The Chicago Blackhawks raise another Stanley Cup banner to the United Center rafters Wednesday night. Just another reminder of what is at stake for their opening night opponent this season.
The Blackhawks will carry over the momentum of a Stanley Cup-winning team and the banner raising should serve as a reminder of the ultimate goal to the team’s offseason additions. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Andrew Shaw and Corey Crawford are all back but Chicago lost Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad, Brad Richards, Antoine Vermette and Johnny Oduya from last year’s team and will rely heavily on their offseason additions to fill key roles. Artem Anisimov arrived in the deal that sent Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets and was promptly handed a long-term extension to fill out the second-line center role vacated by Richards while former KHL star Artemi Panarin appears set to start on the top line next to Toews and Hossa in the spot that Saad played last season. Time will tell if the Blackhawks did enough to compete for a Stanley Cup again but they certainly look like a very deep team once again heading in to a new year.
Meanwhile, chemistry will be key for a Rangers’ team that for the most part looks a lot like the group that reached the Eastern Conference Final last year and went to the Stanley Cup Final the year before. Henrik Lundqvist remains the superstar goalkeeper between the pipes and New York returns the majority of a forward core that led one of the highest scoring offenses in the Eastern Conference last season. Rick Nash will play on a potentially dominant top line with Derrick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello while the defense core appears to be one of the deepest in the NHL led by Ryan McDonagh, Keith Yandle, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal.
Projected Starting Goalies
While he struggled at times throughout last year’s playoffs, Crawford stood tall in Chicago’s net in the Stanley Cup Final and will be the starter when the season begins on Wednesday night. Scott Darling appears to have a bright NHL future and could see more starts this season but the Blackhawks are committed to going with Crawford to open the year.
Meanwhile, there is no question about who will be between the pipes for the Rangers with Lundqvist back as the unquestioned No. 1. Lundqvist went 30-13-3 with a 2.25 GAA and .922 save percentage last season and while he will turn 34 this season, New York moved backup Cam Talbot to the Edmonton Oilers in the offseason and brought in former Blackhawks backup Antti Raanta as the backup.
What’s The Pick?
The Blackhawks will look to pick up from where they left off last season when they host the New York Rangers on Wednesday and while a lot has changed for Chicago, they are still among the favorites to repeat and win it all again this season. The Rangers certainly feel that they can contend for a championship this year and some are billing this contest as a potential Stanley Cup Final preview.
The Rangers have the talent to be a Cup contender out of the Eastern Conference this season but they will be in tough to open the year with the Madhouse on Madison absolutely buzzing following the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup banner ceremony. Chicago might look a little different than the team that won it all last season but the same core is in place. They reloaded with some sleeper talent that could really shine this season. New York will hang around and keep this a close game but look for the Blackhawks to find a way to win at home. They opened as a -150 and the NHL odds have come down to a more reasonable price. Take the Blackhawks with your NHL picks.
NHL Pick: Chicago -135 at BetOnline