The Chicago Blackhawks are not a team to panic.
Last season, the Blackhawks were only two points away from falling to a wild-card playoff seed, instead of a divisional spot. Only two wins separated the ‘Hawks from missing the playoffs altogether.
However, all year long, players, coaches, and analysts stayed cool. They spoke of ‘flipping the switch’, and how the ‘Hawks would rise to the occasion, when the time comes.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs came around, and the Blackhawks did just that, winning their third championship in six seasons.
Now, the Blackhawks have a new challenge: become the first team to defend their title since the Scotty Bowman-led Detroit Red Wings of the late ’90s.
So far, it’s not looking so good. After five games, the Blackhawks are below .500, with a 2-3 record. Usually, a winning record at any point in the season is a given, when talking about the Blackhawks.
While all the other Stanley Cup favorites (aside from the still-winless Anaheim Ducks) all off to a hot start, the Blackhawks can’t afford to flounder much longer, and dig themselves a hole too deep to get out of. As the saying goes, you can’t win the Stanley Cup in October, but you sure can lose it.
So, why does everyone around the Blackhawks seem so calm?
Anyone who kept their Twitter accounts up-to-date over the summer should have seen this coming.
The Blackhawks broke away from their status quo of bringing back a carbon-copy roster year-after-year, instead shipping cornerstone players like Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp away, and bringing in players such as Artemi Panarin, Viktor Tikhonov, and promoting home-grown players like Viktor Svedberg.
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The growing pains were a certainty, and through the first week of the regular season, they are definitely present. Joel Quenneville has turned on his infamous “line-blender”, searching for some chemistry between the Blackhawks’ new faces. Bryan Bickell, who was waived just a little under a month ago, was playing on the Blackhawks’ top line in their most recent game. With only one goal in the last two games, it seems things can only go up from here.
The Blackhawks’ springboard waits right in front of them, just a few hours away. They will welcome their former first-line winger, Saad, and the Columbus Blue Jackets to the United Center, where the Blackhawks will play their next four games. With the Jackets still looking for their first win of the season, and even their own players saying they have no confidence, the ‘Hawks can’t let this one get off the hook.
In a city captivated by baseball, the Blackhawks will be forced to take a backseat, and quietly chug along, at least for the next week or so. As far as garnering league-wide attention, the ‘Hawks are very used to just ‘hanging around’, and flipping that switch later on. As long as the calendar says October, there’s no need to hit the panic button, just yet.
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