Five reasons to be optimistic about Blackhawks in 2019-20

Five reasons to be optimistic about Blackhawks in 2019-20

PRAGUE — The Blackhawks haven't made the playoffs in two straight seasons and haven't won a playoff round in four, but at the beginning of every season, all 31 teams feel like they have a chance.

Here are five reasons to be optimistic about the Blackhawks during the 2019-20 campaign:

1. Starting off on the same page

Training camp last season had a weird feeling to it. After missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007-08, the Blackhawks essentially rolled back the same roster. Wasn't exactly something to get excited about.

Fast forward to early November and things really felt different after Joel Quenneville was relieved of his duties and replaced by 33-year-old Jeremy Colliton. And it took a while for the veterans who had been playing one style for 10 years to adjust.

The mood around this year's training camp was filled with cautious optimism, and it’s because the roster looks very different. But also because the Blackhawks have a real chance to start off the season on the right foot, having had a full training camp under Colliton to get on the same page.

2. The defense and penalty kill should be better

Last season, the Blackhawks gave up the most high-danger chances at 5-on-5, second-most goals and had a historically bad penalty kill. There's nowhere to go but up.

The team defense got better during the final month of the season, but it still had a long way to go. If the Blackhawks can simply go from the basement to middle of the pack in the goals against department and penalty kill percentage, that should be enough to put them in a position where they're competing for a playoff spot because scoring goals won't be a problem this year.

3. The dynamic goaltending duo of Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner

Lehner signing a one-year deal with the Blackhawks on July 1 significantly changed the outlook of this team going into the season. Crawford's injury history is well-documented and it's difficult to do better than Lehner as an insurance policy, given he was a Vezina Trophy finalist last season.

If both of them stay healthy, this has a chance to be one of the most dependable goaltending tandems in the league. The Blackhawks will have a chance to win every night, and, perhaps more importantly, their teammates will believe it too.

4. More balance and depth

GM Stan Bowman did his best to check a lot of different boxes this summer. Let's run them down:

Blue line needs an improvement? Enter defensive-minded defensemen Calvin de Haan and Olli Maatta, both of whom will surely see plenty of penalty kill time.

Lacking some bite? Welcome back, Andrew Shaw. And nice to meet you, Zack Smith.

Searching for scoring depth? Introducing Dominik Kubalik and Alex Nylander. 

A defensive faceoff specialist? That would be Ryan Carpenter.

Goaltending depth? It doesn't get much better than Lehner.

On paper, the roster certainly looks deeper. But now the Blackhawks have to put it together.

5. The stars are still at the top of their game

If there's one reason to believe the Blackhawks can return to playoff contention, it's that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews turned in career offensive seasons at age 30 and there's no reason to expect a drop-off.

Alex DeBrincat is also coming off a 41-goal campaign while Dylan Strome averaged nearly a point per game after being acquired by the Blackhawks. This gives the Blackhawks two legitimate scoring lines, forcing teams to play pick your poison. The question is whether the secondary scoring can do their part.

But as long as 19 and 88 stay at the top of their games, the Blackhawks will be an interesting team to watch all season long and especially down the stretch.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.

Blackhawks hungry for revenge against Predators after 'embarrassing' loss in previous meeting

Blackhawks hungry for revenge against Predators after 'embarrassing' loss in previous meeting

NASHVILLE  — After missing 11 games with a groin injury, Connor Murphy has been cleared to return Saturday night when the Blackhawks take on the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.

The Blackhawks were 4-5-2 in Murphy’s absence and one of those games included a 3-0 loss to the Predators on Oct. 29, which was a one-sided contest from start to finish. Nick Bonino had a hat trick and the Blackhawks were outshot 51-20.

Since then, the Blackhawks have picked up 10 out of a possible 14 points and made a schematic change that has opened up the offense. They're playing with a lot more jump and the Blackhawks are hoping it translates to a more competitive game.

"It's a good challenge for us," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We were not very good that game. We didn't give ourselves a chance. We got a lot more confidence now and now we got to show where we're at. Doesn't mean we're going to win the game but we need to perform better."

Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne called the previous matchup "one of the for-sure easier shutouts" of his NHL career. He has given up 16 goals over his last four starts since blanking the Blackhawks after allowing only 14 goals in his first eight appearances.

The Blackhawks are fully aware of Rinne’s comments and they're looking for revenge this time around against a Predators team that has lost five of their last six games, including three in a row (0-2-1).

"We know what he said, so take it any way you want and be ready to play tonight," Patrick Kane said. "Obviously the way we played last time in here wasn't acceptable and pretty embarrassing loss, so there's some truth to those comments. We've got to come back and respond."

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.

Franchise-altering Marian Hossa named to Blackhawks All-Decade Team

Franchise-altering Marian Hossa named to Blackhawks All-Decade Team

Throughout the 2019-20 season, NBC Sports Chicago will be unveiling its Blackhawks All-Decade Team. The roster will feature the 14 forwards, 7 defensemen and two goaltenders that made the biggest impact on the franchise from the 2010 through 2019 seasons.

Perhaps nobody said it better than Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough: “The Chicago Blackhawks do not win a Stanley Cup, let alone three, without Marian Hossa.”

Hossa’s arrival in free agency in the summer of 2009 sent a message to the rest of the league that the Blackhawks were not only a destination for elite players, but also that they were a franchise all-in on trying to win Stanley Cups. “It’s not just because of his performance on the ice,” said McDonough. “Sometimes culturally it’s just to be in the same locker room with a guy who comports himself professionally, knows how to win, great work ethic, terrific habits.”

Hossa had a presence within the Blackhawks’ dressing room and immediately earned the respect of his teammates. Not only does he receive lots of credit for the franchise’s culture change, but many credit his influence on Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews as a major reason why they became the NHL superstars they are today. Because of that presence, there is certainly no coincidence that since Hossa’s departure, the Blackhawks have not seen the playoffs. “You can’t replace Marian Hossa,” said Stan Bowman before the start of the season. “I think we’ve certainly felt it the last couple years. He was such an important part of our team. We never would have won any of our Stanley Cups without Marian’s contributions.” 

Marian Hossa spent eight seasons in Chicago, amassing 415 points in 534 games with the Blackhawks. In the playoffs, Hossa racked up 73 points in 107 games and the Blackhawks reached the postseason in all eight of his seasons in Chicago. For his contributions to Chicago both on and off the ice, he makes the Blackhawks All-Decade Team as the second line right winger.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.