Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has a vision for where he is taking his team. It could take a little while to retool, but he is starting to build a nice supply of good young players for head coach Joel Quenneville while also creating some salary cap flexibility.
He took another step in that direction when he made yet another move to get younger by trading disappointing veteran Richard Panik to Arizona for winger Anthony Duclair.
“The game today’s about speed and being able to pressure the puck,” Bowman reminded reporters after making that trade. “We have 13 players who are 25 and under. I looked just last year at this time I think we had four. So in a matter of a year we’ve been able to get considerably younger.
“But we’re still a team that wants to win. We’re not playing for the future. But the game today is predicated on being able to skate; it’s hard to play if you don’t have the quickness and the speed. A lot of the guys we’ve brought in recently bring that element to their game and I think it really meshes well with the style Joel wants to play. We want to play an up-tempo game and to do that you need guys on every line, not just on one or two lines. We’re trying to get guys on every line, every D pair, that have great mobility.”
Duclair, 22, pumped in 20 goals two years ago in Arizona and he scored nine times in 33 games this season. He joins young forwards Nick Schmaltz, Alex DeBrincat, Ryan Hartman and Vinnie Hinostroza along with Chicago mainstays Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
The Detroit Red Wings, meanwhile, are accumulating good young forwards, too, including Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi.
This Sunday matchup pits two teams undergoing a major youth movement on the fly.
Why The Red Wings Will Win
The Winged Wheel rolled to four consecutive victories with Jimmy Howard in goal before he suffered a minor lower-body injury. So the Red Wings threw struggling backup Petr Mrazek to the wolves, er, Tampa Bay Lightning in a 5-2 loss.
Howard posted a .960 save percentage during his streak and the Red Wings expected to get him back to active duty for this weekend. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks continue to play without injured No. 1 goaltender Corey Crawford.
The Red Wings have more firepower than you may expect, since ageless Henrik Zetterberg scored 17 points during a recent 21-game stretch. Larkin has been steadily productive, too, never going more than three consecutive games without a point this season.
Why The Blackhawks Will Win
Kane is still Kane. He had a goal and four assists in an 8-2 victory over Ottawa Senators and a goal and an assist during a 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers. Quenneville keeps shuffling his forward lines to find fits for his youngsters, but Kane keeps doing his thing regardless of the combinations.
The addition of Duclair is intriguing. He can finish around the net. If he can respond to Quenneville’s coaching and the leadership of Captain Serious (Toews), he will add more firepower to a team that scored 21 times in a recent four-game span.
Oh, and the Red Wings play in Chicago the day after playing in Pittsburgh. That could take Howard out of the goaltending picture.
Red Wings-Blackhawks Prediction
Yes, the Blackhawks have lost six of their last 10 games. Yes, their cornerstone goaltender is hurt. But their offense is in a good place and they are catching the Red Wings in the second of back-to-back games.
Red Wings-Blackhawks pick: Blackhawks 4, Red Wings 3