Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks Roundtable: Upcoming Enemies And All-Star Bids

By Colin Likas
Dec 18, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa (81) shoots on San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones (31) during the third period at the United Center. The Hawks won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 18, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa (81) shoots on San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones (31) during the third period at the United Center. The Hawks won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /
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Gail Kauchak

Question 1: I’m personally looking forward to the matchup against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday, March 14, as none of the other games in 2016 really interest me.

Montreal and Chicago played each other back in mid-November, with Chicago coming out on top 3-2. But that was early in the season, before any team in the league was really able to stand out as being dominant.

But now we know that Montreal and Chicago are both on top of their respective divisions, as well as being in the top five in the league. Both are trending in a positive direction, with reason to believe this will continue. Come March, this could easily be a duel between two of the top teams in the NHL, and perhaps a preview of a Stanley Cup Final battle.

But the real reason I anticipate this game is because of Andrew Shaw and Ryan Hartman. It was heartbreaking for most fans to lose the passionate and energetic Shawzy. It will be fun to see him try to agitate the ’Hawks.

And Hartman was compared to Shaw; he was supposed to step into his shoes. Well, Hartman has done that and more. He’s currently playing on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, and enjoying much success with five goals and four assists on the season. Will there be some fireworks between these two players?

Question 2: Marian Hossa. Toews and Patrick Kane always get to go! Hossa hasn’t been since 2012.

Last year was an off year for Hossa, but this season he has more than made up for it. While Toews, and even Kane, are both in a bit of a slump, Hossa has essentially carried the ’Hawks on his back. He currently leads the team in goals with 16, which is also tied for fourth place in the league.

And don’t even get me started on Big Hoss’ defensive prowess, and his power on the puck. Hossa is the whole package. Even at 37 years old, he is a dominant player on both ends of the ice. He’s a future Hall of Famer, and a joy to watch. He deserves to go to the All-Star game this year.

Colin Likas

Question 1: I’m looking forward to seeing Chicago’s visit to Nashville on Dec. 29. The Blackhawks faced off against the Predators twice early in the season in what many figured could be a playoff preview. Well, one team has lived up to that bargain since.

The Preds looked good in those two mid-October games, though the teams split them. Since then, the Predators have been lost, while the Blackhawks have climbed to the top of the league in points.

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  • I still think there’s a good team in Nashville. Guys like Filip Forsberg, Colin Wilson and Craig Smith are fun to watch at forward (when they aren’t scoring against you), while P.K. Subban and Roman Josi are superb defenders. Subban is currently hurt, so he may not be part of this game.

    The best part, of course, will be the Blackhawks fans infiltrating Bridgestone Arena and Predators fans and staff trying their best to block them out. But they’ll ultimately fail, as usual. That adds another layer to this Central Division showdown.

    Question 2: Patrick Kane will go. Artemi Panarin will go. Jonathan Toews … maybe. Just because he’s one of the faces that runs the place. Marian Hossa has a good shot.

    But what about Corey Crawford? This guy was absolutely screwed in last season’s All-Star voting because the NHL wanted to make sure every team had ample representation. So two goaltenders who weren’t having nearly as good of seasons in Nashville’s Pekka Rinne and Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk went instead. (Interestingly enough, Dubnyk is now among the very few goaltenders in the league probably having a better season than Crow this year.)

    Crow has proven critical to his team this season. He started 20 of Chicago’s first 25 games, posting 12 wins with a .927 save percentage and 2.27 goals-allowed average. He did so while facing 614 shots, which ranks him ahead of other regular starters like Jaroslav Halak, Ben Bishop and John Gibson, despite Crow missing nine games.

    Next: 5 Takeaways From Blackhawks' 4-Win Week

    He’s just been really impressive for a long time running now. Crow has earned a spot in the next All-Star Game.

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