Before we jump ahead to the playoffs, let’s go back and revisit our season preview (click that link for a reminder) from the start of the season to see just how wrong I was.
I’ve got Teuvo Teravainen scoring at least 52 points this season: I should’ve put Artemi Panarin here, although I don’t think anyone expected Panarin to be quite as good as he was this year. I settled on 52 points because that was the number posted by Brandon Saad in 2014-15, and I figured Teuvo would slot into the Top 6 spot vacated by Saad and would thrive. Teuvo bounced around in the Top 6 before settling in as the Hawks third center, where he’ll likely remain for the postseason. Panarin, though, found a home opposite Patrick Kane on the Hawks second line and exploded for 77 points in his first NHL season.
Corey Crawford will again be a very good NHL goalie, and people will still call for his job for no real reason: This seems like the first year that people have started recognizing how good Crawford has been for the Hawks in recent seasons. People aren’t really questioning this guy anymore, right? RIGHT?!
Defensive depth will be this team’s biggest question mark: Still a big question, too, isn’t it? The Hawks have two top-flight defenders in Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson. Brent Seabrook also has that capability and usually plays like that in the playoffs, but he was not at his best during the regular season no matter what his career-high offensive numbers say. Michal Rozsival remains a solid third-pairing defenseman, but there are still two giant question marks in the Hawks D corps. Some combination of Erik Gustafsson, Trevor van Riemdsyk and/or Christian Ehrhoff need to be those answers if the Hawks hope to repeat.
Forward depth will likely be high on the list at the trade deadline: Hey, I got one! Bowman had to part with a few key prospects — most regrettably Philip Danault — but the acquisitions of Andrew Ladd and Tomas Fleischmann give the Hawks perhaps the deepest group of forwards in the league heading into this postseason. Dale Wiese — another trade deadline acquisition — could factor into this as well, although he’s yet to find his footing in Chicago.
Marko Dano will be this year’s Teuvo: This prediction was based on my thought that Dano would be the player shuffled back and forth between the NHL and the AHL this winter. I was wrong, as Dano was shipped down to the AHL and then never came back, ultimately being flipped in a trade to build up the Hawks forward depth. But the price of a prospect’s potential is certainly worth it should the re-acquired Ladd help the Hawks finish as champions.
At some point in the postseason, the Blackhawks are going to run out of gas: Let’s revisit this one later in the postseason, as I don’t think it’s going to be the St. Louis Blues who end the Hawks dreams of back-to-back Cups.