Chicago Blackhawks

Boden: Luongo to Hawks is a ludicrous idea

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Boden: Luongo to Hawks is a ludicrous idea

I have a lot of respect (and learn a lot) from many of the more prominent national reporters on the NHL beat. But after hearing an idea floated by a handful of them since the Canucks -- and then the Blackhawks -- were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, Im here to set the record straight on a theory that makes absolutely no sense.

Its as simple as this: Roberto Luongo is not coming to the Blackhawks.

Blackhawks management, and most Blackhawks fans, understand this makes absolutely no sense and would create another headache instead of solve the ones theyll try to address this offseason. I thought this blindfolded dart-throwing had run its course, but there it was again this week in the pages of Sports Illustrated magazine and on the television screen of NHL Network. Lets just count the reasons it wont happen:

1. If Luongo couldnt perform to his capabilities in a town that actually cheers for him, how would he handle things playing for a fan base that doesnt like him? How would he handle things playing for a team that added to his professional misery for three straight playoffs? And this isnt the hated Dennis Rodman coming to the Bulls with his championship rings from the hated Detroit Pistons as a final piece to another three-peat. Luongo has only a wedding ring.

2. The Blackhawks are not going to help the Canucks get a problem off their hands in trying to make Cory Schneider their goalie of the present and future.

3. The Blackhawks are not going to pay his 5.3 million Salary Cap hit through 2022. They only have roughly 6.8 million of Cap space for next year under the exisiting ceiling right now and that might decrease whenever a new CBA is reached. Oh, and Im sure Vancouver would want players, prospects or draft picks in return.

4. The opinion here is that theres just not a very high regard for Luongo as a goalie in the locker room or with most of those making player personnel decisions. This is not a fact, but a belief through observation over the past three years.

So those are the four main reasons it wont happen. There are probably a few other legitimate ones we could come up with as well. For those Hawks fans who do think the team needs someone better than Corey Crawford as their No. 1 netminder, feel free to speak up if you believe Luongos the answer.

I try not to come off as a flag-waving Crawford supporter, but it appears the organization is going to see how he bounces back from this past season, with Ray Emery again backing him up. Unless the team includes Crawford in a deal in which they get another goalie in return, he wont be going anywhere. Based on his rookie season, you know the capability is in there -- and if he is, in fact, still around whenever training camp begins -- this will be the season that shapes his career.

I dont remember a lot of people screaming last summer to let him go when he was a restricted free agent after taking over the starting role. He has two years remaining on that deal at a reasonable Cap hit (2.66 million), and if he regains that rookie form, Im sure most Hawks fans would be satisfied. For those wanting the Hawks to get an elite goalie, Ive asked who is elite and available, and what would a trading partner reasonably accept?

But this isnt about Crawford, really. Its about Luongo and about how hes definitely not an answer in Chicago. If Nikolai Khabibulin, Cristobal Huet and Marty Turco thought they had it tough living up to expectations in recent years here, what would Bobby Lu be in for?

The Canucks will have to find someone other than this rival to help ease their headache in the crease.

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Shots and slashes

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Shots and slashes

It’s preseason: you don’t need a lot of build-up. Let’s just delve right in, shall we?

1. Lots of shots, but…

The same Joonas Korpisalo that the Blackhawks’ youngsters scored five goals against on Tuesday was on top of his game on Saturday. The Blackhawks peppered him with 54 shots but only two got through, and the second was a 6-on-4 power-play goal in the final two minutes.

“I thought we could have gotten a little more traffic in front of him," Nick Schmaltz said. "I thought we were playing along the outside. I mean we had some great looks. He made some big saves. Some nights you get the bounces and some nights you don’t.”

2. Bérubé’s Blackhawks debut.

Jean-François Bérubé had a tough sequence early in the second period, when he gave up two goals in a 28-second span. This was against a Columbus team that didn’t send many of their top players. He also didn’t see a ton of action in this one; the Blue Jackets fired just 21 shots his way.

3. Growing pains.

Alex DeBrincat had his up and down moments on Saturday night. His turnover led to Columbus’ first goal, he took a slashing penalty and he fought the puck quite a bit. You still saw glimpses of that skill, though, especially with his quick release. Hey, he’s a 19-year-old guy getting his first taste of the NHL. Nights like this are going to happen.

“We all make mistakes,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You gotta be safe in certain areas and you learn from that.”

4. Slash-o-meter.

Four more were called on Saturday night. Don’t be surprised if that number starts dwindling sooner rather than later, though, because the edict has apparently changed already. Sportsnet’s John Shannon reported earlier on Saturday that the league told officials to ease up on slashing and faceoff violations. But we all figure that’s going to happen once the regular season begins anyway, right?

5. Notre Dame bound.

The destination is familiar but the Blackhawks threw it into their second week of camp this season. It’ll be bonding time for the Blackhawks, who will send a smaller group for several practices there this week. Quenneville figures it’ll be a productive time. “We’ll get some bonding in, play golf together, have a nice outing, couple of road games and a nice campus.”

Nick Schmaltz's confidence, hold on second-line center, continues to grow

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USA TODAY

Nick Schmaltz's confidence, hold on second-line center, continues to grow

Nick Schmaltz seemed to be everywhere the puck was on Saturday night. Great pursuit of the puck, great passes to Patrick Kane or Alex DeBrincat and an all-around confidence that’s becoming more apparent by the game.

So has coach Joel Quenneville seen what he’s needed to from Schmaltz at second-line center?

“And more.”

It’s been a pretty impressive showing for Schmaltz this month. The 21-year-old has played in all three of the Blackhawks’ preseason games and keeps getting better in each one. The uncertainty Schmaltz understandably showed as a rookie is gone; the NHL game no longer feels uncomfortable.

“I feel like the game’s slowing down for me, just seeing plays,” Schmaltz said. “I know what I’m doing with the puck before I get it. It feels good and just trying to get better every day.”

Schmaltz and his fellow second liners didn’t connect for goals in the Blackhawks 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The three combined for 12 of the Blackhawks’ 54 shots on goal – Kane and DeBrincat each had five – and the chemistry continues to build between the three.

Jonathan Toews talked on Saturday morning of how much more relaxed Schmaltz looks with the puck now, and that was evident again later that night.

“He’s really starting to get comfortable physically at this level,” Toews said. “He thinks the game so well, puts himself in good spots, much like Kaner where he can skate with the puck and use his speed. He has his head up so he backs guys off. Those two were making great plays tonight and Brinksy was fitting in well. They couldn’t buy a goal but Schmaltzy’s getting better and better, and you’re’ seeing that calm poise that he has really come out the more he gets comfortable.”

Schmaltz was likely getting a second-line audition in some capacity this fall; the original thought was at left wing in the wake of Artemi Panarin’s trade. But Schmaltz has always felt at his best at center. He’s showing that. And more.

“It’s always fun to play no matter if it’s preseason or regular season," he said. "I’m always happy to play, especially when you’re playing with great players. I feel like I’m more comfortable in the middle, able to use my speed a little bit more, create more offense that way.

"I think it’s going well. Wherever I end up, I’ll be happy.”