Know Your Foe: Chicago

Wild.com Managing Editor Mike Doyle previews the Wild's new Central Division rival

Monday, 09.09.2013 / 11:00 AM
Mike Doyle  - Managing Editor


The Minnesota Wild is moving into the Western Conference's Central Division. The club will realign with six other clubs: Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets.

It's important to know your enemies, so leading up to the 2013-14 regular season Wild.com Managing Editor Mike Doyle will take a look the Wild’s new divisional rivals. Today he gets to know the Chicago Blackhawks.

Key Transactions
Additions: Nikolai Khabibulin
Subtractions: Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik, Viktor Stalberg, Ray Emery

2012-13 Season Summary
Record: 36-7-5, 77 pts.
Finished: 1st in Central Division, 1st in Western Conference
Playoffs: Won Stanley Cup Final against Boston 4-2
2012-13 Wild Record (Regular Season): 1-2-0
All-time Wild Record: 27-18-2

2012-13 Team Summary
Goals: Patrick Kane & Jonathan Toews (23)
Assists: Patrick Kane (32)
Points: Patrick Kane (55)
Wins: Corey Crawford (19)
SO: Corey Crawford & Ray Emery (3)
SV%: Corey Crawford (.926)

2013-14 Outlook

Last season the Blackhawks started the year with an historic run, going 24-straight games without a loss from the puck drop on Opening Night. The club went wire-to-wire atop of the NHL standings on its way to winning the Presidents’ Trophy as the League’s top regular-season team. The Blackhawks didn’t take its foot off the pedal until hoisting the Stanley Cup with a 4-2 Final victory over the Boston Bruins. It was the franchise’s second parade with Lord Stanley in four years.

So, this season the Hawks will have a target on its back as the defending champion, but it’s been 15 years since the last back-to-back champions, the Detroit Red Wings. The team lost some key Cup contributors in the offseason, including Dave Bolland who scored the Game 6 winner in Boston. However, the club’s core remains intact. If betting were legal, you’d have to pencil the Blackhawks into the postseason and a favorite to repeat.

The two centerpieces of Chicago’s core are a pair of talented forwards with clashing styles, both on and off the ice: Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Toews, dubbed Captain Serious, is a two-way workhorse, last year winning the Selke Trophy as “the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game." Toews finished third in the NHL in plus-minus with a career-high +28 rating; shared the overall lead in takeaways with fellow Selke finalist Pavel Datsyuk (56); placed second in the NHL in face-off winning percentage (59.9%, 559-374); and played an average of 1:25 per game on the NHL's third-ranked penalty-killing unit (87.2%). Kane, a wee less serious than Toews away from the rink, is a flashy puck-handling dervish who can lull defenders mesmerized by moves to find wide-open teammates on the fly. The crafty winger set a career-high in points per game (1.17) during the lockout-shortened season. He also led the team in playoff points (9-10=19) on his way to winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Along with boasting one of the most potent offenses in the NHL, the Blackhawks D-corps is among the League’s best. Former Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith and his defensive partner Brent Seabrook lead a blue line that went unchanged in the offseason. Earlier this month, the club inked 26-year-old Niklas Hjalmarsson to a five-year extension.

Going into last season it was believed that goaltending was the team’s weak link. However, Corey Crawford’s regular-season and playoff performance silenced any doubters, as he emerged as a true number one netminder. Crawford’s emergence allowed the team to part ways with Ray Emery, who was equally impressive during the 2012-13 season. The team signed 40-year-old Nikolai Khabibulin, but expect Crawford to take a majority of the load.

Plus/Minus

Plus
2.02 – Chicago’s goals against average, lowest in the NHL last season.
3.10 – Chicago’s goals per game, second in the NHL only behind Pittsburgh (3.38).

Minus
16.7 – Chicago’s power play percentage, which ranked 19th in the League.

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