The Chicago Blackhawks have had an interesting first quarter of the season, to say the least, as they’ve dealt with injuries, depth issues, and the difficulty of having to deal with teams gunning for them on a nightly basis as the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Despite all of the turmoil, the team still finds itself in a playoff spot in an incredibly tough division, and things are starting to look up on a number of fronts. The team has begun to get better offensive production out of players like Jonathan Toews, and players like Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa are returning to bolster the lineup after missing time with injuries.
Before we get too caught up in the second quarter of the season, we felt that it would be appropriate to name our Three Stars of the first quarter.
Third Star: Brent Seabrook
With Keith out of the lineup, the team’s defense certainly took a hit, but players like Seabrook helped to soften the blow. He’s been one of the team’s most consistent contributors on the offensive side of things, and he’s been a godsend defensively as the team works in new players like Trevor Daley and rides through the growing pains of players like Trevor van Riemsdyk and Viktor Svedberg.
With Keith back in the fold, Seabrook has gotten a bit of a reprieve from the constant pressure, but his performance on the ice has remained solid, giving us ample reason to include him on this list.
Second Star: Artemi Panarin
After seeing rookies like Teuvo Teravainen have a bit of difficulty adjusting to the North American game, it’s been remarkable to watch Panarin’s development. Robbed of a good chunk of training camp by injury, Panarin has jumped onto a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov and thrived, becoming the league’s top-performing rookie thus far and showing the offensive punch that the team has been searching for since having to jettison Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad over the summer.
If Panarin can continue to show the confidence he’s displayed on offense, and can continue to play the surprisingly solid defense that he’s shown as a rookie in the league, then he is going to be a big-time contender for the Calder, and he could play a pivotal role as the Blackhawks look to defend their championship.
First Star: Patrick Kane
Is there any question that Kane has been the Blackhawks’ best player in the first quarter of the season? Perhaps the better question is whether or not Kane is the league’s MVP thus far, and he would certainly garner a ton of votes if writers were pressed on the question today.
He’s not only on pace to shatter the Blackhawks’ team record for consecutive games with a point, but he’s also on pace to become the first player in recent memory to crack the 100-point barrier this season. If he can keep up this pace, he will be a surefire finalist for the Hart Trophy at the NHL Awards this summer.