(Photo: Blackhawks Facebook)
As the Blackhawks head into their final game of 2015, they close out a year full of ultimate highs and some crushing blows.
In February, leading the league in points, Patrick Kane took an awkward hit into the boards and suffered a broken clavicle–forcing him onto the long term injured reserve. This required his teammates to step up and Hawks brass to make roster changes.
Despite that, the team would skate its way to the Stanley Cup Final defeating the Nashville Predators four games to two, sweeping the Minnesota Wild four games to zero, and, ultimately defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning four games to two.
This game six victory would be the Blackhawks’ first win on home ice in the United Center and the franchise’s first home ice Stanley Cup clincher in 77 years.
There’d be a parade. And traditional days with the Cup. There’d be inevitable roster changes–with the team losing Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya, Brandon Saad, Brad Richards, Kris Versteeg, Joakim Nordstrom, Antti Raanta, and Daniel Carcillo (who retired and started this wonderful organization.) And, of course, for the first home game of the season, they’d raise the championship banner into the rafters.
But, a sexual assault investigation against Kane in his Buffalo-area hometown of Hamburg in August cast a shadow over the player and the organization. While Kane maintained his innocence, and, after nearly three months of investigation, the Hamburg and Erie County Police Departments announced no charges would be filed, the accusations alone are horrific.
But, the team has also seen the addition of NHL Rookie Russian Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov, who have formed a line with Kane that contributed to a record-breaking 26-game point streak–the longest in the Blackhawks franchise, the longest for an American player, and the longest for a current player. The streak ended Dec. 13 against the Avalanche.
Kane leads the league in points now with 53 (22 goals, 31 assists) in 38 games. Panarin has 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists) and Anisimov has 20 points (13 goals, 7 assists) in 38 games.
Obviously frustrated by a couple slow spots this season, Captain Jonathan Toews has dropped gloves twice (Nov. 6 against Adam Henrique and Nov. 13 against David Backes). He has five fights total for his career and none since his 2012-2013 season. Toews has 23 points in 38 games.
And, goaltender Corey Crawford has moved up to third in the league in wins this season. He has a .923 percent save percentage and a 2.33 goals-allowed average. He’s had a league-leading five shutouts and was the NHL’s first star of the week for the week ending Dec. 13–when he went 3-0-0 with a 0.33 goals-against average, a .989 save percentage, and two shutouts that week, earning consecutive shutouts for the second time this season and the third in his career.
Going into tonight’s New Year’s Eve game against the Colorado Avalanche, the Blackhawks are coming off a strong 7-5 victory over the Coyotes and have a 21-13-4 record –third place in the Central Division.
The last five games have seen three wins and two losses.
Last season, the Blackhawks picked up their pace as the playoffs came near. While there are quite a few things I’m sure the team hopes never to repeat, the quest for the Cup is no doubt high on the agenda.
The Blackhawks face the Avalanche at 7:00 p.m. CT in Colorado on Alti and CSN Chicago.
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