First and foremost, I’d like to thank each and every one of you for tearing yourselves away from “Clock Watch: The Countdown to Puck Drop”. I know it’s of the utmost importance to chronicle the ticking seconds away until NBCSN becomes relevant again.
It’s hard to believe that over 100 days have passed since 17 seconds brought an entire city to the edge of its seat and then to its knees in exaltation. Are we decompressed now? Are the photos framed and the DVR’s set (allow space for overtime and shootouts, noob)?
I hope so.
After tonight, anything will mean nothing. Once Jim Cornelison belts the final note and the organ bangs three times for “Let’s Go Hawks” there isn’t going to be an accolade or a playoff stat to hang a glove on.
I’m not sure if it’s fortunate or not that some experts have the Chicago Blackhawks repeating as Stanley Cup Champions. Everyone from Sports Illustrated to NHL.com and NHL Network panelists vastly support the Blackhawks as top contender in the Central Division.
Surprisingly, they’re not the unanimous decision for winning the West. Also shocking, is the belief that the Boston Bruins can do what is rarely accomplished – making it back to the Finals after losing the previous season. All that offseason chatter of the Hawks potentially becoming the first team in the salary cap era must have been filler, as only one – EJ Hradek – chose the Hawks to repeat.
You can check out the Midway Madness hockey experts’ predictions here. They’re riveting.
With realignment, the top pick for giving the Hawks a run for their money is also the same team that takes over as division rival – the St. Louis Blues. We can argue about rivalries and how terrible it is that Detroit is no longer in the Western Conference until we’re wheezing on the floor. In the end, it doesn’t matter. If rivalries are what get you amped up, by all means, crank up your gaming console and play the same team over and over again.
While you’re at it, tell me again why you’re mad about the Madhouse on Madison sign being taken down.
As has been mentioned times immeasurable before now, the circumstances surrounding the Blackhawks roster heading into this title defense is nowhere near comparable to the roster purge after 2010. With few roster spots to fill – most with a suitor already in mind – the handful didn’t require an offseason spent scrambling for trades and free agent acquisitions.
The return of Nikolai Khabibulin is probably what made the biggest splash. With Antti Raanta still getting looks and making his way through the system, regardless of being recalled from Rockford, the Hawks followed what has become the mantra for their goalie tandem – veteran presence.
Whatever shortcomings Khabibulin may possess – age, physical limits, longevity – it doesn’t change the fact that both he and Corey Crawford (who still has detractors) will benefit from one of the league’s best defensive corps and penalty kills.
Speaking of which, it should be one of the more intriguing storylines early on this season. With the departure of Michael Frolik, who if nothing else, solidified his value as a member of the PK, there could be a revolving door of fill-ins before we see a long term solution. Consider it an extension of preseason lineup mixes before we find the right one.
Sadly, there has been nothing shown heading into the regular season that provides us with encouragement for the Blackhawks powerplay. An abysmal effort on the man advantage will carry over to this season.
– The 2010 championship rings were pretty ugly. The 2013 rings are equally abhorrent. Granted, it’s hard to make designs out of stuff that is worth more than my yearly income. I suppose gaudy and massive is the “one goal”…
– It’s a safe bet Patrick Kane will score the Blackhawks first goal of the season. I live dangerously and so am choosing Brendan Morrison. Remember him?
– Hybrid icing will be included this season after being approved by the NHLPA. I’m all for making things safer, but did anyone else notice the linesman this preseason kind of, ya know, not knowing what to do?
– No one (read: Me) cares about the jersey tuck rule. If you tuck your jersey, you probably pop your collar too.
– Just to clarify… no longer can you drop your helmet to start a fight without an additional two minute penalty. If you instigate a fight with a visor on your helmet, it too is an additional two minutes. The league is also pushing for more players to switch to playing with visors. The league also doesn’t necessarily want to ban fighting…So, we have a league where fighting is allowed, but you’re penalized if you do it wearing the equipment deemed necessary but not allowed to wear while you fight without not having been able to not take it off….?
…just drop the puck.
Follow Brennan on Twitter @midway_brennan