Opening night is finally here! It’s been a very weird trek from March 12, 2020 to January 13, 2021, but I’ll spare you the recap. The Blackhawks are back ready to open their 56-game 2021 season against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning tonight.
Chicago comes into the season already injury depleted, playing without “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews, “The Boy Wonder” Kirby Dach, and *think of a nickname* Alexander Nylander.
The Blackhawks are also fresh off an offseason that didn’t see massive firings from the front office and coaching staff, but rather hirings and promotions. After former Team President John McDonough was fired, the Blackhawks placed Danny Wirtz in the interim role as Team President, but never named a full-time replacement (Wirtz became Blackhawks CEO, and decided to split the Team Presidential duties). Stan Bowman, meanwhile, who many believe was and still is on the hot seat, was retained as general manager and also given the role of President of Hockey Operations. Jamie Faulkner was hired as President of Business Operations. To top it off, the organization extended the contract of head coach Jeremy Colliton on Tuesday, keeping him the Blackhawks bench boss through the 2022-23 season.
It’s *A* direction, but not necessarily *THE* direction for the club to go. On the ice, the Blackhawks are being forced to play new and young players. For a team that is going into the rebuild process after tip-toeing around the idea for the past few seasons, giving the young players substantial ice-time and responsibilities is going to benefit the Blackhawks in the long-term. But in the short-term, there will be growing pains for those players. It will also bring trying times for the remaining members of the Blackhawks “One Goal” dynasty era: Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook.
It all starts Wednesday night.
• The Blackhawks will be without center Carl Söderberg until after the season-opening road trip due to immigration issues that kept him out of training camp. Söderberg has since arrived in Chicago and will join the team next week.
• The Tampa Bay Lightning will be raising their 2020 Stanley Cup Championship banner on Wednesday night. The last time the Blackhawks played the defending Stanley Cup Champions on opening night of the season was on October 5, 2017 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Blackhawks won 10-1 that night.
• Patrick Kane (13 games) is tied with Alex Ovechkin (15 games) for the active lead for most points on opening night of the NHL season with 18 points. Kane is third all-time for points on opening night in Blackhawks history, trailing Bobby Hull (19 points) and Stan Mikita (20 points).
Puck Drops and Broadcast Info
• Wednesday, January 13 at 7 p.m. CT
Radio: WGN 720 AM
• Friday, January 15 at 6 p.m. CT
TV: ESPN+, NBCSCH, SUN
Radio: WGN 720 AM
Kirby Dach (Out 4-5 months – Wrist)
Alex Nylander (Out 4-6 months – Knee)
Jonathan Toews (Illness)
Brent Seabrook (Unfit to participate)
Zack Smith (IR – Back)
Nikita Kucherov (Out for season – Hip)
Anders Nilsson (IR – Concussion)
Marián Gáborík (IR – Back)
Keep An Eye Out For
Blackhawks Goaltending: Malcolm Subban makes his first start for the Blackhawks since being acquired last February for Robin Lehner. While Subban gets the first start, the full-time starting gig is still up for grabs between him, Collin Delia, and Kevin Lankinen. All three are highly unproven at the NHL level, but the hope for the organization is that at least one of them can step forward and be “the guy” this season and beyond.
Loaded Lightning Roster: The Lightning are going to be without Nikita Kucherov for the entire 2021 season and are STILL favorites to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions. While they lose Kucherov, the welcome back Captain Steven Stamkos. It’ll be a pain for the Blackhawks to face the Lightning eight times this season. It’s not often you have multiple players who have the potential to win the Hart (MVP), the Art Ross (Most Points), the Norris (Best Defenseman), and the Vezina (Best Goaltender) all on one roster.