New Faces ! New Start !
A new Red Rising will take place with the Blackhawks this season with a blend of exciting rookies and proven veterans. Coach Denis Savard is starting his 1st full season behind the bench and is optimistic that he will find the right chemistry to bring the Hawks back to the playoffs. At the last home game against Detroit in April, there are only a dozen players left on the roster who are still with the team.
There are another dozen new faces that have been added. Going back to last October's home opener, there are only 8 players that suited up for the game. Savard knows that his team will have to have a strong month.
The schedule features 12 games, 7 at the United Center and 5 on the road while facing 7 teams that were in post season. Savard has indicated that improving the home ice record and upgrading the power play are major priorities. "Special teams have been increasingly important and we have to improve,especially with the man advantage." Getting off to strong start will go a long way in determining the Hawks' fate. Back in 2001, when the team went on to the 2002 playoffs, Chicago finished the 1st month at 7-3-3(before sudden death shootouts). Winning the close games is another factor where the Hawks were only 17-24 in one goal games.
Needless to say staying healthy remains a top concern after the past 2 campaigns when key players went down in the opening month. GM Dale Tallon is extremely optimistic about the future of top draft picks, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Proven veteran scorers, Robert Lang, Sergei Samsonov, and Yanic Perreault have been added this season to go with Martin Havlat, Patrick Sharp, Jason Williams and a healthy Tuomo Ruutu. Rene Bourque hopes to regain his freshman season scoring touch after suffering 2 major injuries last year. Another veteran forward, Kevyn Adams, who owns a Stanley Cup ring, adds more depth.
The defense corps is anchored by 3rd year pros Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith. Free agents Andrei Zyuzin and Brent Sopel will provide more experience while last season's suprise James Wisniewski and Jim Vandermeer are back after major injuries. Add Swedish "34 year old rookie"Magnus Johansson to the mix.
Savard feels his goal keeping is very strong with veterans Nikolai Khabibulin and Patrick Lalime. With plenty of additional depth and youth at the nearby Rockford farm team, the season appears very bright.
Be ready for the New Red Rising!