Defending Stanley Cup champs will be tough to top

Michael Klein, Editor in Chief

Last year’s Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks ended their summer celebration tour and shortened off-season by raising their banner opening night, in front of the NHL’s best attended fans. The emotion inside the Madhouse on Madison was electric and gave fans watching, around the world, chills. Not only was the anticipation from the banner raising, but also the excitement for another championship run beginning. The Blackhawks capped off the festivities with a thrilling 6-4 victory over Washington.

It is impossible to ignore the defending champs when prognosticating the upcoming season. They went an impressive 36-7-5 with 77 points last year while putting together an 11-game winning streak and 24-game point streak. As a Blackhawk’s fan myself, my predictions may be partially based on my fandom but have far more to do with the team being the most talented in the league. The team is so stacked with youthful talent that a dynasty isn’t out of the question and they’re much better equipped to make a run at a repeat than they did in 2010 when they lost many key pieces of the championship team. Although they will be without winger Viktor Stahlberg, who ended up in Nashville, GM Stan Bowman managed to bring back a recognizable face in Nikolai Khabibulin.

I am certainly not in the minority by picking Chicago. Many hockey experts and fans –11 percent of a poll done by “The Hockey News” believe that the Blackhawks have a great chance to repeat. Ken Campbell, a writer from that same publication, ranked three Blackhawks’ players in the top 15 of the entire league.

With the NHL’s decision to realign its divisions, there is a strong possibility that fans could see one the Blackhawks meet up with a familiar rival in the Stanley Cup Final. The Eastern Conference should be a much easier road for a team like the Detroit Red Wings to compete. In another poll done by “The Hockey News,” 44 percent of fans feel the Red Wings were most helped by the realignment.

Despite Detroit’s longest winning streak only being three, they have been a model of consistency in the NHL and are the closest thing to a lock for the playoffs year in and year out. As most sports prove, the playoffs are often a crapshoot where upsets and mismatches allow teams, not favored to win, to sneak through the cracks and hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup. The Red Wings gave the Blackhawks their best shot last year and added two new pieces this year by signing Forwards Daniel Alfredson and Stephen Weiss.

Keeping all factors in mind, I can imagine and would love to see this matchup. Both teams play some of their best hockey against each other and would make for a dream series. With or without Detroit representing the east, I see the Chicago Blackhawks skating off with another title and cementing themselves as the best team hockey has seen in decades.