We're officially one month from the beginning of the Blackhawks' preseason, and a slow Friday seems like a good time to start looking at those early exhibition matchups. The schedule begins Sept. 23 with a home opener against our longtime rivals from Detroit, and continues through early October with several games against Eastern Conference foes.
Before delving into anything, here's how the preseason schedule shakes out:
|Sept. 23||Red Wings||7:30 p.m.|
|Sept. 25||@ Red Wings||6:30 p.m.|
|Sept. 26||NY Rangers||7:30 p.m.|
|Sept. 28||@ Oilers (in Saskatoon, SK)||5 p.m.|
|Oct. 1||Canadiens||7:30 p.m.|
|Oct. 3||@ Rangers||6 p.m.|
What to look for in the preseason?
Considering the pedigree of this team and the relative meaninglessness of the games, it's important not to get too bent out of shape in the preseason. A lot of guys are still shaking off some rust from the offseason, and rebuilding that chemistry between difference pieces on the roster can take some time.
There are also the new guys, like Brad Richards, who will need some time to better understand the nuances of Joel Quenneville's systems. That's why we have the preseason, after all, so if things look like a work-in-progress, well, that's because they are.
Seriously, look at Chicago's win-loss records in the preseason over the past five years:
2013: 3-0-2 (both losses in shootouts)
2012: No preseason due to lockout
So in the two years that the Hawks recently won the Stanley Cup, they won a total of one preseason game. In general, while the team performed fairly well last preseason, these games don't really show the best of what Jonathan Toews and company have to offer.
So it's not worth watching?
Of course it's worth watching! IT'S PROFESSIONAL HOCKEY. LIVE. No more re-watching crappy broadcasts of games from 2002 on NHL Network! That alone makes the preseason a delight, even if the actual results mean as much as your beer league numbers do.
There are also several things that will be worth keeping an eye on:
-- The development of Jeremy Morin: The Blackhawks will likely be depending on the young forward to play a significant role next season, especially if someone like Patrick Sharp or Bryan Bickell is ultimately a casualty of the salary cap. While we won't need to worry much about how someone like Toews or Patrick Kane plays in meaningless preseason games, how Morin adjusts to playing alongside high-level NHL players in a semi-competitive environment will be an early indication of what we can expect next season.
-- The situation at center: We know that Richards will play some role in filling out Chicago's depth chart for next season, but it's hard to say exactly how Quenneville plans to deploy his forwards up the middle. Obviously Toews is the No. 1 guy at the position, but Richards isn't necessarily a lock for the second line after showing signs of the decline the past couple years. In the preseason, we'll likely see the coaching staff toy with a number of different looks, and how those different lines perform could ultimately determine what the lineup looks like at the beginning of the regular season.
--Possible Teuvo Teravainen action: This is another big question entering next season, but early signs indicate that Teravainen won't be leaned on heavily in 2014-15. The signing of Richards was partially motivated by a desire to exercise patience with the talented Finnish center, and that most likely means he won't be on one of the four lines to open the season. However, we could get to see some Teuvo during the preseason, and his talent is always worth checking out.
Great! What else you got?
The preseason is the first opportunity for SCH to cover actual Blackhawks games with me running the show, and in doing so I hope to show you guys some of the ideas we'll work to implement next season.
First, we'll be aiming to live-tweet EVERY SINGLE GAME of both the preseason and the regular season, right from the @2ndCityHockey account. So while you're on the couch having a beer and shouting at the TV, why not join us as we do the same online? I've done this in the past for other SBN blogs and it can really be a lot of fun.
Second, we'll obviously have some sort of recap for you after each game. These won't necessarily be traditional game stories every time out -- you probably watched the game and don't need detailed play-by-play here -- but we'll aim to have you caught up on the action and general feel of what the night was like. And obviously we'll tell you who won.
Finally, I wanted to reiterate how excited I am to get started on all this. WE'RE ONE MONTH AWAY FROM HOCKEY. ACTUAL HOCKEY. IT'S NOT ON YOUR XBOX ANYMORE. CAN YOU FEEL IT?