Stan Bowman did his best to improve the Chicago Blackhawks this offseason. Now, it is up to the players to go out and compete.
Bowman made a lot of moves this offseason, so he did his part to improve the Blackhawks.
Bringing in depth players, defensive defensemen that can play in the top-4, and adding a Vezina Trophy caliber goaltender is one heck of an offseason.
Even so, something else needs to happen for the Blackhawks to succeed. They need to learn how to play together again.
To start the 2018-19 season, the St. Louis Blues were one of the most improved teams and one that could compete for a cup. By January, they were dead last in the NHL.
We all know what happened in the months after January, but in the first half of last season, the Blues were a disappointment. The Blackhawks can not afford to have a soft start to their 2019-20 season.
Let’s take a look at some of the things the Blackhawks need to happen to succeed in 2019-20.
Every Game Matters
The Blackhawks had a really exciting second half of the season last year. It was fun to watch the Blackhawks make a last-second push but at the same time, it reminded me of how boring the first half of the season was.
The Chicago Blackhawks need to play every game like the playoffs are on the line. This way, the team will stay hungry throughout all 82 games.
The Blackhawks need to treat every game like it matters, and can not afford to go on multiple 8-game losing streaks again in 2019-20.
Let Players Find Their Roles
Andrew Shaw is not the same Andrew Shaw the Blackhawks had in 2016. He has grown as a player.
In 2018-19, Shaw had his best statistical season for the Montreal Canadiens. He put up a career-high 47 points. Shaw also registered a hat-trick for the first time in his career.
Expect a new and improved Andrew Shaw in the 2019-20 season. Shaw could play anywhere in the lineup.
I try to think of which line Shaw would play on and you can make your case for any line. It will be interesting what the Blackhawks do with Andrew Shaw this year.
Maatta did not have the best season last year, and ‘Hawks fans were a little irritated when they traded for him.
With that being said, we need to give him the same shot we gave Dylan Strome. Let Maatta try to prove himself this year with no expectations on where he should play.
Figure Out the Penalty Kill
The Blackhawks’ penalty kill was one of the worst in the NHL last year. In recent memory, it was the worst Blackhawks penalty kill to date. Things need to improve.
Rotating 2 defensive units on the PK and getting the puck out of the zone will be key to succeeding while short-handed.
Expect to see assistant coach Marc Crawford work extensively with the penalty kill units during training camp.
Figure Out the Defense
The Blackhawks added some great depth players to their offense the past few months.
Now, the Blackhawks need to prove that their defense is better as well. Having solid goaltending will help, but it falls on the defense to limit high-scoring chances and to block shots.
Murphy needs to play a bigger role in the Blackhawks’ defense in 2019-20. The ‘Hawks also need to continue to reduce Duncan Keith‘s ice time.
Keith can still be a big factor for the Blackhawks, but only if you don’t burn him out with high ice time. He is not in his prime anymore. Help Keith out by putting him in situations where he can succeed. Taking offensive zone draws and limiting time on the PK would be ideal.
Also, Colliton needs to let de Haan and Murphy take the defensive zone draws. They will most likely be the Blackhawks’ shutdown pairing for the foreseeable future.
Win the Divisional Games
The Blackhawks can not afford to lose games against the teams they are competing against for a playoff spot.
Only 3 teams are guaranteed a playoff spot from each division and the Blackhawks do not want to be on the outside looking in during the 2019-20 season.
There is a lot of talent in the Central Division and winning as many games as possible is a must.
The Chicago Blackhawks added the pieces to succeed this past offseason, and now, they need to go out and prove it on the ice.