CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 19: Members of the Chicago Blackhawks salute the crowd after a win over the St. Louis Blues at the United Center on February 19, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Blues 3-1. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The Hawks tend to play a game that's very similar to the Avs... or at least, what the Avs are aiming for. They prefer an up-tempo pace with a ton of cycling in the offensive zone and quick, odd-man rushes out of the defensive zone. While they have decent defensemen, the majority of their talent is up front, so they try to stay on offense as much as possible.
Their deepest position is a bit of a question at this point because it's all dependent on Patrick Kane. If he stays as a Right Wing, that's where they're the deepest with Kane, Hossa, Stalberg, but if he switched to Center, then that would be the strongest with Toews, Kane, Bolland, Kruger and/or Mayers down the middle. Almost every Hawks fans would absolutely love to see their team pick up a defensive-minded true #2C because it would plug that massive hole in their forward ranks and allow Kane to stay at his natural position of RW.
They're really weak at goalie right now too. They don't have much in the way of up-and-coming prospects, and Crawford had an awful sophomore slump this year. There's question of whether or not he'll bounce back or whether he'll ever be able to stop a shot in a playoff overtime period (ugh). Emery's not much better, and really, goaltending is what's holding this team back. Some have hope that Crawford will rebound and haven't given up on him yet, but they'd much rather see their team bring in someone like Jonathan Bernier from the Kings. Most of them aren't sold on the idea of Luongo though, even though he's up for playing in Chicago.
They also have some issues with special teams. They call their powerplay "Clownshoes" because it's just so clumsy and ridiculously bad. No word yet on whether or not Coach Quenneville has actually followed through on the threat he made while in Colorado to kill kittens though. Either way, their power play and even penalty kill are definitely not clicking right now.
Speaking of Coach Q, his love of compulsively switching up lines means that none of the fans actually know who will be staking together on opening night (whenever that may be). Their best guess tends to be:
Sharp - Toews - Stalberg
Saad - Kane - Hossa (if healthy, concussion) / Carcillo
Bickell - Bolland - Shaw
Mayers - Kruger - Frolik
Keith - Seabrook
Leddy - Oduya
Hjalmarsson - Montador (if healthy, concussion) / Brookbank
The Saad mentioned on the second line is the rookie Brandon Saad, their second round pick from 2011. He's a Left Wing that filled in during the playoffs last year after Hossa got Raffi'd, and most of the fans think he has a really good shot of making the team out of camp this year. Jeremy Morin (LW), Teuvo Teravainen (RW), Mark McNeill (C), and Phillip Danult (C) are other prospects to keep an eye on.
The honeymoon period with management and coaches after the 2010 Cup win is starting to wear thin. While most fans think that Stan Bowman did an outstanding job dealing with the cap situation from hell after that season, a few wish he'd make more of an effort to keep their prospects or use some of the cap space he's been able to find. Overall, his approval rating is still pretty high. Coach Q's is falling much faster. Between the putrid special teams, the line combo merry-go-round, and his bizarre TOI management, fans are starting to lose some confidence in him. I guess there also might be a bit of an uneasy relationship between Stan and Q as well.
As far as underrated players, Dave Bolland takes the cake. He's their third line center, and like most defensive forwards, he doesn't get the props he deserves. Copper and Blue broke down his numbers in a post this April. They also feel Seabrook and Keith, their stud defensemen, are overlooked far too much by the rest of the league. Bryan Bickell (3rd line LW) also got some love because fans felt that his 24 points and other on-ice contributions were really outstanding for his $541,667 cap, and a few of them feel defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson gets a bit more crap than he deserves, even from other fans.
Fan favs include the obvious - Toews, Kane, Sharp, Hossa, Keith, Seabrook, and Bolland - but Andrew Shaw also has a bit of a following. The tenacious bottom 6 winger has surprisingly slick hands and inspired #Shawfacts (which are pretty awesome, btw). Bollig and Stalberg are mentioned as well. Dan Carcillo is the opposite. Quite a few fans cited him as an irritation due to his erratic and boneheaded behavior on the ice.
The players they'd most like to steal from the league are Pavel Datsyuk and Jonathan Quick or Henrik Lundqvist. Like mentioned above, they're struggling with their #2C and Goalie positions, and those players would be the ultimate solutions. From the Avs, the players they'd most like to get their hands on are Landeskog and O'Reilly. On the flip side, they HATE the Blues, and aren't fond of the Canucks, the Sedins, or the Detroit Red Wings (although most of them have a respect for the team and most of the players).
As a whole, their feeling towards the Avs is pretty upbeat. They note the similarities between our teams in the playing style, but they mentioned that we're one of the very few teams in the league that can make them look slow. We remind them a lot of where the Hawks were a few years ago: young and fast with tons of promise and in need of a bit more defensive depth to make it all come together. They still think we're a beatable team if they play their game instead of ours, but ever meeting is a fun and exciting to watch. Our blogs seem to get on really well too, but one Hawks fan said that he's not rooting for us until we get a live yeti as our mascot. All I have to say to that is, "Make it Happen, Sherman".