Dec 10, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) scores a goal against Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the first period at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
It’s finally here! After a longer offseason than anyone wanted, the Chicago Blackhawks are set to open the regular season tonight, against a much improved fellow Central Division opponent, the Dallas Stars.
This will be the first of five regular season matchups between the the Hawks and the Stars. Tonight’s game will air on television on CSN-Chicago and on over the radio at WGN 720 AM.
The Stars boast an abundance of offensive talent on their roster. Dallas’ top-line of Jamie Benn, Valeri Nichushkin, and Tyler Seguin is arguably one of the best in the NHL, and if everything goes right, will propel the Stars to their playoff goals. During the offseason, the Stars brought in long-time Ottawa Senator, Jason Spezza. Spezza will center the 2nd line and add some much needed and quality depth down the middle. The Stars also added veteran Ales Hemsky in the offseason. The additions of both veterans Spezza and Hemsky should be a big boost, for the Stars, who are a young team. These additions should also be a boost to the additions themselves, as Spezza and Hemsky will not be looked upon to be the Stars of the Stars(sorry), but instead they will be more complimentary players, which you could have much worse players in their respective roles.
Dallas is a little thin on the blueline, which might be a bit of an Achilles heel for them, this season, especially in the highly competitive Central Division. Alex Goligoski and Trevor Daley are solid defensemen, but they aren’t exactly NHL elite. The Stars will get a boost on the blueline, once Sergei Gonchar returns from injury.
In net for the Stars, will be Kari Lehtonen. Lehtonen is one of the most underrated goaltenders, in the NHL, of not the. The only real issue with Lehtonen is his ability to stay healthy. If he can stay healthy, he has the ability to make up for any blueline questions.
There’s still the Hawks’ least favorite Star, Antoine Roussel. Roussel, a forward and a bit of an agitator who was often found in on-ice scuffles and off-ice smack talking, with the Hawks. Might there be a bit of a heated rivalry forming here?
The Hawks have been ready to go since they were eliminated by the Los Angeles Kings in overtime of Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marian Hossa and the other usual suspects are as motivated as any Stanley Cup favorite has ever been. Newcomer/answer to the 2nd-line center suffering, Brad Richards is also motivated to get his career back on track. Although, Richards will likely be playing on the 3rd line tonight, which isn’t bad, beccause you could have much worse 3rd-line centers in this league. Andrew Shaw will likely center Kane and Brandon Saad, reuniting the Hawks’ most effective line during the Western Conference Finals.
Keep an eye on Shaw and Dallas’ Roussel’s between the whistles shenanigans. Hopefully it’s their “gritty” player that takes stupid penalties and not ours.
The blueline will have a bit of an unfamiliar look tonight, for the Hawks. With the trade of Nick Leddy and Michal Rozsival‘s injury, the Hawks’ d-pairings have jumbled a bit. The dynamic duo of Keith and Seabrook remains intact, while Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya have been split-up. Hjalmarsson will skate with rookie Trevor van Riemsdyk and Oduya will be paired with David Rundblad. It will be interesting to see how these pairings work out. Rundblad will likely be rotating in and out with Rozsival on a regular basis, while van Riemsdyk was a training camp surprise who worked his way onto the roster. Perhaps van Riemsdyk has worked his way into the Hawks’ future plans?
In net for the Hawks will be Corey Crawford. Crawford is also a bit underrated, in the NHL. This might have to do with the down-season that he had, in 2011-2012. Since then, Crawford has been very good. Look for him to put that down-season even further in the rear-view mirror this season, and hopefully remove that underrated tag.
It’s been a long offseason and preseason and it all ends tonight. The Hawks will hopefully hit the ground running and get off to a fast start to the 2014-2015 season. The Stars are looking to be in the top-tier of the Central Division or even take the whole thing. Tonight will be a great test, for both teams.