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Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks’ 3 Keys To Success During 2017-18 Season

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CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 23: Jonathan Toews
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 23: Jonathan Toews /
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CHICAGO, IL – APRIL 15: Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) looks on in the first period during game 2 of the first round of the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Nashville Predators on April 15, 2017, at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL – APRIL 15: Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) looks on in the first period during game 2 of the first round of the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Nashville Predators on April 15, 2017, at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Superstars being super

We know the cheaper contracts are going to need to contribute for the Blackhawks to have success, but maybe the most important will be the veterans of the team earning their bigger paychecks.

Kane lost a great linemate in Panarin, there is no denying that. But remember this: Even though Kane won the scoring title in 2015-16 with 106 points and 1.29 points per game, Kane had a PPG average of 1.00 or higher in the three seasons before Panarin arrived (1.17, 1.00, and 1.05). He is a dynamic scorer and can make any player around him a scoring threat. He needs to continue that next season for the second line to have success.

Toews may be under the microscope the most with his $10.5 million contract and consecutive seasons not breaking the 60-point total. He also posted his lowest Corsi-for numbers with 52.2 and 52.4 percentages the last two years. A good percentage for some, this is a significant drop for Toews’ possession metrics.

The ‘Hawks went out and reacquired Saad, specifically to match up with the captain on the top line. If Toews can’t produce and raise his possession numbers now, it will be hard to continue to justify his contract terms.

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Keith and Seabrook will both need to carry a fairly inexperienced blue line. Both will be paired with a young defenseman whom they will need to build chemistry with and mentor along the way.

On top of that, they will likely see a lot of minutes night-in and night-out. I trust the physical freak that is Keith to handle those minutes. Seabrook’s endurance, both in-game and season-long, is what worries me.

Saad has been brought back to the team and will need to fill in as both a scoring option for Toews on the top line as well as a strong two-way forward who can help control possession and keep the puck away from Corey Crawford. This is only amplified with the ‘Hawks’ best defensive forward, Marian Hossa, set to miss the entire season.

Crawford had a rough set of defensemen in front of him last year after the top three, but it is not getting any easier this year with the departure of Hjalmarsson. Add in the loss of Scott Darling and the question marks backing him up, and Crawford could see a lot of playing time. If Crawford can find a way to keep his save percentage near his career average of .918, he will absolutely be the MVP of the team.

Aside from these big names, players like Richard Panik and Anisimov will need to improve their game. Panik needs to stay a consistent scoring option on the top line and work to better his low possession numbers, while Anisimov must improve at the dot. A 45 faceoff percentage just means less time that Kane will have the puck and more time the ‘Hawks will be chasing their opponent.

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