The Blackhawks like the way they played, and for the most part, there's not much to complain about over their final 40 minutes last night in Vancouver.
If they keep playing as they did over the final two periods, they should win in Calgary and Edmonton, and 2-0-1 would be the next-best-thing to start this nine-game test. Thing is, they need to start playing like that all the time, make the "ifs" a non-factor, and, to be blunt, getting one of a potential six points these last three games against two teams now above you in the Western standings can't continue. Not when Nashville starts the second half by storming from behind in the third period against a desperate Wild team in Minnesota. Not when Detroit starts their own western Canadian swing with a win in Calgary. It's just the bottom line of what they're dealing with.
We'll chalk up the first period defense to some six-day rust. That was also a pretty good team on the other side, much as we might not want to admit it (and even better with the goalie they started). Once the Hawks got their bearings back under them, they played well, and carried the action the majority of the time. It also seemed evident to this pair of eyes that Patrick Sharp was still feeling his way back, if not being a little tentative, after three weeks away. Throw in a brand new center with him and Marian Hossa, and we'll see how that line progresses, and how much Brendan Morrison can provide.
Until we get that answer, Stan Bowman has to continue to make adding a top-four defenseman the ideal priority. The main one who was on the market, Carolina's Tim Gleason, re-upped for four years with the 'Canes, so that field shrinks and the competition for what's left becomes tougher. So before we start plucking names on our wish lists, think again whom and how many you'd be willing to sacrifice from among the young crop (Kruger? Hayes? Olsen? Morin? Pirri?) to beat out the competition for that piece -- whether it's on the blueline, or another forward if Morrison's not the answer. John Scott barely played last night, and if you picked him over O'Donnell and Lepisto, the other five (especially the top two) can't be asked to suck up all the unbalanced minutes.
It was a confidence-building game for Corey Crawford. His performance was one of a handful of positives to take out of Vancouver. But it only got the Blackhawks one point. I'll still take a team that's healthy and hitting its stride come playoff time over one that finds life easy during the regular season. It's all about that build-up. But as we flip the calendar to February, the rest of the teams in front of the Hawks don't seem to care about that mindset.
When the Blackhawks traded Andrew Shaw it meant the team gave up a key player, but also got essential breathing room under the NHL's hard salary cap.
While losing Shaw is a blow, the team netted draft picks and salary cap relief. The move came just after Bryan Bickell and Teuvo Teravainen were traded for a pair of draft picks.
CSN Chicago's Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers went on SportsTalk Live to talk about the Blackhawks' recent moves and what's ahead in the video above.
The question now becomes what's next? The Blackhawks have holes to fill heading into the season and now do have some room under the salary cap.
Myers said adding a veteran defenseman is arguably the top priority and Brian Campbell and Andrew Ladd are mentioned as possibilities.
How the Blackhawks will replace Shaw specifically will be tough. Recently signed prospects Tyler Motte and Nick Schmaltz could help to add some depth, but it's hard to rely on those players right away.
Watch the video above to see the full discussion of what the Blackhawks can and should still do in the rest of the offseason.
The Blackhawks probably would've liked to be the ones to sign Andrew Shaw to a long-term deal. Instead, it was the Montreal Canadiens.
The Habs announced Monday they agreed to terms on a six-year contract with Shaw, who according to reports will take home an annual average salary of $3.9 million.
"We are very pleased to have agreed to a long-term deal with Andrew Shaw," Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said in the announcement. "As I mentioned last Friday following his acquisition, we are adding a solid character player to our team, a reliable player who plays with grit and a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Chicago Blackhawks over the past five seasons. Andrew will add more leadership to our team. I had the opportunity to discuss with him over the past few days, and I sense his determination and excitement in joining the Canadiens’ organization for many years to come."
The Blackhawks, in another salary-cap squeeze this offseason, traded Shaw to the Canadiens last week in exchange for a pair of draft picks.
In five seasons with the Blackhawks, Shaw totaled 137 points, scoring 70 goals and tallying 67 assists. He was a key member of a pair of Stanley Cup winners in 2013 and 2015. In 67 playoff games, he registered 35 points.
Shortly after he collected a handful of hardware at the NHL Awards last week, including the Hart Trophy for league MVP, Patrick Kane may have another accolade coming his way.
The Blackhawks superstar has been nominated for an ESPY Award as the NHL's best player in 2016 following a season in which he set career highs in goals (46), assists (60) and points (106).
He also set a new American-born record and franchise mark by earning at least a point in 26 straight games, the longest point streak since Mats Sundin (30 games) did it in 1992-93.
Kane looks to make history with Jonathan Toews, who captured the same ESPY Award in 2015, as the first set of teammates to have won in back-to-back years.
The four other nominees are Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, Washington's Braden Holtby and Alex Ovechkin, and San Jose's Joe Pavelski.
The winner will be selected on July 13 at the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles. Click here to cast your vote.