Chicago Blackhawks Start Slow but Steady
Winning the Stanley Cup isn’t an easy thing to do, but our Blackhawks have done it 3 times in the last 5 years which is pretty impressive. When that happens, players get used to winning. They get in the zone where it feels foreign if they don’t win. Team captain Jonathan Toews has gotten so accustomed to playing on a talented & balanced team, it’s odd to have a slow start to a season. Both coach Q & Toews know that they need to have patience this year with the departure of so many important players who helped the team become champions last season. Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad, Kris Versteeg, Brad Richards & Johnny Oduya have all moved on to other teams, while newcomers Trevor Daley, Ryan Garbutt, Artem Anisimov and rookies Artemi Panarin & Kyle Baun try to keep the Blackhawks in the playoff hunt.
Artemi Panarin is a 23 year old rookie forward from Russia. He finished last season tied for 4th in scoring in the KHL (Kontinental Hockey League) with 62 points in 54 games, while adding another 5 goals & 15 assists in 20 playoff games. Panarin has been showing promise in his first few games as a rookie, racking up 2 goals & 8 points in his first 8 games as a Blackhawk. Coach Q gave him the nickname “Bread Man” because of his ability to carry the puck and similarity of his last name to the restaurant chain Panera Bread. Growing up in Russia, Panarin doesn’t speak any English, but teammates Artem Anisimov & Viktor Tikhonov have been translating, making the transition easier for the rookie. He’s making a conscious effort to fit in with the team any way he can, which isn’t going unnoticed. Jonathan Toews said, “We know he’s got a little ways to go as far as learning English, but we’re trying our best to maybe learn a few Russian words to show that the effort is somewhat mutual.”
Defenseman Duncan Keith has been a fixture on the Blackhawks since they won 3 Stanley Cups in recent years. In his 11 regular seasons played, he’s logged over 19,540 minutes played, which ranks second among active players, including 715+ minutes in the 2015 playoffs, more than any other player. All those minutes have finally caught up with Keith when he tore his meniscus on Oct 17, requiring surgery & a 4-6 week recovery. Keith contributes so much to the team, he is impossible to replace by just one player. David Rundblad, Ville Pokka, Kyle Cumiskey along with veterans Brent Seabrook & Niklas Hjalmarsson will attempt to fill the void left by the all star defenseman during the 4-6 week recovery period. The Blackhawks played their first game without Keith on Thursday, October 22 against the Florida Panthers & won 3-2. Defenseman Brent Seabrook had 2 assists & a goal in their win.
Even though they started a little slower than expected & lost one of their key players, the Blackhawks remain resilient. They barely made it to the playoffs last season & wound up winning the Stanley Cup so fans should keep that in mind if they’ve shown any doubt. Even after losing several players to free agency or trades, the Hawks still have a solid foundation with plenty of talent & coach who knows what it takes to win. It’s only a matter of time before the newcomers to the team adapt & learn to play with the intensity & drive to keep the Stanley Cup in Chicago. Tickets for all remaining home games can be purchased here.