As the weather heats up, so have the Hawks

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As the weather heats up, so have the Hawks

The only thing hotter than the Blackhawks right now are the temperatures in the Chicagoland area. And, just like the temperature, the Blackhawks show no signs of cooling off anytime soon.

Can we look at one aspect of Chicago's game to find out why they're on such a red-hot streak? No, not really, because right now they are a sum of all their moving parts, and this is a finely-tuned machine we're talking about. So let's take a look at some of these parts.

It always starts from the top, so that's where we'll start. A lot of names were bandied about leading up to the NHL trade deadline, and the name GM Stan Bowman added at the cost of a couple of draft picks was Johnny Oduya. Many responded with "Johnny Who?" Well the Blackhawks struck gold with this move. Not only is he the fleet-footed
defenseman they thought he'd be, he's been a great shutdown D-man with enough offensive prowess that he is very comfortable on the power play.

Last week I wrote that coach Joel Quenneville and his staff deserve a lot of the credit for what's going on here and that still holds true, especially the way they have handled the goaltenders. It's not easy to pull a goaltender and then have to worry about how he'll handle it down the road, but as my mom and Freddy Neitzsche used to say "that which does not kill you makes you stronger" and that has certainly been the case for Chicago's two netminders, both winning NHL Star of the Week honors the last two weeks.

I've already talked goaltenders, so let's get on to the players. Every player to a man has stepped up in the absence of captain Jonathan Toews, but maybe none more so than Patrick Kane. After a pretty average first half to the season, not only is Kane supplying the offense you'd expect, but he's been a valuable asset in his own zone and in the face off circle. Take a look at his takeaways the last three weeks, and you'll see that Kane is a man on a mission.

Add Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Dave Bolland, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith to
the list of leaders who have found another gear without number 19 in the lineup.

I won't spend a lot of time on the rookies, but when you have Nick Leddy (not really a rookie but only 21 years old) Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw, Dylan Olsen and Jimmy Hayes pulling down important minutes and making huge contributions, you see why the Blackhawks are on a 7-1-1 run.

Here's hoping they stay as hot as the temperature in Chicago.

Blackhawks assistant Kevin Dineen appreciates interview opportunities

Blackhawks assistant Kevin Dineen appreciates interview opportunities

Kevin Dineen is back with the Blackhawks but there were times this summer you wondered if another team would take him away.

The Blackhawks’ assistant coach was a major candidate for the Colorado Avalanche head coaching job, according to the Denver Post, following Patrick Roy’s surprising departure. There were probably other inquiries, too.

“It’s always nice to go through a process of talking about the way you do your business. It’s also a reflection of where you are,” said Dineen following the Blackhawks’ White-Red scrimmage on Saturday. “No. 1, you have to get permission to do that, and the Blackhawks have been great about giving me the opportunity to go out and do that. But also, when you have success, a lot of people want to get your feedback or whatever it is.”

Dineen’s name will likely come up whenever there’s a coaching vacancy. He coached the Florida Panthers from 2011-13 and coached Team Canada women’s team to a gold medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Dineen will get another opportunity in the NHL but for now, life is good in Chicago.

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“For me, I couldn’t be happier right here,” he said. “I have a great person and hockey mind to work with in Joel [Quenneville]. But you know, down the line, those things play their way out and we’ll see where it goes.”

Arriving soon

Patrick Kane, Ville Pokka and Michal Kempny will join the Blackhawks’ training camp on Tuesday. The three finished up round-robin World Cup of Hockey play with their respective teams on Thursday.

Dineen said there’s a chance one of the defensemen, Pokka or Kempny, play in Wednesday night’s preseason game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“They’ll get into the swing of things here on Tuesday,” Dineen said. “So that’ll give them a good rest after a long, tough September, and we expect them to hit the ice flying.”

Briefly

  • Duncan Keith will skate during one of the Blackhawks’ practices on Sunday and Monday.
     
  • Team White defeated Team Red 4-3 in Saturday’s scrimmage at the United Center. Spencer Abbott led Team White with two goals.

Alexandre Fortin taking advantage of Blackhawks tryout

Alexandre Fortin taking advantage of Blackhawks tryout

For Alexandre Fortin, the last few months have certainly been memorable.

It all started earlier this summer, when Blackhawks scout Alexandre Rouleau contacted Fortin’s agent: Fortin was invited to the team’s prospect camp. He did so well there that he was invited to the rookie tournament in Traverse City, Mich., last week. And now, the 19-year-old is here on a training-camp tryout.

Yeah, it was quite a summer. And now Fortin would like to turn it into just as memorable of an autumn.

Fortin assisted on a goal in Saturday’s scrimmage, part of the Blackhawks’ training camp festival at the United Center. The Blackhawks are going to be keeping an eye on Fortin, who’s been impressive since that July prospect camp.

“I like his willingness to learn. Those same things you talk about, immediately it translates right into the next shift,” Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen said. “He’s a smart, cerebral kid who has a nice offensive skillset he’s been able to show early. He’s off to a really good start and trying to find a way into one of our exhibition games.”

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Fortin had 19 goals in 54 games last season with Rouyn-Noranda of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Just to get a chance with the Blackhawks is motivation enough, although Fortin already had plenty. The Quebec native was passed over in two NHL drafts, much like former Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw.

“I had two years where I didn’t get drafted, and it’s always hard mentally. But some guys never get drafted and have a good hockey career,” Fortin said. “I worked a lot in the summer just to be ready to try and do the same thing I did in prospect camp.”

Fortin also got some advice from family; his uncle is former NHL goaltender Jean-Sébastien Giguère, who won a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.

“For sure, I had a couple of meetings with him just before I came here. He had a great career. He helped me on that. I can call him every time, ask him questions,” Fortin said. “It’s good to see the veteran guys. You have to use them as an example. It’s what I want to do. I have to learn how to be a pro.”

Fortin doesn’t know what the future holds but he’s getting a chance with the Blackhawks, something he didn’t foresee when the summer began. And with that chance, anything can happen.

“You have to stay focused on your goal,” Fortin said. “You know my life has changed a few times just with what I’ve done here. We’ll see after, but I’ll keep doing what I’m doing now.”