The Chicago Blackhawks’ summer of celebration will end eventually. Soon, the team will get back to the business defending their championship. The usual teams want to knock them off. The first prediction for the upcoming season wasn’t kind to the Madison Street Hockey Club. The Hockey News picked the St. Louis Blues to win the Cup. They also believe that the team didn’t do enough in the offseason.
Let’s look at five things to expect from the team during the 2013-2014 season.
Penalty Killing Unit
As bad as the power play was last season, the penalty killing unit was even better. At this point, it doesn’t seem clear who will take the place of one of the penalty killing unit’s best players, Micheal Frolik. The Blackhawks believe they have the depth to make due without Frolik. They wouldn’t have made the trade if they didn’t believe that someone on the roster wasn’t ready to step into such an important role.
Second Line Center
The midseason acquisition of Michal Handzus was key to last year’s Stanley Cup run. The team brought him back for one more season to take over the second line center position until one of the team’s younger players is ready. Calder Trophy finalist Brandon Saad, Marcus Kruger, Brandon Pirri and Jeremy Morin will be given a shot to take over the position.
Expect for Corey Crawford to continue his strong play from last season. Crawford solidified himself as the Blackhawks’ number one goaltender for quite some time. Even the fans who didn’t believe in Crawford during the season have now come to their senses. Expect for Crawford to make Canada’s Olympic team.
Blackhawks fans are familiar with the younger players on the roster who were instrumental in helping the team win the Stanley Cup. Get to know Jeremy Morin, Jimmy Hayes, Brandon Pirri, and Mark McNeill. These players have done all they can do at the minor league level. Now is the time to see what these young players can do in the NHL.
No Post Championship Let Down
Unlike the last championship team in 2010, this team wasn’t gutted. Despite the fact that general manager Stan Bowman kept the core players together, the lack of continuity between the role players eventually became the team’s downfall. Two straight first round exits was proof of something left to be desired. This time around, the team that won the Stanley Cup last season will virtually be the same. Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik were traded because the team has some players in Rockford ready to make to jump to the big leagues.
The Chicago Blackhawks did not tinker too much with the team this offseason. They like their nucleus along with the role players. All things considered, last year was indeed last year. Now it is time to see if the current group of Blackhawks can match the level of play of last season’s team.
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