We all know what changes the Blues have made and we have already begun our predictions for how it will work out for them. Remember, there are four other solid teams in the Central Division.
In a five-part series, I will take a look at the Central Division and hammer out some statistics and news that may be helpful to you in determining where the Blues will stand at season’s end. Up first: the much hated rival of the Blues, the Chicago Blackhawks.
Forwards: Andrew Brunette, Daniel Carcillo, Jamal Mayers, Rostislav Olesz.
Defensemen: Sami Lepisto, Steve Montador, Sean O’Donnell
On the outs
Forwards: Troy Brouwer (WAS), Jake Dowell, (DAL), Ryan Johnson (unsigned), Tomas Kopecky (FLA), Fernando Pisani (unsigned).
Defensemen: Brian Campbell (FLA), Chris Campoli (unsigned), Jassen Cullimore (Iserlohn Roosters; DEL, Germany), Jordan Hendry (unsigned).
Goaltenders: Marty Turco (unsigned).
2010-11 team statistics
NHL standings: 3rd in Central Division, 8th in Western Conference, 13th in NHL.
Goals for: 4th in NHL (3.07 GF per game).
Goals against: 12th in NHL (2.68 GA per game).
Power-play: 4th in NHL (23.1%).
Penalty-kill: 25th in NHL (79.2%).
Patrick Kane, Jonathon Toews, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa is a top-four that will scare anyone in the league. These four players combined for 47% of the team’s total goals-scored. Anytime the Blackhawks have either of their top-two scoring lines on the rink, it is almost certain that the puck will be in the offensive zone.
Player to Watch
The offense doesn’t stop there. Late last season, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman struck a deal that sent forwards Jack Skille, Hugh Jessiman and David Pacan to the Florida Panthers for winger Michael Frolik and goaltender Alexander Salak. Frolik was the key component of this deal for the Blackhawks.
A two-time 20-goal scorer with the Panthers, Frolik possesses quick hands and a bag of tricks to go along with them. His slippery style adds touch to the second scoring line. Despite scoring a career-high 27 goals last season with the Hawks and Panthers, many skeptics questioned Frolik’s work-ethic in Florida. Now that he is with a team that can make some noise in the post-season, Frolik’s will to play may not be in question anymore. Only time will tell if Frolik turns out to be the player that Bowman is hoping that he got back in February.
They are not just Defensemen
Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook will again be vital for the Blackhawks’ success in the Central Division. Seabrook finished 2010-11 as the 5th leading scorer on the Blackhawks, contributing 9 goals, 39 assists for 48 points. Right behind him was Keith, the 2009-10 Norris Trophy winner for best defenseman in the league, scoring 7 goals, 38 assists for 45 points. If other teams expect to stop the Blackhawks, they will have to stop these two from getting the puck to their talented forwards.
Toughness Added to an Already Tough Roster
If analysts were asked at the end of 2010-11 what the Blackhawks needed to add in the off-season, the last thing that would be mentioned is grit. Despite placing 3rd in least amount of penalty minutes (742 total penalty minutes), the Blackhawks play a feisty style that drives some teams crazy. Brent Seabrook is one of the best clean-hitting defensemen in the league, while John Scott and Dave Bolland are the best at mixing it up in the corners and dishing out some questionable hits.
Look out; the Blackhawks have gotten even tougher. Bowman saw Troy Brouwer leave his roster for the Washington Capitals, so he decided to replace him with two players that really love to punish opposing players. Daniel Carcillo and former Blue Jamal Mayers were both signed to contracts over the summer and very well may be known as the “Bash Brothers” by the 2012 playoffs. Only playing in 57 regular season games last season, Carcillo notched 127 penalty minutes for the Philadelphia Flyers. Mayers had 124 penalty minutes in 78 games last season for the San Jose Sharks.
Add newly acquired defensemen Steve Montador and Sean O’Donnell into the mix. These two heavy-set defensemen will definitely bring in more penalty minutes to this Blackhawk roster.
More Toughness Puts the Weakness at the Top
So where is that weak point in the Blackhawk armor? The new additions will help exploit it.
Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook make up possibly the best one-two defensive punch in the NHL, but it seems that the penalty-kill is still a problem. The Blackhawks gave up 53 power-play goals in 255 penalty-kill attempts (79.2%). That was 6th worst in the entire league. It seems that the Blackhawks did nothing to improve this area, with the only possible exception being the addition of Sami Lepisto, who could fill in on the second penalty-kill unit. With the additions listed above, more penalties are likely to be taken. This could be the downfall of the Blackhawks when it comes time for the push to the playoffs.
Read the rest of the Central Division previews: