Thank God the Chicago Blackhawks and NHL are back. The lackluster Winter Olympics hockey tournament will give way to what really matters: the push towards the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Blackhawks are in very good position to make another run at the Cup, but there are a few things to take note of prior to the postseason.
The Hawks head to the Big Apple to take on the New York Rangers in an Original Six matchup Thursday evening. The game will be Chicago’s first game since breaking for the Olympics. The one thing to watch for in this game is how well the 10 Chicago Blackhawks who went to Sochi look back on North American soil. The Rangers will be without Olympian winger Mats Zuccarello because of a hand injury he sustained in Russia.
Saturday is the much-anticipated Stadium Series game at Soldier Field versus the Pittsburgh Penguins. If all goes well, it will be the first time team captains Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby face each other in the regular season. Crosby captained Team Canada to the gold medal in Sochi, while Toews was relegated to wearing the ‘A’ for Hockey Canada. Must be nice to have two real captains to choose from while Team USA throws three hack captains on a line together (David Backes, Dustin Brown, and Ryan Callahan). All hail the USA’s meat(less) line!
The game-time temperature for Saturday’s game is expected to be somewhere in the teens to lower-20’s with a chance of snow. The temperature for me at puck drop will be in the lower 70’s with a chance of watching hockey on a 60” television in my house.
Another storyline that will be talked about going forward is the battle for first with the St. Louis Blues. Led by noted clown David Backes, the Blues are tied for first with the Chicago Blackhawks in the Central Division with three games in hand. Whoever loses the race for first will more than likely face the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the newly formatted Stanley Cup playoffs. The Avs may not be the toughest team to face in the Western Conference, but they could steal a series from Chicago if they look pass them and on to a potential matchup against the Blues.
The Chicago Blackhawks have 22 games left on the schedule, which really isn’t a lot considering how condensed the schedule has been due to the month-long hiatus for the Winter Olympics. Their position heading towards the postseason looks like a comfortable one, but taking anything for granted in the ultra-competitive west could put the Hawks in a tough position heading into the spring.
Follow Jeff on Twitter @sckih_ffej for more sports and entertainment ramblings. Jeff also contributes fantasy advice for The Fantasy Fix.Powered by Sidelines Follow paulmbanks