I'm not one for award shows, so I'll keep this one brief. I'm handing outthree major awards for the Blackhawks and there was a stiff competition for each. Here arethe awards and the breakdown.MVP: Patrick SharpThis one looked like a lock for Jonathan Toews, until he went down on February 20th with concussion-like symptoms. So with almost a quarter of the season missed, I've got to give it to a guy who would have given Johnny a run for MVP even if the captain had been healthy all year. Patrick Sharp had a slow start to this season, by his standards, scoring onlyfive goals in his first 18 games. Once he shook the rust off, he was razor sharp, scoring 28 times in the next 57 games. Even an ugly wrist injury that kept him out forthree weeks didn't slow him down. Honorable mention to Marian Hossa who does what he always does, play among the elite.Best Defenceman: Brent SeabrookIt's hard to upstage a former Norris Trophy winning defenceman, but Seabrook did it this year. Duncan Keith came on strong the last half of the season, but from beginning to end, Brent Seabrook was a beast. Top 10 in the league in hits, top 12 in blocked shots, and top 20 in time on ice. His 21 was second best on the team. He also tied his career high withnine goals. Hard to believe he's only 26 years of age.Best Rookie: Andrew ShawThe Blackhawks saweight different rookies make it into the lineup this year and they were all very good and should have long careers with the this team. But none had more of an impact than Andrew Shaw. Taken in the 5th round in the 2011 draft, he scored in his very first NHL game, then addedfour more over his nextseven games. It's not just the numbers, it's the passion, the grit, the surprising skill and elusiveness when he has the puck that really makes you watch him.If you wantto see some old school hockey, take a picture of Andrew Shaw. And it just goes to show you, it's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.
Jonathan Toews set up the game-winning goal to Brad Marchand as Team Canada rallied back to beat Europe, 2-1, to complete the two-game sweep in the final at the World Cup of Hockey.
After Patrice Bergeron tied the game with a tip-in on the power play late in the third period, Drew Doughty was sent to the box for tripping, giving Europe a power play for a chance to respond.
But midway through the man advantage, the Blackhawks captain retrieved the puck and carried it into Europe territory before dropping it off to Marchand, who snapped home the shorthanded game-winner with 43 seconds remaining in regulation.
It was the second goal in a span of 2:09, helping Canada capture their second straight World Cup title (2004).
Sidney Crosby was named MVP of the tournament after scoring four goals and seven assists in six games.
Toews was fourth among all players in the tournament with five points (three goals and two assists).
Erik Gustafsson looked around the Blackhawks’ room at where fellow defensemen stalls would probably be as the season approached.
“You have Brian (Campbell) back, (Michal) Kempny here, obviously and all the other guys,” Gustafsson said. “It’s going to be tough, but I like it.”
The Blackhawks’ biggest Achilles heel last season was defense, especially after Trevor Daley was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. That opened the door for young players, including Gustafsson, to get bigger opportunities. This year the defense should be stronger with Campbell’s return. So for guys like Gustafsson, cracking this lineup just got that much tougher.
During the summer, assistant coach Mike Kitchen talked potential pairings as Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson, Campbell-Brent Seabrook, Kempny-Trevor van Riemsdyk. As of now, the team is expecting Keith to be ready for the season opener. Keith has been participating in a practice a day but whether or not he plays in any preseason games is uncertain right now.
If it starts out that way, Gustafsson would be on the outside looking in.
But first things first: Gustafsson is focused on building off experience gained last season — he played 41 games, recording 14 assists — and cleaning up a few errors committed in training camp practices.
“You know all the guys on the team, you know how they want to play over here and in the NHL. Just go out and show them. I didn’t do that [Saturday] but this was the first game,” Gustafsson said. “I felt good with the puck but I have to play more defense in my own zone. Just a couple of small things I have to be better.”
[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
Nothing comes easy when you’re trying to make an NHL roster but it got that much tougher for a young defenseman with the Blackhawks this season. Hey, that’s the way it is, and players know it.
“Of course it’ll be tougher,” Gustafsson said. “It won’t be easy to take a spot. You just have to go out there, do your best and see what happens.”
- Patrick Kane could play in the Blackhawks’ game against St. Louis on Saturday. Assistant coach Kevin Dineen said, “don’t be surprised to see 88 politicking to get in the lineup. Pretty good chance we’ll see him on Saturday."
- The Blackhawks were off on Thursday. Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov, Marcus Kruger and Hjalmarsson were expected to join the team at Friday’s practice
- Alexandre Fortin, who signed a three-year contract on Sunday, played 12 1/2 minutes in Wednesday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. That included about two minutes of power-play time. Dineen wouldn’t mind seeing Fortin in another game. “He showed himself well all camp and I think [Wednesday] we saw some good spurts out there, and we’ll find that consistency in a young player as we move forward.”