Dec 18, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa (81) shoots on San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones (31) during the third period at the United Center. The Hawks won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
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Welcome to another edition of the Chicago Blackhawks roundtable, with this week’s topics focusing on the enemies and the future
And yet, the Blackhawks are sitting on a five-game win streak and 48 points, the most in the league. They’ve been busy of late, too, coming off a three-game road trip that was immediately followed by Sunday’s home game against San Jose.
Things lighten up heading into the conclusion of the calendar year. The Blackhawks face Ottawa tomorrow at home before four games over the last 11 days of 2016 — with two of those coming in two of the year’s last three days.
It’s that schedule which is one of our Chicago Blackhawks roundtable topics for today. Let’s look at both of today’s queries, shall we?
Question 1: Which Chicago Blackhawks game are you most excited for in the rest of the calendar year and why?
Question 2: Which Chicago Blackhawk is the most deserving All-Star right now and why?
Plenty of interesting possibilities here for the Blackhawk Up stable of writers, so let’s see what they all had to say.
Dec 4, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck (37) makes a save on a shot from Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov (15) during the third period at the United Center. Winnipeg won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Question 1: The last two meetings between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Winnipeg Jets have resulted in Jets’ victories. Dec 27 will be the third matchup this season between the two Central Division foes, and I’m anxious to see if the ‘Hawks will be able to pull off a victory.
Question 2: I’m going to go with Artemi Panarin here. While I expect many to answer the same with this question, it’s just a fact that the young Russian deserves his first All-Star appearance here.
Currently riding a five-game point streak, with 4 goals and 7 assists over that time, the Breadman is proving game after game that he’s the real deal.
Question 1: The Ottawa Senators (Tuesday). The Senators have struggled a bit lately, but they beat the Islanders on Sunday night to remain in second place in the Atlantic Division with 39 points. Timely scoring and excellent goaltending make them a real contender and a major test for the Blackhawks.
Question 2: Marian Hossa. Hossa leads the team with 16 goals and the NHL with three overtime game-winning goals. His resurgence this year is a major factor in the Blackhawks’ rise to the top of the Western Conference and league.
Question 1: None of the games remaining in the calendar year intrigue me, so I’m most excited to see the Penguins come to town on March 1.
They’re the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, and I think Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews have a friendly rivalry going. Crosby has been on a tear so far this season, so it will make for a heck of a game.
Minnesota has been playing really great hockey lately, so I’m also anticipating several great games with them.
Question 2: I don’t think this team would be where they are in the standings if it wasn’t for Marian Hossa. His late-game scoring has given them the edge lately in several close games even with key contributors out from injury.
I also think Artemi Panarin should get some votes. What’s a sophomore slump anyway? He’s on pace for another 30 goal season. The Blackhawks need to re-sign this guy.
Oct 14, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) and Nashville Predators left winger James Neal (18) exchange punches during a fight in the second period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Question 1: I’m personally looking forward to the matchup against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday, March 14, as none of the other games in 2016 really interest me.
Montreal and Chicago played each other back in mid-November, with Chicago coming out on top 3-2. But that was early in the season, before any team in the league was really able to stand out as being dominant.
But now we know that Montreal and Chicago are both on top of their respective divisions, as well as being in the top five in the league. Both are trending in a positive direction, with reason to believe this will continue. Come March, this could easily be a duel between two of the top teams in the NHL, and perhaps a preview of a Stanley Cup Final battle.
But the real reason I anticipate this game is because of Andrew Shaw and Ryan Hartman. It was heartbreaking for most fans to lose the passionate and energetic Shawzy. It will be fun to see him try to agitate the ’Hawks.
And Hartman was compared to Shaw; he was supposed to step into his shoes. Well, Hartman has done that and more. He’s currently playing on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, and enjoying much success with five goals and four assists on the season. Will there be some fireworks between these two players?
Question 2: Marian Hossa. Toews and Patrick Kane always get to go! Hossa hasn’t been since 2012.
Last year was an off year for Hossa, but this season he has more than made up for it. While Toews, and even Kane, are both in a bit of a slump, Hossa has essentially carried the ’Hawks on his back. He currently leads the team in goals with 16, which is also tied for fourth place in the league.
And don’t even get me started on Big Hoss’ defensive prowess, and his power on the puck. Hossa is the whole package. Even at 37 years old, he is a dominant player on both ends of the ice. He’s a future Hall of Famer, and a joy to watch. He deserves to go to the All-Star game this year.
Question 1: I’m looking forward to seeing Chicago’s visit to Nashville on Dec. 29. The Blackhawks faced off against the Predators twice early in the season in what many figured could be a playoff preview. Well, one team has lived up to that bargain since.
The Preds looked good in those two mid-October games, though the teams split them. Since then, the Predators have been lost, while the Blackhawks have climbed to the top of the league in points.
The best part, of course, will be the Blackhawks fans infiltrating Bridgestone Arena and Predators fans and staff trying their best to block them out. But they’ll ultimately fail, as usual. That adds another layer to this Central Division showdown.
Question 2: Patrick Kane will go. Artemi Panarin will go. Jonathan Toews … maybe. Just because he’s one of the faces that runs the place. Marian Hossa has a good shot.
But what about Corey Crawford? This guy was absolutely screwed in last season’s All-Star voting because the NHL wanted to make sure every team had ample representation. So two goaltenders who weren’t having nearly as good of seasons in Nashville’s Pekka Rinne and Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk went instead. (Interestingly enough, Dubnyk is now among the very few goaltenders in the league probably having a better season than Crow this year.)
Crow has proven critical to his team this season. He started 20 of Chicago’s first 25 games, posting 12 wins with a .927 save percentage and 2.27 goals-allowed average. He did so while facing 614 shots, which ranks him ahead of other regular starters like Jaroslav Halak, Ben Bishop and John Gibson, despite Crow missing nine games.