The Blackhawks finished last season with the best record in the Western Conference. Despite this, the year ended in disappointing fashion as the team was swept by the eighth seeded, and eventual Western Conference Champion, Nashville Predators in the first round of the playoffs. The team looks to overcome last season’s setback in the Chicago Blackhawks 2017-2018 season preview. Here’s how we think this Blackhawk team looks.
The biggest trade of the offseason occurred when Chicago shipped winger Artemi Panarin to the Columbus Blue Jackets to acquire Brandon Saad. Saad, who was part of the last two championship teams, is not expected to produce as much offense as Panarin did over the last couple of seasons, but should add physicality and solid defensive play to the line up. Saad has scored at a fairly consistent rate over his career thus far, putting up 53 points both of the last two seasons as well as 52 in his last year with the Blackhawks. Saad should compliment the offense produced by the rest of the line up nicely.
Patrick Kane will be the leader of the offense once again this upcoming season. The elite winger finished tied for second in the league in scoring, putting up 34 goals and 55 assists for 89 points during the 2016-2017. Kane has been an offensive force since joining the league in the 2007-2008 season, and there are no reasons that look like this will cease anytime soon.
Chicago’s other elite forward, Jonathan Toews finished third on the team in scoring last year. One of the leagues’ best two-way forwards is expect to post similar numbers this season while playing a solid defensive game. Toews finished with 58 points while averaging 20:09 minutes of time on ice, second among forwards behind only Kane in 2016-2017.
The biggest deduction from the team’s offense this season is Marian Hossa. It was announced that Hossa will miss the season due to an allergic reaction to his equipment. The future Hall of Famer scored the third most goals on the team last year with 26. The Blackhawks will look for increased production from their young forwards this year to fill his void. Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz should both look the fill this role. The winger and center finished last season with 31 and 28 points respectively in 2016-2017.
The Blackhawk’s defense will look to replace Niklas Hjalmarsson, after he was dealt to Arizona this offseason. Hjalmarsson finished sixth in the league for blocked shots, and while he did not provide much offense from the blue line, his shutdown game will be missed. His possible replacement this season is Connor Murphy who was acquired in the deal. Murphy plays a similar shutdown game to Hjalmarsson, though is much less consistent. He will look to improve this in the 2017-2018 season.
Chicago’s backend still features Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Keith and Seabrook have been the team’s go to D-men in recent history and will be relied heavily upon to log big minutes and lead the blueliners. Keith put up 53 points last season while averaging 25:37 minutes of time on ice per game, sixth most in the league. Seabrook posted 39 points and 21:53 TOI.
Corey Crawford will be the team’s starter once again in 2017-2018. Crawford had himself another solid season in the cage for the Blackhawks last season. The 10-year veteran netminder posted a 2.55 GAA and a .918 save percentage in 55 games played. His save percentage is down slightly from the prior two seasons when he saved .924% of the shots he faced. Despite this slight dip last year, the Team Canada member has the potential to play an elite game and should be expected to be a rock in net.
The backup position this year is expected to be filled by Anton Forsberg. Forsberg played last season for Columbus’ AHL affiliate in Lake Erie. The Swede played will with a 2.28 GAA and a .926 save percentage. If Forsberg is not ready to make the jump the position may also be filled by JF Berube or Jeff Glass. No matter who fills this role this year, it is likely to be a step down from Scott Darling, who was traded to play as the starter for Carolina.
Chicago Blackhawks 2017-2018 Season Preview: Overall Outlook
Chicago has had some key departures over this offseason in Artemi Panarin, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Scott Darling, as well as a major loss with the health issues of Marian Hossa. The Team looks to have found suitable replacements, or players who have the potential to do so in the 2017-2018 season. Overall the team should be elite once again with Kane and Toews leading the offense, and Keith, Seabrook, and Crawford holding down the fort from the blue line to the crease. Look for Chicago to be near the top of the Western Conference and League once again in the 2017-2018 season.
- The Blackhawks offense was shaken up by the trading of Artemi Panarin and the health issues of Marian Hossa. Despite this the team looks to have suitable replacements in Brandan Saad, and the young forwards, Ryan Hartman and Nick Shmaltz..
- The blue line will need to replace the shutdown ability of Niklas Hjalmarsson. Connor Murphy will look to be a suitable replacement
- Corey Crawford should provide solid goaltending for the team, although the backup position is likely to be less successful than in the last couple of seasons.