Regular Season: It was as close to a perfect year as you could hope for. A 23 game undefeated streak to start the 48 game season pretty much cemented the President’s Trophy by the middle of March, and they went on to have the best record in the NHL, clinching home ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
Playoffs: The Wild proved to be no competition in round 1, but then the veteran Red Wings put a real scare into the Hawks, putting Chicago down 3-1 and forcing them to win 3 in a row, which they did to avoid the upset. After beating the defending champion Kings in round 3, the Hawks completed the perfect season by downing the Bruins in 6 games to claim their second Stanley Cup in 3 years.
In: G Nikolai Khabibulin
Ready To Make The Jump: F Jimmy Hayes
BIG 3 FACTORS
1. Tough Act To Follow: No team has repeated as Stanley Cup Champs since Detroit in 1997-98. The Hawks are in a situation where they will have targets on their backs, and without a doubt they are a playoff team, but I wouldn’t expect quite the regular season success as they had last year.
2. Turnover : The Hawks lost a lot of key role players in Stalberg, Bolland and Frolik. However, the core is still very much in place and the emergence of Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw and maturation of Brandon Saad will overcome that. The defensive unit and starting goalie are fully intact.
3. Olympic Effect: The Blackhawks could have as many as a dozen players playing in Sochi. All that travel combined with the shortened off-season could have an impact on the Hawks down the stretch. Fatigue will play a role at some point.
PROGNOSIS: Chicago is still the class of the new-look Central division, but will be looking over their shoulder for the St. Louis Blues, who will push them this season. The Hawks should still come out on top, but it will be a different test in the playoffs.
PREDICTION: 1st Central Division
We have been and will be previewing every NHL team ahead of Training Camp which for most teams will begin on Sept 11th. As a twist, we will be unveiling our teams in reverse order to how I predict they will finish in the standings. Here is the schedule (you can click on a team name to see the preview for that team):
|1||Sept 9||Sept 8||Blackhawks||Kings|