership of Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya. Also he went through a barrier almost daily roster changes on a computer that apart from Marcus Kruger, not injured long term.
Remove Kruger and a staggering 14 ends saw between six and 44 action games: Dennis Rasmussen, Ryan Garbutt, Brandon Mashinter, Richard Panik, Phillip Danault, Bryan Bickell, Andrew Ladd, Tomas Fleischmann, Tanner Kero, Dale Weise, Marko Dano Viktor Tikhonov, Vinnie Hinostroza and Jiri Sekáč.
Last year, only six ends fit those parameters.
"There were a lot of guys being called and sent down and trades that happen," Jonathan Toews said two days after the season ended last April. "So, all that kind of makes it difficult for us to try to get our groove as close as possible to get where we need to be as far as the search for chemical and ensure that we are a team that can go far in the playoffs. "
That is a revealing affirmation of the best captain in team sports.
This year, it would behoove coaches pay attention to the words Toews' and let the newbies like Hinostroza, Tyler Motte, Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz gel and bond with the team leaders. Allow them to celebrate their successes, but also to stumble without fear of being benched or being sent to Rockford.
Grow for NHL players in good faith so that most of Bowman can stand firm and see a group of young fast hungry, make another serious run at the Cup.
Kane Jersey believes that 2016 young players rise to the occasion, like Andrew Shaw, Brandon Smith and Ben Saad before them.
Kane said: "I'm sure - it'll make a name for themselves, they will be a success and soon we will find them as household names."
Kane, Toews and Panarin combined for 104 Hawks 235 goals last season, and they are 28 years or less.
It is possible - even likely - that we have not seen the best these three have to offer.
This talented trio needs some help, however, and some of the figures that come from a healthy Artem Anisimov, who took an inflamed tendon in his right wrist last year. The Hawks also benefit greatly if Marian Hossa can approach 20 goals again, Richard Panik chips in the 12-15 and novices gain confidence early finding their way into the record.
"Their participation as we move forward here will be crucial," said Quenneville rookies. "We need these guys to be aware early and I'm excited to see how they start."
Competition in the Central Division will be fierce with loaded Dallas team looking to repeat as division champions, as good as ever Nashville and St. Louis try to send Ken Hitchcock with a bang. In the Pacific, San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim will not be an easy opponent in the playoffs.
Still, the Hawks are among the teams most talented and best coach in the league are used. With your batteries recharged, which they are among the core feel they have a lot to prove.
"Definitely not feel good," Toews output last season. "We will use that as motivation to remember that work so hard for 82 games to reach the playoffs, and we do not want to miss these opportunities and exit in the first round as we did."
Kane said: "Everyone is excited to be back seems a long time coming ... to try to make another run at here, but (we) enjoy the regular season, enjoy the process and not look too far ahead and .. we'll see where we can go. "
Except major injury problems, watch for Toews, Kane and Co. to make the playoffs, reaching the final of the Stanley Cup and again, you get to call themselves champions of the NHL.
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