Dale Tallon, the main architect of the core of the Chicago Blackhawks and now the current General Manager of the Florida Panthers is undoubtedly looking forward to a visit from the players he had a huge hand in assembling into the hockey Juggernaut, that they are today. However, it is understandable if he isn’t exactly looking forward to seeing them on the Panthers’ home-ice.
The Panthers who have a lockout shortened season between them and their most recent, surprise playoff appearance, in 2011-2012, are off to a slow start of 3-6-0(6 points) and are expected by most to finish at the bottom of the Atlantic Division. However, it’d be unfair to them, to totally rule them out of being a surprise contender, just like they were in 2011-2012. Tallon isn’t the only familiar face the Hawks will see, in the sunshine state. Brian Campbell, member of the 2010 Stanley Cup team, is a consistent point producer, on the blueline for the Panthers. He is joined in Florida by other former Hawks, like Kris Versteeg, who when healthy, is a solid offensive threat, and also utility forward, Tomas Kopecky.
The Panthers are looking to build off of a 3-game losing streak ending victory over the Minnesota Wild, and a win over the defending Cup Champs, would do wonders for the young up and comers on the Cats’ like last year’s Calder Trophy winner, Jonatahan Huberdeau. Former Boston Bruins star, Tim Thomas is struggling to get comfortable in net, for the Panthers, after taking a year off, last season. It would be unwise to count out the Panthers as potential surprise contenders, and the young Panthers have to be excited to be taking on the defending champs. Oh, and Dale Tallon, certainly wouldn’t mind beating the organization that he used to call home.
Without the losses to the St. Louis Blues, the Blackhawks really wouldn’t have a ton to complain about, but even with them, the Hawks are off to a very solid start to the 2013-2014 season. In the last 5 games, the Hawks are a very good, 4-0-1, good for 9 points. In their most recent triumph, over the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Hawks got contributions from areas that had been lacking production, throughout the entire still young season. Bryan Bickell finally lit the lamp, this season, after getting off to a slow start, following an excellent playoff run. Brandon Pirri, who was recently called up from the Rockford IceHogs, of the AHL, put up a goal, and an assist, in the victory over the Maple Leafs.
If the Hawks can continue to get consistent, to semi-consistent production from these players, it will go a long ways in helping them win the Central Division. Consistent secondary scoring is very necessary, but also somewhat of a luxury, as long as the core pieces of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Sharp continue to put up points at alarming rates. Corey Crawford continues his strong early season, after allowing only 1 goal, in the victory over Toronto. While the Hawks aren’t off to a record breaking start, this season, this more than solid start will do just fine.
Two teams who are seemingly on opposite ends of the league in more ways than one, will face-off tonight, and while a win for the Panthers would mean the world for a team searching for an identity, a close loss would still feel good. The Hawks on the other hand should win, and are very much expected to win, so they must be careful not to look past the Cats.