Chicago Blackhawks Season Preview: Kane, Toews, goaltender must step up

Corey Crawford and Ray EmeryLast season the Chicago Blackhawks once again broke the 100 point mark, making it the third time in the past four seasons they have achieved this feat. Players like Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp lead the way for the Blackhawks, with Toews and Kane rounding out the top four scorers. Chicago had a solid team, but shortcomings from the goaltending department lead to an early playoff exit.

To repeat last years feat, but make a further run in the playoffs, the Blackhawks will have to see success from one primary goaltender. Additionally, players like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews need to step back into mid-seventy point territory and once again become the dominant players they have been in the past.

Offensively, the Blackhawks are a talented and gifted team. It only starts with the to four mentioned above, but the Blackhawks have depth as well. The emergence of Viktor Stalberg and the young & gritty Andrew Shaw will only make this team better. Beyond that, they have Marcus Kruger entering his second full season of play. If this skilled youngster and build on his success last season, he will be an impact depth player for Chicago.

The Blackhawks don’t just have offensive power though, they have plenty of toughness to go around as well. As previously mentioned, Shaw jumped into a gritty role last season, but after seeing his offensive production, the coaching staff might put an end to that. Chicago, however, still has Jamal Mayers and even Daniel Carcillo to jump into battle if need be. While Mayers will see more playing time, Carcillo will be brought in as necessary and certainly won’t be afraid to drop the gloves at any time.

Defensively, this team remains a strong unit as well. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook will lead the way, with Nick Leddy and Johnny Oduya not far behind. Niklas Hjalmarsson and Michael Rozsival will make this defensive unit even better and more complete.

The defense will need to be complete though, because it is going to be a toss up as to what will happen in between the pipes. Corey Crawford lead the way for the majority of last season. However, there were several instances where Ray Emery earned himself consecutive starts in net. Crawford maintained sub par numbers, with a 2.72 goals against average and .903 save percentage. Emery couldn’t quite compete though, carrying a goals against average at 2.81 and a .900 save percentage. Despite these poor numbers, both goalies maintained a winning record. Much of that can be attributed to Chicago’s offensive firepower which managed 248 goals for throughout the season, good enough to tie with Detroit for second best in the Western Conference.

To advance further in the playoffs, Chicago and its goaltenders will have to improve upon their goals against per game. It’s fine overpowering teams during the regular season, and still winning games where you allow 3 or 4 goals. Come playoff time, however, this is no longer an option. Chicago knows this strategy from the past, when they went on to win a Stanley Cup with Antti Niemi. The Blackhawks must return to this shut down style of play in the post-season next year to have any chance at making a run.


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