Greg Boyson from Second City Hockey was nice enough to answer some questions regarding the state of the Blackhawks coming into tonight's contest.
Greg Boyson (SCH): There will be no castoffs this time around. Stan Bowman is much better at handling the salary cap than Dale Tallon was. But if you want to send us Barkov I'd be willing to send playoff hero Bryan Bickell
down to Sunrise.
KK: Chicago went through exactly HALF of a season without a regulation loss last year on their way to the Cup. As you see it, what are the chances of a repeat championship performance?
GB: The point streak only lasted 2 games to begin the year this time around, but I wasn't expecting another 24-game streak. That was something that probably won't happen again in an 82-game season. Last year was so unique because the playoffs essentially started on opening night. Teams couldn't afford to sleepwalk through any games last year because every point was so crucial. One of the biggest problems the Hawks have had so far this year is putting it into cruise control way too early in games. The only game they really put together a full 60 minutes was their lone loss in regulation a couple of weeks ago in St. Louis. But it is hard to complain when the Hawks have won 12 out of a possible 16 points to start the year.
KK: If there's a weak spot in the Blackhawks game, I'd say it's the penalty kill. Will this be addressed through training or the trade wire?
GB: I don't see the Hawks making any big trades, mainly because they don't have to. The penalty kill will fix itself over the course the season and it already has improved. The stats are a bit misleading because the Hawks faced the Capitals
to start the season and those two teams have better power plays than anything they saw in the Western Conference last season. Also, the loss of Michael Frolik
is huge. It is going to take a little bit of time to find the right partner for Marcus Kruger
. The last few games Michal Handzus
has filled this spot and has done a decent job.
KK: Corey Crawford is currently your number one goalie. Is there a contingency plan besides greybeard Nikolai Khabibulin waiting in the wings?
GB: The Hawks brought in Antti Raanta
from Finland last season, who is starting for their AHL affiliate in Rockford. They are also pretty high on prospect Mac Carruth
, who has had some success playing for Portland in the WHL. He is currently playing in ECHL and could see some time in Rockford as well. Khabibulin is here for one season to give the youngsters one more year to develop. Corey Crawford
is signed through 2020 so he isn't going anywhere any time soon, which gives them time with their goaltending prospects. I view goaltending the same way I view starting pitching in baseball; you can never have too much of it.
Thanks to Greg for answering our questions. Make sure to check back later for the GameThread, going live tonight at 7PM (Patrick) sharp.