NHL 15: Chicago Blackhawks Guide
Written By: Mattzor98
Year in Review:
Last Season – Preseason
Oh to be back in 2013 again. The Chicago Blackhawks were Stanley Cup champions (again) and every one of our fans fell asleep dreaming of the famed 17 seconds. We were on top of the world. On the management side of things though, it wasn’t so rosy of a picture. Chicago had just won the Stanley Cup, and that was great, but almost all the players wanted a raise. A big one, if at all possible, and if the franchise wouldn’t give them one, you could be sure another franchise would. And the nasty salary cap meant we really couldn’t just give everybody a massive raise. So some often painful trades had to be done. Among the more well-known of leavers were David Bolland, scorer of the championship winning goal against Boston in Game 6 (left for the Maple Leafs in return for 3 draft picks, 2nd and 4th ones in 2013 and a 4th round pick in 2014), Viktor Stalberg, most notable for having a kickass name, but was also a solid performer for Chicago over a couple of years (left as a free agent, was signed by Nashville) and Michael Frolik, king of the shorthanded plays (left to Winnipeg for 3rd and 5th round picks in the 2013 draft). And that really is just scratching the surface. A lot of players left, and this put far more strain on the up and coming talent of Chicago, such as Jeremy Morin and Ben Smith. They would hold up remarkably well, but the preseason was a fearful time for many fans.
Behind this the draft ended up being a bit hidden from view for Chicago fans, especially considering we would only have the 30th pick in the first round. However, a few excellent prospects were picked up, with our first pick Ryan Hartman (currently with the Plymouth Whalers) looking like he might turn into a good player. Carl Dahlstrom is also an exciting prospect for the future.
So after all the drafting and trading had finished, what were Hawks fans thoughts for the new season? Well all in all we were quite hopeful. Despite some serious cuts into our roster, our main core was still there, and with players such as Toews, Kane and Hossa still around as Hawks, we felt we would still be a major threat. Also, we had Corey Motherfucking Crawford backing us up, so we knew we had a decent goaltender, at least in the playoffs. Hawks fans were, in the preseason at least, quietly hopeful we could be the first team of the salary cap era to win back to back cups. And while most of us realised that was mainly just a pipe dream, almost all of us thought we could at least go far in the playoffs, so long as our core stayed intact.
Last Season – Regular Season
Regular Season Record – 46-21-15 (compared to 36-7-5 in 2012/13)
Top Scorer – Patrick Sharp (34)
Most Assists – Duncan Keith (55)
Most Points – Patrick Sharp (78)
Best Plus/Minus – Marian Hossa (28)
Most Penalty Minutes – Brandon Bollig (92)
Best Save Percentage – Corey Crawford (.917)
Biggest Margin of Victory – 5 (Chicago 6-1 Columbus, Chicago 7-2 Philadelphia, Chicago 7-2 Colorado)
Biggest Margin of Defeat – 5 (Chicago 2-7 Nashville)
It was pretty clear from the start that this would not be the same dominant Chicago side of last season. There was no repeat of the 24 games without a regulation defeat at the start of the season. In fact, it took only 3 games for that dream to die, as St. Louis inflicted our first regulation defeat of the season in that game. From the very offset, Chicago did not look particularly like running away with the President’s Trophy, although up until the end of 2013 we were serious challengers for it. A 28-7-7 record over the length of 2013 was enough to keep Chicago high up in the deadly Central Division and contending for the President’s Trophy for a second season in a row. It helped that our record at the UC was incredible (only 2 regulation defeats by the end of December) and that Nikolai Khabibulin got injured as quickly as possible so our back-up for Crawford was the half man, half machine known as Antti Raanta. His performances meant that Corey’s injury in December hurt us far less than anyone expected.
However, over the New Year the players clearly partied a bit too hard, and subsequently suffered a 4 month or so hangover from which they never truly recovered. A 5-3-6 record in January signalled the beginning of the end for Chicago’s President’s Trophy challenge, and it never really got going again; Chicago didn’t register a positive win loss ratio in any month until April at the very end of the season. Injuries to Kane and Toews nearer the end of the season did nothing to aid the cause, and despite a few rousing wins, the Hawks were abysmal for their standard. This poor run meant we fell considerably behind the frontrunners of the league, eventually finishing 7th overall, 10 points behind the President’s Trophy winners Boston and behind Anaheim, Colorado, St. Louis, San Jose and Pittsburgh as well. Despite this though, Chicago finished comfortably in the playoff positions, and readied up for their series against bitter rivals St. Louis.
Last Season – Playoffs
Playoff Record – 11-8
Top Scorer – Jonathan Toews (9)
Most Assists – Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook, Marian Hossa (12)
Most Points – Patrick Kane (20)
Biggest Margin of Victory – 4 (Chicago 5-1 St. Louis)
Biggest Margin of Defeat – 4 (Chicago 0-4 Minnesota, Chicago 2-6 Los Angeles)
The playoffs started out as a nightmare for Chicago. Two games in St. Louis, and two OT defeats, the second coming with the added salt of Seabrook being banned for three games (fairly, but still a blow). However, Chicago benefited from St. Louis being incapable of not choking, and won 4 in a row to progress, including the 5-1 demolition job at the UC in Game 6.
After that, Chicago faced off against the Wild, in a repeat of last year’s first round matchup. The series started off well enough for Chicago, winning two on the bounce, only to collapse to Minnesota’s fortress at home. Chicago retook the lead in the series however to the tune of Chelsea Dagger at the UC, and finally broke the Wild’s resistance at home with a 2-1 away win to progress.
Chicago then met up with their old friend Los Angeles. A win in game one gave Hawks fans hope, just to see it all disappear with three defeats on the bounce. Chicago rose again to tie the series at 3, but just couldn’t finish off the revival and bowed out in OT to the Kings in Game 7.
Last Season – Overview
So here we are again, in another preseason. Chicago are still contenders, and still have arguably the most dangerous core in the league built around the likes of Kane and Toews. But I for one feel a sense of unease over the upcoming seasons. Chicago were not the same team last season. They were still good, no doubt, but they did not play with the same fire as they did in 2012/13. This was most noticeable in the playoffs, where we escaped with wins that we made look far more comfortable than they really were. Every game we played was a big challenge, and had Crawford not been the clutch playoff guy that he is, we could easily have bowed out far earlier than we did in the playoffs. So there remains cause for optimism and pessimism. Last season was an undeniably good season; it can be nothing else when you get to the Western Conference Finals and take the eventual Stanley Cup winners to 7 games and OT. But it is not as good as the performances of 2012/13. I for one hope that the fire of that time is discovered next season again.
But there are bigger worries than that. Chicago is once again stuck just under the salary cap, but has to give people raises. That means we are going to lose players again, and it is questionable whether we can replace them with players of a similar standard. Once again, we performed reasonably in the draft, or at least it appears that we did right now, with good prospects such as Nick Schmaltz and Beau Starrett bolstering our pool of centres, and signing Brad Richards to fix our second line center problem was vital, and impressive considering our salary cap issue. But losing Kevin Hayes was a blow, and it’s people like that who we will struggle to replace while staying under the cap.
So Chicago still have their core, and that is vitally important. However, the edges are starting to fray now, and this is a big problem for us. Hopefully, the rest of this preseason and the early parts of next season will show us recovered and strong, but there is a worry right now that the team that turns up next season will not be as good as the one that started last season. And if that is the case, then it’s difficult to see the Hawks ever reaching the level of 2010 and 2013 for quite some time.
Highlights of the 2013 – 2014 Season:
- Raising the banner Obvious highlight really, and we followed it up with a 6-4 win over Washington, which was nice.
- Kane’s tribute to his dead Grandfather Great game to watch as well.
- Our part in the Stadium Series, and it was one of the few times we performed in the latter half of the season. 5-1 over the Penguins
- Knocking out St. Louis Oh boy, that was satisfying to watch again.
- Game 5 against LA Arguably one of the greatest games of the season, it was fantastic to watch. The Hawks went out in the end, but it was a brilliant game.
Why the Chicago Blackhawks Will Win The Cup This Year:
Chicago break their own record of two seasons ago and go 30 games unbeaten in regulation at the start of the season. Despite worries about the salary cap, the Hawks stay under it by making some amazing trades and deals. Morin is finally set free and proceeds to tear up defences as Sharpie’s early replacement, should we ever need it. Chicago walk to the President’s trophy, winning by a 10 point margin, and advance through the playoffs, sweeping the Blues and the Kings on the way. In the final the Hawks come up against the breakout team of the season Detroit. After 6 games the series is tied at 3, and game 7 goes to overtime. One period ends. Then another. Then another. Finally, in 4OT, Jonathan Toews breaks away and slams the puck through Jimmy Howard’s five hole to claim another Stanley Cup, only this time on home ice. The Hawks are Stanley Cup champions again.
Why the Chicago Blackhawks Won’t Win The Cup This Year:
Chicago panic and sell off players to stay under the salary cap. Big names leave, and their replacements are complete disappointments. Kane goes on a night out and gets arrested, and Toews refuses to play until his friend is released. Crawford and Raanta get injured, and we somehow end up with Khabibulin in net, despite the fact that he left last season. Bill Wirtz rises from the dead and reclaims ownership of the team. He proceeds to charge $200 per ticket for regular season games and cut off all television rights. Chicago finish bottom of the West and St Louis go on to win the Stanley Cup, beating Detroit in 6 games.