Columbus Blue Jackets: Staring Down The Barrel – Blackhawk Up

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 23: Alexander Wennberg #10 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is pressured by Artem Anisimov #15 of the Chicago Blackhawks during a preseason game at the United Center on September 23, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 23: Alexander Wennberg #10 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is pressured by Artem Anisimov #15 of the Chicago Blackhawks during a preseason game at the United Center on September 23, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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The Columbus Blue Jackets and the Chicago Blackhawks collide at the United Center on Saturday for both teams’ second game of the 2017-18 season.

Columbus Blue Jackets and Chicago Blackhawks fans have something in common; they’re both massively disappointed with how last season ended. The Blue Jackets, a 108-point team that broke all kinds of franchise and even some NHL records, lost in five games to the eventual Stanley Cup champions.

On the other side of the playoff bracket, the top-seeded Blackhawks got swept by the last seed in the Western Conference playoffs, only scoring three goals in the entire series.

That disappointment does not unite us as fans though, or even make us like one another. We hate each other. We hate because we’re proud hockey fans, and we used to see each other lot more when the teams were in the same conference.

But before we say all those bad things to Chicago fans that we weren’t allowed to say as children, we sat down with BlackhawkUp.com site expert and die-hard Chicago sports fan (except the White Sox) Keith Schultz to talk about the Blackhawks’ postseason failure, their big offseason move and much more.

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What’s your experience as a Blackhawks fan and writer?

Keith Schultz: I’ve been a Chicago Blackhawks fan since my youth. I grew up in the south suburbs.  I’ve been the editor of Blackhawk Up for over five years now, and have written for BU for six years.

The Blackhawks struggled mightily in the playoffs last season after an incredible regular season. What went wrong?

They ran into the Nashville Predators at the wrong time, and they had no momentum going into the playoffs. The injury of Artem Anisimov before the playoffs hurt them in more ways than people wanted to admit. The Predators played great that series and were the better team for four games.

Brandon Saad returned to Chicago this offseason in a big trade that sent Artemi Panarin our way. What were your initial feelings on the trade?

I was excited because Saad is what has been missing the last two seasons. He’s big and fast, plays all 200 feet and he goes to the net. Plus he’s played with Jonathan Toews for years and they always have been a force on the same line.

As good as Artemi Panarin was for two seasons, he’s not the kind of player that can dominate during the playoffs. His game was predictable and easily able to be shut down by the opponents.

What is the strongest part of this Blackhawks team?

Their offense can now roll three lines out there, so they should be a very balanced offense which is way tougher to defend instead of just having to shut down the Patrick Kane line.

What is the weakest part of this Blackhawks team?

The defense has a lot of new faces and young kids having to play big minutes. Duncan Keith is still there and he’s still great, but how this season turns out depends on how the kids play with the extended minutes without Niklas Hjalmarsson back there this season.

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Any notable injuries Chicago is dealing with?

Nick Schmaltz left the first game, but practiced on Friday so he should be fine for tonight. Tanner Kero is questionable so we may see Tommy Wingels center the fourth line. Kero is a strong PK player, so that is the only way I see this injury affecting the game at all.

What are the keys to victory for you guys?

Score early and often just like Thursday night and put the pressure on the Columbus Blue Jackets defense from the first minute until the 60th minute.

What’s your prediction for the game?

Blackhawks win 5-1 as they carry the momentum from Thursday night into tonight’s game.