Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Chicago Blackhawks (2016-17, NHL)

2016-17 Regular Season: Blackhawks vs. Carolina Hurricanes
     The Chicago Blackhawks were near the end of a long stretch of dominance. Since 2008, the Hawks had made the postseason 8 straight years and won three Stanley Cups. The Hawks, led by Head Coach Joel Quenneville, had another dominant season in 2016-17. Chicago finished with the second-best record in the NHL, with a 50-23-7 mark, seven points back of President's Trophy-winning Washington. The Hawks were three points ahead of second place Minnesota in the race for the Central Division crown.
     The Hawks had the ninth-best offense in the NHL in 2016-17, lighting the lamp 244 times. Patrick Kane led the attack, with 34 goals and 89 points. Artemi Panarin was the other Hawk with 30+ goals, as he potted 31. Four other players had at least twenty goals on the season: Jonathan Toews (21), Marian Hossa (26), Artem Anisimov (22) and Richard Panik (22).
     Defense was about the same for Chicago, as the Blackhawks allowed 213 goals, tenth-fewest in the NHL. Chicago used two different goaltenders that year: Scott Darling and Corey Crawford. Crawford was the #1 netminder that year, starting in 55 games, with a 32-18-4 mark, 2.55 GAA and 2 shutouts. Darling made it into 32 games, finishing with a 18-5-5 record and a 2.38 GAA to go with 2 shutouts. Crawford, as usual, drew the nod in the playoffs.
     Per usual, the Blackhawks were expected to have another deep run in the postseason. However, they ran into a buzzsaw in the Nashville Predators. With a tough defense, led by PK Subban and goaltender Pekka Rinne, the Predators scored a huge upset by sweeping Chicago in four straight, outscoring the Hawks 13-3 in the process. Nashville would make it to the Stanley Cup Finals before falling to Pittsburgh in 6 games.
     Not surprisingly, this is a great-looking program for the Hawks that year. It's 120 pages, all on glossy paper and in color. Plenty of articles, including one about the Blackhawks' emergency goaltender and emergency goalies of the past. Each player has their own full-page bio. I got this program from my brother, who went to a Blackhawks game that year with a college friend. The opponent that night was the Carolina Hurricanes, but there is no roster sheet. Local advertisements include Bettenhausen Dodge/Jeep/Chrysler, Lakeside Bank and the Chicago Dental Society.

Aftermath: The Blackhawks have gone into "Salary Cap Hell" the past couple seasons, as they have had to deal away several players to keep under the salary cap ceiling. Age, injuries and inconsistent play have derailed the Hawks, as they have missed the playoffs the past two seasons. Looks like it's time to rebuild.

References:

National Hockey League Statistics: 2016-17 (from hockeydb.com)

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