Chicago Blackhawks: Hawks Vs. Penguins Preview

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images /

Happy hockey day! The wait is over as the Chicago Blackhawks welcome the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins to kick off the 2017-18 season. Here’s what to watch for on the first night in what Hawks’ fans hope is a long season.

Can the kids play?

If you are going to be with us throughout the Chicago Blackhawks season, get used to seeing this question.

Can young players like Nick Schmaltz, Alex DeBrincat, Ryan Hartman, John Hayden, and Connor Murphy step in right away and make an impact on the NHL level? If the Blackhawks want to win games this season, they must get production from the younger portion of their lineup.

Special teams need to be more… special

2016-17 was not kind to the Blackhawks special teams.

Even after some improvement toward the end of the season, the early woes on the penalty kill had the Hawks with the seventh-worst penalty kill in the NHL. Starting the season against a Penguins team that had the third-best power play percentage last season will be a good test for the Hawks penalty killers.

More from Da Windy City

Along with a sub-par penalty kill,  the power play was nothing spectacular. The Blackhawks converted on just 18 percent of their chances on the man advantage. The addition of Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp should bolster those numbers.

No need to look far for motivation

After two straight first-round exits, the Blackhawks should have plenty of internal motivation. On the off chance they need some more bulletin board material, they can always watch the Penguins’ banner-raising ceremony from last night. Simply put, the Pens are what the Hawks want to be: the current gold standard of the NHL.

Who to watch for

If there were ever a player in need of a bounce-back season, it would be none other than Jonathan Toews. In 2016-17, The Captain recorded career lows in goals and plus/minus. Playing his first game against Sidney Crosby should bring out the best in the 29-year-old center. I expect him to be a key factor for the Blackhawks in the season opener.

No matter what the outcome of the game tonight, the Hawks will have no time to rest on their laurels. The next seven games are against playoff teams from a year ago.

Next: How will Alex DeBrincat play for the Chicago Blackhawks?

Local Viewing Information

Game Time: 7:30 pm
TV: NBC Sports Chicago
Radio: WGN 720