The Chicago Blackhawks wrapped up the University of Notre Dame portion of their training camp on Sunday morning, and while they still have a ways to go before their season begins on October 9, they are still starting to sort out some of the questions they have surrounding their lineup and roster.
To recap what we’ve seen so far, we have the top three lessons we’ve learned about the Blackhawks, and what each of those can teach us about what is to come for the team as they gear up for another season as serious Stanley Cup contenders.
The Second Line Could be Explosive
The Blackhawks brought in Brad Richards over the offseason, and even though we are only a few practices into training camp, he’s already showing incredible chemistry with Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad. The trio is moving the puck around the ice effortlessly, they have scored gobs of goals in scrimmages, and most importantly of all, they are keeping everyone involved despite the level of offensive skill of each player on the line.
What will be interesting to see as the preseason gets underway is whether or not Richards is able to match the defensive intensity of Saad on the forecheck. Having a guy like Marian Hossa on a line solves that problem easily, but with Kane on the line, things will be a bit tougher on the center.
The Madhouse May Not Have Seen the Last Enforcer Named Brandon
When Brandon Bollig was traded to the Calgary Flames at the NHL Entry Draft, the assumption was that the team wasn’t going to be utilizing the fourth line “enforcer” spot that Bollig held down for all 82 games last year.
That thinking has been dramatically challenged, and Brandon Mashinter looks like he’s going to be that guy. The Blackhawks are going to get plenty of offense from their top three lines (assuming that Jeremy Morin and Bryan Bickell skate with Andrew Shaw on the third line), so the fourth line is going to be a defensive line. With Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith serving as the returning veterans on that line, Mashinter could fit in nicely, but it will be interesting to see whether or not he can avoid the kind of defensive lapses and mental mistakes that plagued Bollig at times during his tenure with the Blackhawks.
Teuvo Time Could be a Bit Delayed
While Teuvo Teravainen has looked good in the first few practices of training camp, things came to a stop on Saturday after he took a hit from defenseman Cam Barker during scrimmage play. He sat out Sunday’s session with a minor upper-body injury, but the good news is that he’s just day-to-day with the ailment.
The key lesson for Teuvo to learn from this situation is that he needs to be able to take a hit and keep on going. Teams aren’t going to take it easy on him just because he’s a skilled player, and guys like Kane have already learned to keep their heads up at all times. Until Teravainen can protect himself and absorb that kind of contact, he’s not going to find regular playing time.