Blackhawks breakdown:Steve Montador

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Blackhawks breakdown:Steve Montador

Over the next five weeks, CSNChicago.com Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers and PGL host Chris Boden will evaluate the 2011-12 performance of each player on the Hawks roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in numerical order.

In his first season with the Blackhawks, Steve Montador played 52 games -- but only one after Feb. 7 due to concussion issues. Montador averaged 14 minutes and 46 seconds per game. He scored five goals -- two on the power play -- and has nine assists for 14 points. Montador had 45 penalty minutes, 49 hits and 46 blocked shots. He did not take the ice for a single playoff game.

Boden's take: Theres really no choice but to give Montador an incomplete after missing 27 of the last 28 regular season games and all six playoff games with concussion symptoms. He wasnt particularly noticeable in the 52 games he did play in, except for having some success parked in front on the net on the power play to ignite that unit out of its season-opening slump. He came to town with a reputation for turning the puck over, but it didnt appear to plague Montador more than anyone else. He also came here via a trade for his free agent rights with the best overall offensive numbers of his career the previous season in Buffalo (21 assists, 26 points). He also supplied the only righthanded shot among defensemen who were on the NHL roster outside of Brent Seabrook. But the Hawks gave him a four-year, 11 million contract many observers believe he couldnt come close to getting anywhere else, so that 2.75 million salary cap hit has three years left on it.

Myers' take: When the Blackhawks signed the veteran to a four-year deal on the eve of July 1, they hoped he would bolster depth and bring some of the puck-moving element lost when Brian Campbell got traded to Florida. While Montador had his moments - mostly when he was put in front of the net on the power play - he had an otherwise so-so season. He struggled out of training camp, was in the third defensive pair and then suffered a concussion that sidelined him the final two months of the season. As Hawks debuts go, it was a tough one.

2012-13 Expectations

Chris: Providing Montador makes a complete recovery, were still waiting to see if he can provide something more than what was on display last season. His power play contributions were nice, but it didnt turn out to be a long-term solution, and shouldnt be counted upon moving forward. Montadors not afraid to mix it up with an opponent, and that is something this team needed - and still needs. Like Niklas Hjalmarsson, the money hes being paid usually requires greater production. If both end up being in the third pair together, or split between the second and third pairs, the Hawks need grit, intelligence, strong penalty-killing and shot-blocking. If Montador fills those roles effectively and hovers around 20-25 points on the other end, hell earn the money left on his contract - whether outsiders believe its a reasonable one or not.

Tracey: The first priority for Montador is to come back healthy. He was skating on his own by the end of the regular season, so he should be fine come September. But Montador has to have a better go-around this time. The Blackhawks need his veteran presence and need him to help bolster that group of defensemen.

How do you feel about this evaluation? As always, be sure to chime in with your thoughts by commenting below and check out some of Montador's highlights above.
Previously: Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson
Up next: Sean O'Donnell

Blackhawks look to keep rolling vs. Coyotes

Blackhawks look to keep rolling vs. Coyotes

The last time the Blackhawks faced the Arizona Coyotes was the first game the current top line of Nick Schmaltz, Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik were thrown together.

Yeah, the combination's worked out well. So has the Blackhawks' game in general, as they've won seven of eight including that Feb. 2 game. Now the Blackhawks will try to keep the momentum rolling with their lines and their game when they host the Coyotes Thursday night at the United Center.

The Blackhawks' current run of success started in the desert and part of that has been finding more consistent lines. Everything else has gradually improved off of that, from goal scoring to puck possession.

"I think it's puck possession, puck control, pace to the game," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we were very inconsistent in that early and we were defending way more than we were accustomed to. You're vulnerable for penalties, you're vulnerable for quality scoring chances against and not generating enough. I think that's the progression in our game now, it seems like all four lines are having the puck and having some zone time and having some rush chances, zone chances and it seems like every line's contributing there, and that's the big difference."

[RELATED: By the bye - Blackhawks keep rolling following break]

The Blackhawks' top line didn't have immediate chemistry but Quenneville kept them together and let them work on it. But as Toews said, it was about the group keeping the all-around game going, points or no points.

