Chicago BlackhawksThe Chicago Blackhawks will try to forget last year’s roller coaster ride when they managed to make the NHL playoffs after an inconsistent regular season and salary cap problems that forced them to shuffle their roster.

The acquisitions of Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin were vital in the final stretch for the team to sneak into the playoffs. Once again, the Patrick Kane line carried the team through the regular season and the playoffs.

The main problem for the ‘Hawks was the defensive unit that proved to be too fragile to propel Chicago to deep run in the playoffs as they lost in the first round to the Saint Louis Blues.

This year the Blackhawks are once more among the league’s favorites to make a run for the Stanley Cup even though they still had to deal with salary cap problems caused mostly by the salaries of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Chicago nonetheless managed to work out the situation addressing the defensive holes they had.

Duncan Keith will once again be the leader and glue holding together the blue line unit. Brian Campbell returns to Chicago after five seasons with the Florida Panthers and even though he may not be as explosive as before, his stick maneuverability and puck movement will undoubtedly contribute to decrease the amount of giveaways produced by last year’s struggling unit. A player that will probably benefit from Campbell’s control and poise will be Brent Seabrook, who last year ranked ninth league wise in player giveaways, with 89 in 81games.

In offense the first line of Toews, Marian Hossa and Panarik will anchor the attack, while the second line will form with Panarin, Anisimov and Patrick Kane. This line was the most explosive last year and kept the team in contention.

This year that line will have to sustain that type of production if Chicago wants to contend again in the loaded Western Conference. In that regard, one of their best moves was to give a six-year contract extension to Calder Trophy winner Panarin, who they acquired from the SKA Saint Petersburg of the KHL.

Overall, the Blackhawks have the pieces and the talent to make another make another deep run in the playoffs. It will be up to Coach Joel Quenville to find the strategy and the schemes that allows them to be the perennial contender fans have grown to expect.


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