Blackhawks: So far, so good...

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Blackhawks: So far, so good...

Its tough to get excited after just two games into the Blackhawks season. While some are already thinking Stanley Cup Finals in the middle of the summer, Im holding judgment until the team at least gets through the first 12 games, 10 of those on the road.

But its hard not to be optimistic after seeing the damage theyve done while on the road out west.

People were worried about the Blackhawks handling the energy the Kings would feed off of after the raising the 2012 Stanley Cup banner. In the end, fans had nothing to worry about as history repeated itself. Defending cup champs have now won just three times in the last 10 years the day they raise the banner.

Joel Quenneville and the Hawks jumped out to a 4-0 lead and never looked back. A convincing win - a win on the road against the defending champs - to start the shortened 48-game season.

Just over 24 hours later, I kept hearing the word revenge being thrown around when the Blackhawks and Coyotes were set to face-off. Did the Coyotes eliminate the Blackhawks last season? Yes. Was there bad blood between the two teams? Yes. Did Raffi Torres turn Marian Hossas offseason upside down after having to recover from a concussion? Yes.

But if you believe the Blackhawks were thinking revenge when taking the ice, I think you were wrong. There is no time to think revenge when EVERY point means something this season.

Even after the Coyotes jumped out to an early lead, I had a feeling that wouldnt be the only goal scored in the game. In fact, there were nine more scored, fortunately six were by the Blackhawks.

And it wasnt just the Blackhawks scoring goals Sunday night, it was how they were scoring them.

Great vision on a power play, a wicked wrister top shelf, a give-and-go that worked to perfection and fighting through a check to set up a point-blank shot. Those converted scoring chances were no flukes.

Added optimism is whos scoring the goals. In a shortened season, the big boys need to show up early and often. Aside from Hossas four goals and one assist, the other top forwards on the team (Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland) have scored at least one goal and added one assist. Will this scoring keep up? You would hope so, but when games start coming every other day, it may be hard to find the scoring touch every night. But its a good sign that at least the guys who are supposed to be finding the back of the net, are doing so to set the pace for the rest of the club.

When Hossa compared this team to the 2010 squad after the win in Phoenix, there was no one laughing about the comment.

And when Joel Quenneville was asked about what Hossa said, he didnt back down from saying that the current team is capable of playing against anyone, because the roster is so deep.

You have to be happy as a Blackhawks fan. Eleven goals scored in two games, on the road, against the two teams that were in the conference finals last season.

Now, they get to walk the red carpet before opening up the United Center Tuesday night. But the 2-0 start wont mean a thing if they dont come out ready to play against St. Louis, a rival that won the division last year.

Buckle up Blackhawk fans. Youre in for a wild ride, one that will hopefully last long enough to be tailgating in the United Center parking lot before Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals.

For the Blackhawks defense, change is the new normal

For the Blackhawks defense, change is the new normal

Ulf Samuelsson saw the changes the Blackhawks made this season, his hiring as assistant coach being one of them. Soon he’ll be working with the team’s defensemen, another area that’s had some upheaval.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity here, some uncertainties and some moving parts that I probably, typically haven’t seen going into a season. So that makes it even more interesting and challenging,” Samuelsson said. “So I’m looking forward to this opportunity to really develop and work with some of the younger players.”

From its immediate coach to its personnel, the Blackhawks’ defense is dealing with plenty of change that will continue when the season begins this fall. The Blackhawks have had some addition (Connor Murphy, Jan Rutta and Jordan Oesterle) but dealing with the subtraction (Niklas Hjalmarsson and Trevor van Riemsdyk) will nevertheless be tough. Coach Joel Quenneville said on Friday that pairings are a work in progress.

“We’re going to see when we’re putting the pairs together, whether we're going to reunite [Duncan Keith] and [Brent Seabrook] or look for some balance,” he said. “There are a lot of options. We’ll look forward to that and sorting it out.”

For Murphy, who was acquired in the deal that sent Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes, there are no set expectations as to where he fits yet.

“With any team you go into training camp proving where you’re going to be. Everyone has to come in and earn certain positions, especially me being a guy who they’re not as familiar with; I have to show what I can do,” Murphy said. “I definitely want to bring a more physical edge to defending at times and be able to skate well, have a good reach, make smart reads and try to help out with whatever’s needed with that.”

As for young players, the opportunity is there. Gustav Forsling admits he wasn’t happy that fellow Swede and role model Hjalmarsson was traded. But Forsling, who looked strong coming out of camp last September, knows he has to take advantage of the situation.

“Of course, I want to take the next step and play more,” he said. “I want to keep progressing my game and keep developing.”

The same goes for Jordan Oesterle, who the Blackhawks signed to a two-year deal on July 1.

“When I wanted to come here the opportunity was tremendous. Just the chance to come in and try to make the top six is there, it’s a battle with a number of us guys but that’s all you ask for in the situation I’m in,” he said. “Just the amount of opportunity that is in front of me just drives me even more. I want to be here and force their hand to keep me here.”

Again, the Blackhawks could re-address defense once they implement Marian Hossa’s long-term injured reserve after the season begins. General manager Stan Bowman said there’s “no exact plan” right now on how they use that space – “that’s probably going to be dictated by where we’re at when we get to October, how the team’s playing, what areas are strong, what areas we want to add to,” he said.

It remains to be seen on that front. Regardless, from coaching to personnel, much has changed with the Blackhawks defense. 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Blackhawks Convention Opening Ceremonies

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AP

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Blackhawks Convention Opening Ceremonies

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, we're live at the 2017 Blackhawks Convention. 

Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp join David Kaplan and Pat Boyle to talk about returning to Chicago. 

Later Boyle, CSN Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers, Chris Kuc and Sam Panayotovich discuss the huge roster changes this offseason. 

Listen to the STL Pod below.