Blackhawks make most of every second

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Blackhawks make most of every second

Once is a fluke. Twice is a coincidence. And if it happens three times, you have to call it a trend.

The Blackhawks last three postseason games have been truly down to the wire, with the team forcing overtime in each one with just a few seconds left in regulation. Its been frenzied, scrambling, desperate last-minute work for the Blackhawks, who keep finding ways to play longer postseason games.

Its Blackhawks playoff hockey, sponsored by Bayer, for the near cardiac event it causes.

Its kind of comparable; weve had three straight playoff games in the same fashion on the road, coach Joel Quenneville said after Saturday nights 4-3 overtime victory over the Phoenix Coyotes, which tied their Western Conference quarterfinal series at 1-1. We had momentum going into overtime and we loved to cash in.

Brent Seabrook joked that the Blackhawks were just trying to beat our time from the last game by a bit.

Indeed, they have slowly inched their way toward zero in each of their last three postseason road games. Jonathan Toews scored a shorthanded goal with 1:56 left in regulation an eternity compared to the Blackhawks last two games -- in Game 7 vs. Vancouver last spring. Seabrooks tying goal in Game 1 came with 14.2 seconds remaining and Patrick Sharps deflection in Game 2 was with 5.5 seconds left.

In both games the Blackhawks had an empty net at the other end. And as overtime began on Saturday, some fans on Twitter joked that the team should start the extra time with the same setup.

The Blackhawks were feeling the last-second excitement.

It was kind of fun there in the last minute, six guys moving the puck pretty well, said Sharp. We had a few chances to score and I knew Seabs was going to pound it. I dont know if Ive ever seen that before, back to back games forcing overtime (that late). Were thankful we seized the opportunity.

Yes, the Blackhawks worked hard to get those late chances and those late tying goals. But as exhilarating as those endings are, the Blackhawks need to make things a little easier on themselves in future games. That push, that drive to the net needs to be as evident with 20 minutes left in the third as it is with 20 seconds.

Playoff hockey is always tight. The Blackhawks dont have to make it any tighter.

Its always scary when its that extra attacker. You never know with the empty net, Dave Bolland said. But the guys we have out there are capable of doing some damage. We didnt want to wait for that 5.5 left to tie the game.

The Kyle Schwarber reboot begins Monday in Iowa

The Kyle Schwarber reboot begins Monday in Iowa

MIAMI – This isn’t a Tommy La Stella situation. The Cubs purposely told Kyle Schwarber to take a few days off to decompress before reporting to Triple-A Iowa. The reboot will begin Monday in Des Moines.

“We’re doing it to hopefully reset him, get him back up with a fresh start,” manager Joe Maddon said. “As you would expect, he was very professional about it, understood it entirely.

“There’s no actual timetable. I don’t anticipate it to be long. But we’ll see how it plays out, give him a little bit of room to get things right and then move it forward from there.”

The Cubs broke the news to Schwarber after Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the San Diego Padres at Wrigley Field, where the entire lineup went 1-for-27 outside of rookie Ian Happ’s two-run homer. It left Schwarber hitting .171 with a .673 OPS, not enough to justify his 12 home runs and suspect outfield defense. The Iowa Cubs are in the middle of a four-game series this weekend in Round Rock, Texas.

The Cubs hope Schwarber can regain his confidence and almost become a trade-deadline addition, reenergizing the team the way he did in 2015, when he blasted 16 homers in 69 games and five more in the playoffs.

Under entirely different circumstances in 2012, future All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo used 70 games with Iowa to rework his swing and make adjustments after bombing his audition with the Padres.

“He’s going to go down and be able to exhale a little bit,” Rizzo said. “Hopefully, he can smooth things out. We’re all confident he will. Just do the best down there to get back up here and to be the Kyle Schwarber that we all know and love.”

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson heard some of the rumors, but not to a large degree. The former Blackhawks defenseman wasn’t spending a lot of time on the internet reading up on his potential fate. He figured he’d still stay put in Chicago.

“But when my agent called me about the 10-team list, I understood it was serious. Stan [Bowman] wouldn’t ask for that unless they made up their mind already,” Hjalmarsson said via conference call on Saturday. “That’s when it hit me that I’m probably not going to put the Hawks jersey on anymore.”

Indeed, Hjalmarsson’s next jersey will be that of the Arizona Coyotes, who acquired him in exchange for defenseman Connor Murphy on Friday. Hjalmarsson’s departure marks the end of the line for another Blackhawks core player, and this one is jarring in how it will change the team’s defense.

Speaking of change, Hjalmarsson faces a lot of it himself now. Sure, there’s the obvious change for a guy who’s played his entire career in one place. It’s new surroundings and a new team, on which he knows former Blackhawks teammate Antti Raanta and fellow countryman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

But the Coyotes have dealt with a lot of upheaval lately. Goaltender Mike Smith is gone. So is veteran Shane Doan. On Thursday, head coach Dave Tippett and the Coyotes parted ways.

“They’re on a rebuild, a lot of new faces, lot of changes,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’s tough to know what to expect but I think they’re a hungry organization that wants to win like other teams. I’m looking forward to try to contribute with playing my game, just try to get the organization back in the playoffs.”

Hjalmarsson should find chemistry with Ekman-Larsson – the two were teammates in the Winter Olympics in Sochi – and Hjalmarsson will likely play a bigger role with the Coyotes. Arizona will probably look to Hjalmarsson a lot during its rebuild, given his Cup-winning history.

The first 24 hours were full of mixed emotions of Hjalmarsson. With his limited no-move clause, he was always a likely candidate to be moved from a Blackhawks team laden will full no-move clauses. He’s turning a page, but he won’t forget his time in Chicago anytime soon.

“I’m trying to always be a positive guy,” Hjalmarsson said. “I spent my whole 20s in Chicago, 10 unbelievable years. I didn’t think I’d win three Cups. Hopefully I can get one more before my career is over. I had the best time in Chicago, enjoyed every single year, playing in front of the best fans in the league. I’ve been spoiled. Now it’s time for me and my family to move on and seize the opportunity in Arizona and create some new fond memories.”