"Sometimes you just gotta work until things start clicking," Toews said. "Everyone seems to start paying attention when you start scoring goals, regardless of [the fact you're] doing things right. It's nice that we're scoring but we have to stick with what's making us a successful line at both ends of the rink right now."

Corey Crawford will start vs. the Coyotes. Niklas Hjalmarsson did not skate this morning but is expected to play. Quenneville said Michal Rozsival could draw into the lineup.

Broadcast information

Time: 7:30 p.m.
TV: CSN
Live stream: CSNChicago.com

Blackhawks lines

Nick Schmaltz -Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa
Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Vinnie Hinostroza

Defensive pairs

Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Michal Rozsival-Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

Injuries 

None

Coyotes lines (via Arizona Republic)

Tobias Rieder-Martin Hanzal-Radim Vrbata
Brendan Perlini-Christian Dvorak-Shane Doan
Max Domi -Alex Burmistrov-Ryan White
Jamie McGinn-Jordan Martinook-Josh Jooris

Defensive pairs

Oliver Ekman-Larsson-Luke Schenn
Alex Goligoski-Anthony DeAngelo
Jakob Chychrun-Connor Murphy

Goaltender

Mike Smith

Injuries

Lawson Crouse (lower body), Brad Richardson (tibia)

Ranking the five best games Mark Buehrle pitched with the White Sox

Ranking the five best games Mark Buehrle pitched with the White Sox

The White Sox will retire Mark Buehrle's No. 56 prior to June 24's game against the Oakland Athletics, a deserving honor for one of the best pitchers in franchise history. The left-hander compiled a 3.83 ERA and won 161 games during 12 seasons with the White Sox, and perhaps more impressively, he threw over 200 innings every year he was a full-time member of the team's starting rotation. 

So with the White Sox announcing Buehrle's number retirement ceremony for this summer, let's take a look back at the best games the St. Charles, Mo. native pitched with the White Sox. 

1. July 23, 2009: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 6 K vs. Tampa Bay. Time of game: 2:03

Buehrle's perfect game, complete with Dewayne Wise's legendary catch, sits at the top of mountain of Buehrle's historic achievements with the White Sox. This was a vintage Buehrle game, with him working quickly and getting plenty of weak contact. It just turned out that Tampa Bay couldn't get anyone on base in it.

2. April 18, 2007: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K vs. Texas. Time of game: 2:03

By game score, this was actually the best game Buehrle pitched in his career thanks to the two more strikeouts he had than in his perfect game. And in no-hitting the Rangers, Buehrle still faced the minimum — after walking Sammy Sosa, he picked off the former Cubs slugger. 

3. April 16, 2005: 9 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 12 K vs. Seattle. Time of game: 1:39

The 99-minute game might get lost in Buehrle's career thanks to his no-hitter and perfect game, but it's right up there in terms of how impressive it was. Not only did Buehrle set a career high in strikeouts against Seattle, but only one Mariners player got a hit that day (Ichiro, who naturally had all three). And it was the first — and still only — nine-inning game to be completed in under 100 minutes since 1984.

4. Aug. 3, 2001: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 K vs. Tampa Bay. Time of game: 2:12

Before Buehrle was an All-Star, World Series winner and no-hitter/perfect game thrower, he took a perfect game into the seventh inning against the Devil Rays before Damian Rolls singled to break it up. This wasn't Buehrle's first great start of his career — that came in a three-hit shutout of the Detroit Tigers on May 26, 2001 — but it stood up for a decade and a half as one of the best games he pitched in the majors. 

5. July 21, 2004: 0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 K vs. Cleveland. Time of game: 2:31

This was another brush with perfection for Buehrle, who only allowed a one-out, seventh-inning single to Omar Vizquel (he got Matt Lawton to hit into a double play after, allowing him to face the minimum for the first time in his career). This is the longest game in Buehrle's top five thanks to the White Sox blasting Cliff Lee and the Indians for 14 runs, but even then, barely over two and a half hours was a relatively brisk pace.