Vancouver Canucks 2017-18 season preview: Chicago Blackhawks edition

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 31: Artemi Panarin
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 31: Artemi Panarin /

The Vancouver Canucks and the Chicago Blackhawks once were one of the Western Conference’s top rivals.

The Vancouver Canucks may not be the same rivals as they used to be against the Chicago Blackhawks but a Canucks game against an original six team in Chicago is always entertaining to watch.

A matchup against Chicago has many layers to it. It reminds Canucks fans of the time Alex Burrows slayed the dragon in overtime, game seven. It reminds Canucks fans of the Chelsea Dagger nightmares.

In addition to the two teams in Alberta, Chicago is that one team you somewhat anticipate the aging Sedins to erupt with offence, displaying old-time Sedinery magic against these old Chicago foes. But ah, yes. Duncan Keith.

This year, the Chicago Blackhawks were unsuccessful in the playoffs, showing uncharacteristic powerlessness in the first round against the Nashville Predators. Does this spell the end of a small era of Blackhawk dominance in the west?

Let’s see what Chicago did this offseason following a disappointing early exit from the playoffs despite a strong showing during the regular season.

Offseason Changes

Chicago Blackhawks (50-23-9, Conference Semifinals)

2016-17 vs. Vancouver
  • (4-3) Chicago, Nov. 19 @Vancouver
  • (4-2) Chicago, Jan. 22 @Chicago
  • (5-4) Vancouver, Mar. 21 @Chicago

2017-18 vs. Vancouver

  • Dec. 28 @Vancouver
  • Feb. 1 @Vancouver
  • Mar. 22 @Chicago

3 Storylines to Watch in 2017-18

  1. Brock Boeser vs. Nick Schmaltz

Brock Boeser and Nick Schmaltz were fellow teammates for the NCAA North Dakota Fighting Hawks side. In fact, the two were frequent linemates with Schmaltz centering Boeser and Drake Caggiula.

Boeser is the youngest and the latest to join the NHL ranks but he has the highest upside of the NoDak trio. Let’s see how Boeser does against his old linemate who is with the Blackhawks, which is somewhat ironic since some scouts see a bit of Patrick Sharp in Boeser’s games.

2. Revival of some Sedinery Magic

The Sedins have been marked men against the Blackhawks. As mentioned already, there is something about Calgary, Edmonton, and Chicago that make the Sedins play with a bit more finesse to their game.

Especially with head coach Travis Green‘s demand for better play from the Sedins, you can surely expect some moments of Sedin greatness against the Blackhawks this season. Also considering how depleted the Chicago blueline looks without Hjalmarsson, Campbell and van Riemsdyk, there are certainly holes in the Chicago defence for the Canucks to exploit.

More from The Canuck Way

The question is who will play with the Sedins?

3. Will Vancouver’s crease hold?

Though Chicago’s blueline may seem less formidable than it was before, there is no question that their offence is still elite despite the many changes.

With their star forwards and capable blueliners Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook who can help out offensively as well, the Canucks are going to have to make sure the defence can hold its own.

But the real question is whether Jacob Markstrom or Anders Nilsson can fight off the high-octane offence that is famous for its sharpshooters.

Though it is true that the Canucks stole a win against the Blackhawks last season going away in Chicago, the Blackhawks managed at least four goals against the Canucks every night. The win in Chicago, quite frankly, was also a product of the numerous saves by the posts and the crossbar for the Canucks.

Next: 30-in-30 Carolina Hurricanes Edition

Who knows how long the Blackhawks will continue being a contender year after year? Will the Canucks also emerge as a dominant force when the rebuild is complete? Only time will tell, after many, many more games against these Blackhawks.