Chicago Blackhawks fans are patiently waiting for the summer to end. So far this offseason, we’ve learned that the Hawks fortified their depth with three free agent signings, unloaded the troublesome Marian Hossa contract, but at the price of Vinnie Hinostroza and Jordan Oesterle. Oh, and Marcus Kruger is back to help bolster the centers and penalty kill. With more cap space to work with than they’ve had in years, everyone is on the edge of their seats to see what kind of a big splash general manager Stan Bowman might make in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, every day is one less day until the Blackhawks officially start their 2018-19 campaign. The long-awaited season opener is Thursday, Oct. 4, when the Hawks take on the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. With time to kill before October, here are some details and storylines about the upcoming season’s schedule.
Blackhawks Seeing the Blues
The Hawks are off to a fast start when they travel to meet their longtime division rivals, the St. Louis Blues, for their second tilt of the season on Oct. 6. This is before they play on home ice for the first time (Oct. 7). As a matter of fact, the Hawks take on the Blues three times in the first month of the season and once in mid-November. Then they don’t play them again until April 3, the third to last game of the season.
Last year was the opposite regarding matchups between the two clubs. The Hawks met the Blues only once at the beginning of the season, on Oct. 18 and didn’t play them again until Mar. 18. Apr. 4 and 6 rounded out their final two matchups, two of the last three tilts of the year for the Hawks. Such is life with NHL scheduling.
The Hawks were 1-3 against the Blues last season but their lone victory was integral in St. Louis not making the playoffs. Stephen Ground’s Rivalry Recap provides the dirty details of the 2017-18 heated rivalry.
Will the Hawks turn their fortune around against the Blues this season? Perhaps it’s a good omen they meet them early and often. They can use a division foe to get the competitive juices flowing. Some wins would be good motivation to build on as the season progresses; not to mention a cushion of important points that could be crucial later in the year.
Former player and Blackhawk analyst, Adam Burish breaks down how the back-to-back schedule is one of the first things a player looks at when the schedule comes out:
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) June 21, 2018
I hate to break it to you Adam, but there’s actually 14 back-to-backs this year. There are three in October, one that starts Oct. 31 and ends Nov. 1 (the one that Adam missed), and one more in November right after Thanksgiving.
The schedule is brutal for the Hawks in December, with four back-to-back matchups and the most tilts (15) of any month in the season, making it important. Finally, there’s one back-to-back in January, two in March, and to end the season on Apr. 5 and 6. The only home-and-home games are against the Colorado Avalanche. The Hawks play the Avs in Denver on Mar. 23 and host them at the United Center the next night.
Outdoor Shenanigans for the Blackhawks
It wouldn’t be a typical season for the Blackhawks without an outdoor game. This year, they will participate in the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day against another Original Six team, the Boston Bruins. The matchup will take place at Notre Dame Stadium in Indiana. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman graduated from the University Notre Dame in 1995 and the team usually holds their training camp there.
This will be the Hawks’ sixth outdoor game, with appearances in three other Winter Classics and two Stadium Series. They lead the league in outdoor game participation and have suited up to play in the elements in 2009, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and now 2019. They won their first two outdoor matchups but have lost the last three. Will they turn their fortunes around and win this one?
Down to the Wire?
The Hawks have four games in April to round out their regular season and all four matchups are against division rivals. The good news is that three of them are home games. They host the Winnipeg Jets on Apr. 1, the Blues on Apr. 3, and the Dallas Stars on Apr. 5. They travel to Nashville to take on the Predators on Apr. 6 for their season finale.
Will that be the Hawks’ last game of the year or only the beginning? The Predators finished first in the league last season (117 points), and the Jets were second (114 points). The Blues just missed the playoffs and the Stars were only two points behind them. The Central Division is considered one of the most competitive and tight divisions in the league, so these final four games could be very interesting.
Other Points of Interest in Blackhawks’ Schedule
Here’s a few more tidbits regarding the Blackhawks’ schedule:
- The Hawks have their mandated bye-week in late January after the All-Star Weekend (Jan. 25-26). Together they’ll be off for nine days, from Jan. 23-Jan. 31. They only play 10 games that month.
- Besides the Blues and the Minnesota Wild (Oct. 11 and Nov. 18), the Hawks don’t meet another division foe until late November and early December: Jets on Nov. 29, Predators on Dec. 1, Stars on Dec. 20, and Avalanche on Dec. 21.
- December is a very important month for the Blackhawks. Of their last eight games of the month, six will be against division rivals. It would behoove the Hawks to be mega-focused around Christmas time.
- The Hawks take on the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals on Nov. 21 and Jan. 20 this season.
Training camp might be a few months away but the 2018-19 season is on the horizon. Only time will tell what kind of team the Hawks bring to the table this season. But the schedule is set and fans, players and coaches are planning accordingly.
Is it October yet?