Top six must deliver early, often for Blackhawks

Top six must deliver early, often for Blackhawks

Patrick Kane said he wouldn’t have minded if he and Artemi Panarin were split to start the season.

“I could understand why people would be up in arms one way or another about changing the line,” he said. “But I’ve played with pretty much everyone here except some of the younger guys that are coming up.”

Still, if ain’t broke...

So Kane, Panarin and Artem Anisimov are together again. So are Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa on the top line, where they’ll be with Richard Panik. The Blackhawks are loading up their top two lines heading into the season, which begins Wednesday night against the St. Louis Blues. And with so many young forwards with little to no NHL experience on the third and fourth lines, the onus is going to be on that top six.

It would be easy –— and for the Blackhawks, great — to think that the second line will immediately build off last year’s numbers. But Kane said throwing the three back together doesn’t mean the same results will automatically show.

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Five questions facing the Blackhawks as regular season begins]

“I think for us it’s important not to just think it’ll happen again,” he said. “We have to do what we did last year: work hard, try to get the puck back and when we get the puck back, work our magic a little bit. The biggest thing is work, especially with us three.”

As much as the Blackhawks would love to see the second line repeat what it did last season, they’d like the top line to get back to where it was prior to last season. Panik, who played on the top line some late last season, gets the first crack at it as the Blackhawks try to avoid playing the turnstile-at-left-wing game again. But overall, that line has to produce more.

“It’ll be huge for us,” Toews said of his line scoring early this season. “But again, we just want to go play with energy, play with excitement, and have fun. We know those results are going to come. I think last year, it was maybe a rougher start and then we were kind of forcing it as the season went along. It got maybe even more mentally tiring as that burden got bigger and bigger as the season went along. The start’s important, but we know we’re excited about things. Just play good hockey.”

The Blackhawks are revamped again this season, especially at forward. They’ll need the young players to do their part. They’ll need their veterans to do even more.

“I know that as a young kid or a veteran guy, I think you’re looking to get off to a great start and know how important, how tough it is to make the playoffs, have success early on in the year,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We have a tough division, a tough conference. Both sides [young guys and veterans] have got to be looking to deliver their part and hold up their end of the bargain. I would say our guys have handled all situations extremely well. It seems like the bigger the challenge, the bigger game, they rise and they meet it head on.”

Blackhawks release 2018-19 schedule


Blackhawks release 2018-19 schedule

Uncap those markers and start circling your calendars, Blackhawks fans. The 2018-19 season is officially out.

The Blackhawks will kick off their 91st campaign in franchise history with a road contest against the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 4 at 6:30 p.m. The home opener is set for Oct. 7, with an Original Six matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs at 6 p.m.

The Blackhawks have 14 back-to-back games, and the longest road trip of the season is three, which takes place five times over the course of the season; the longest homestand is four games, from Dec. 12-18.

The biggest highlight of the season will be the Original Six Winter Classic Showdown between the Blackhawks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1 at Notre Dame Stadium. It will be the sixth outdoor appearance for Chicago, and fourth in the Winter Classic.

The Blackhawks will also square off with the defending champion Washington Capitals on Nov. 21 at 6 p.m., and welcome them to Chicago on Jan. 20, set for NBC's Game of the Week at 11:30 a.m.

Here's a look at the full schedule:

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman: 'We expect Corey to be back'

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman: 'We expect Corey to be back'

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman said that the team expects goalie Corey Crawford to be back next season around training camp. Bowman also mentioned that Crawford might speak about his status himself during the Blackhawks Convention.

“What I said at the end of the year was still the case now, which is we expect Corey to be back,” Bowman said in a Thursday afternoon conference call. “We don’t have any reason to think that’s not going to happen.”

According to Bowman, Blackhawks players, including Crawford, already have their eyes set on next season.

“At this point in the summer, all the players are preparing for next season,” Bowman said. “Corey’s in that same preparation mode.”

Crawford is nursing what has been labeled an upper-body injury by the team. The two-time Stanley Cup winner was put on the shelf for the rest of the season back in late December, and he has not seen the ice since he skated in a February practice.

“Nothing has changed,” Bowman said. “We expect him to be back and ready to go in training camp.”

The Blackhawks have chosen to keep any groundbreaking news with Crawford under wraps, which the organization has done with other player injuries in the past. Bowman spoke about his vagueness in this situation.

“We’ve never gone into specifics about injuries,” Bowman said. “I realize this probably gets more attention because he’s our starting goalie and he won the Stanley Cup.”

Fans will have to take a wait-and-see approach, because it is unlikely that there will be a significant update regarding Crawford’s health before the season gets closer to its start.

Last season, Crawford only appeared in 28 games, posting a record of 16-9 with 782 saves before going down for the rest of the year.