Examining the Blackhawks at the halfway mark

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Examining the Blackhawks at the halfway mark

Halfway through. The Chicago Blackhawks have played 41 regular-season games and have 41 left to go. So how did they do during that first half, and what do they need to do in the second?

The Blackhawks havent continued their December success in January, as theyre still looking for their first victory of the new year. And while they are no longer the best in the league, or in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks have nonetheless done pretty well in the first half.

There have been some good ones and some tough ones, but overall were in the thick of things, said Duncan Keith. I still think weve done some good things. We know theres a lot of room for improvement and a lot of areas we can get better at.

One of those areas is goals allowed. The Blackhawks have given up 120 goals so far this season, the fourth highest total in the West and the most of the conferences current top eight squads. The Blackhawks defense has been either great or struggling, and their bad games have been glaring.

For sure (there have been) too many goals, coach Joel Quenneville said after the Blackhawks gave up nine in two games this weekend. We had a great stretch prior to these last three games. Weve been solid in net, but weve given up too many of those types of goals that are preventable with position and awareness.

The Blackhawks defense was stellar through the back part of December, when they allowed two goals or less in their last seven games of 2011. That is what theyll need again for the final 41.

They also need to regain their scoring balance, which was also a December staple. When the Blackhawks have had those four lines rolling, as Quenneville likes to say, theyve been tough to beat. But the offense has quieted in January, too. Patrick Kane continues to struggle. And outside of rookies Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes goals, the teams role players have been too quiet.

The Blackhawks should be getting a little healthier soon Steve Montador was taken off the injured reserve today. And with plenty of cap space, general manager Stan Bowman will get that missing piece to push this team forward into the playoffs.

As they sit second in the West entering Sundays game against Detroit, the Blackhawks are still in good shape. But they dont want to get in too much of a rut this month, especially when there are still a lot of home games left of which to take advantage.

Were still pretty good in the standings, Niklas Hjalmarsson said. The last couple of games here havent been good enough. Hopefully we can start the second half with a couple of wins and get it rolling again.

Central Division gets major shakeup as Predators acquire P.K. Subban

Central Division gets major shakeup as Predators acquire P.K. Subban

If you’re a hockey fan and were on Twitter around 3 p.m. Central time today, you probably looked skeptical as the trade news hit.

As first reported by Nick Kypreos, P.K. Subban is heading to Nashville and Shea Weber is going to Montreal.

We can imagine your reaction because we had it too. Eyes bulged. Mouths gaped. You checked the accounts of those venerable scribes tweeting the news because the accounts had to be fake, right?

Nope, it was true. And just like that, another Central Division team will have a very different look come the fall.

Sure, the Predators lost a great defenseman in Weber. He has a howitzer of a shot that has left those brave (read: crazy) enough to block it in plenty of pain. Jonathan Toews tweeted good luck to Weber, and “thanks for leaving our division.” Yeah, Weber left an impression. His shot left a bigger one, sometimes in the colors of black and blue, and Central foes won’t miss seeing it five or six games per season. But with Subban the Predators will do just fine. Subban is a great player and charismatic individual, possessing one of those personalities of which the NHL doesn’t have nearly enough.

Welcome to another Central change. St. Louis is facing some. The Blues already traded goaltender Brian Elliott. Per Post-Dispatch reporter Jeremy Rutherford, Kevin Shattenkirk expects the Blues to trade him. David Backes’ and Troy Brouwer’s status with the team is up in the air.

Minnesota hasn’t made any big changes player-wise (yet) but did at the top, hiring Bruce Boudreau in May. The Wild have gotten to the postseason regularly lately but haven’t gotten too far – they can thank the Blackhawks for three of those exits. Minnesota probably needed a new voice.

But does hiring Boudreau, a consistent regular-season coach who’s struggled to get the big postseason victories – again, see the Blackhawks two years ago – improve Minnesota’s chances?

The Blackhawks have gone through this makeover thing just about every year, and they’ve already done it again this offseason. Andrew Shaw’s trade to Montreal, that same Montreal that just sent Subban packing, means they’ll be missing a net-front presence that Shaw brought on a steadier basis than anyone else the past five seasons. It’s not the only void they need to fill. A veteran defenseman wouldn’t hurt. Neither would another forward with some experience. They have some cap space, but will there be enough to get both?

The Subban-Weber trade is one of those blockbusters we don’t see often anymore. It’s staggering. It’s eye-popping. There won’t be anything as big as this for a while but, with free agency opening on Friday, there will nevertheless be other changes in the NHL.

The Central is already looking a little different. Imagine what it’ll look like by September.

What's the next move for the Blackhawks?

What's the next move for the Blackhawks?

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.

Canadiens agree to six-year deal with former Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw

Canadiens agree to six-year deal with former Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw

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.