The upcoming extended homestand has big implications for the Chicago Blackhawks.
It feels like it has been an eternity since the Chicago Blackhawks dropped their opening game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Now, they await their home opener against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday, after nearly a week since the overseas opener.
In the opener, it was difficult to get a real feel of what type of team the Chicago Blackhawks are going to be this season. Poor ice conditions, rookie nerves, and simple mistakes marred the first game of the season.
With the Blackhawks stateside once again, they hope that extended home cooking can help set them on the right track.
With only one game in nearly a week to open the season, you would expect the return to North America to call for back-to-backs and more games in a condensed schedule, but you would be wrong.
The Blackhawks will play just seven games over the next two weeks at home with no back to back games to speak of, which is a favorable return to the North American hockey world. Those seven games also provide a collection of teams that run the gambit, from the struggling San Jose Sharks to the red-hot Vegas Golden Knights to a rematch against the Flyers on home ice.
This collection of games gives the Blackhawks a true barometer to how this season could unfold. Of course, it will only be an eight-game sample (10% of the season), but with the collection of teams the will face, it will give us a good signal of what this Blackhawk team will look like.
Games to Watch:
Winnipeg Jets (October 12th)
This will be the first divisional game for the Blackhawks in the 2019-2020 season and will serve a measuring stick for Chicago.
The Jets defense has been depleted with the possible retirement of former Blackhawk Dustin Byfuglien and the loss of top talent this off-season.
Allowing 15 goals in their first three games the Blackhawks could be in for a high scoring affair and will present the Blackhawks defense with a potent offense to corral.
With many jumping ship from the Jets bandwagon amidst this uncertainty, it will be a major game for both clubs to demonstrate where they fit in the Central Division this season.
If the Blackhawks defense can get healthy and the offense can continue its production they could indeed leapfrog the Jets this season.
Washington Capitals (October 20th)
In the Chicago Blackhawks’ final preseason game in the US, before heading to Europe to open the season, the Blackhawks regulars were embarrassed by the Capitals.
Granted it was only a preseason game, but the prideful veterans are going to want to show up for their second go-around with the 2018 Stanley Cup Champs.
The Capitals have already had their share of drama early in the season with an overtime win in St. Louis to open the season and an overtime loss to the Hurricanes at home.
The Capitals have been solid defensively this season and have held opponents to six goals in their first three games, providing the Blackhawks with a great test early on in the season.
Players To Watch:
We touched on Nylander earlier in the week, after a solid showing in his first game with the Blackhawks and notching the first goal of the season for the Blackhawks.
However, Nylander still had his lapses on the ice and showed glimmers of what many expected from him when he was acquired.
This will be a big homestand for Nylander to solidify himself as a top forward in the group. Even if he doesn’t improve on those flaws in his game, if he can continue to put the puck in the net, he will find himself a spot in the lineup.
After sustaining a concussion at the conclusion of the Traverse City Rookie Tournament, Kirby Dach has yet to suit up for a game with the Blackhawks in the preseason or the regular season.
Dach has been practicing with the Blackhawks the past few weeks and was even part of the trip to Prague to open the season.
From what we have heard from head coach Jeremy Colliton, it sounds like Dach will get a chance to skate with the Blackhawks during this homestand and could even slide into the third line with Brandon Saad and Dominik Kubalik.
Although Dach has already been ruled out for Thursday’s game against the Sharks, we will be getting a closer look at the third overall pick at home over the next couple of weeks.
Without any preseason games or training camp, it is difficult to envision Dach sticking with the Blackhawks the entire season, but he will get the chance to prove he is ready for NHL action this season.
There were quite a few defensive lapses for the Blackhawks in the opener against the Flyers and it showed.
They missed Connor Murphy and one of their key acquisitions of the offseason, Calvin de Haan, another player who has yet to suit up for the Blackhawks in any capacity. The team is counting on him to be a stabilizing force to the defensive corps.
When de Haan returns to the lineup, it would appear he will provide the Blackhawks with a real upgrade among their defensive pairings. He can minimize the mistakes that we saw in the first game of the season.
Although not expected to have a presence on the score sheet, de Haan’s influence should help make this Chicago Blackhawks’ defense a stable one. Something the team has been missing over the past few seasons.
It has been a difficult waiting game for Blackhawks’ fans, as we wait for game two of the season. With an extended homestand, and a favorable structure, the Chicago Blackhawks hope these next seven games can propel them to success this season.