Chicago Blackhawks

Blackhawks bonus: Defense has a 'strong night'

645916.png

Blackhawks bonus: Defense has a 'strong night'

Getting points isnt the top priority for defensemen, but any that they can get is certainly a bonus.

And for the Chicago Blackhawks, bonuses abounded on Wednesday night.

Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook each had two assists, as the Blackhawks defensemen were prevalent on the score sheet in their 6-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night. Five of the six Blackhawks defensemen got at least a point on Wednesday, as their shots turned into several goals.

But Keith said it was about the guys in front as much as it was the ones in back.

I think the lanes were there; we got our shots on net and we had traffic in front, he said. It was a good job by the D to get our shots through but we have (Andrew Shaw) in front, (Jonathan) Toews in front battling. That makes a difference. We knew we were playing fine. We just stuck with it.

It was Nick Leddys third consecutive game with an assist. Keith, meanwhile, is now fifth in assists (24) and 10th in points (26) among NHL defensemen.

Be it on the power play or even strength, the defensemen were shooting. And the guys in front were turning them into goals.

Our D across the board had one of their better games all year, coach Joel Quenneville said. They were very active in the attack: odd-man breaks, support off the attack. Our shots on the power play were better because we were shooting from the point. It was a strong night.

Tommy Wingels on 'cloud nine' getting to suit up for hometown Blackhawks

tommywingels.png
AP

Tommy Wingels on 'cloud nine' getting to suit up for hometown Blackhawks

Tommy Wingels remembers his Chicago youth hockey days. A native of Wilmette, Wingels said the leagues were pretty good then but nothing like the opportunities area kids have to play hockey here now.

“This city has so many youth programs, so much ability for kids to play at every level. If they want to travel, pursue it professionally, if they want to go to college or they just want to enjoy it because their buddies play it. You can do it everywhere around here, and it’s such a unique aspect,” said Wingels. “I think the expectation has changed now. Kids think everyone can make it now. Back then, nobody thought they would make it.”

Count Wingels among those who wasn’t sure he’d make it. But he did, and on July 1 he made a childhood dream come true when he signed a one-year deal with the Blackhawks. Wingels was elated when Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville called him about his potential signing. The details of those calls? Well, those are a little sketchy.

“I don’t even remember half the stuff they said to me because you’re on cloud nine and you’re saying, ‘Yeah, when can we sign and where?’” Wingels said at the Blackhawks convention on Saturday. “My wife commented on how big of a smile I had [walking] off our porch and back into the living room. It was very exciting.”

As a kid growing up in the Chicago area, Wingels played plenty of travel hockey. He watched the Blackhawks when he could, trying to catch what games were on television at that time. But the thought of playing in the NHL, let alone suiting up for the Blackhawks someday, wasn’t in his mind at that time.

“I wouldn’t say until the middle of high school did I ever think playing professional hockey was a possibility,” Wingels said. “Coming into high school you think college might be one [possibility]. But not until then did I ever talk about it or think about it.”

Wingels said he talked to a good deal of teams in 2006, the first year he was eligible for the NHL Draft, but he wasn’t selected that summer or the next. It wasn’t until the 2008 NHL Entry Draft that former Blackhawks defenseman/now San Jose general manager Doug Wilson picked Wingels, then playing for Miami University, in the sixth round. Wingels was a steady presence for five-plus seasons with the Sharks, putting up career numbers in goals (16), assists (22) and points (38) in the 2013-14 season. Wingels is forever grateful to Wilson for the opportunity.

“He’s the No. 1 reason why I’ve had an NHL career,” Wingels said. “[He had] the confidence to draft me and he was extremely patient in developing me through my years at Miami. He’s one of the best guys I’ve met in the game and I’ve enjoyed all the interactions we’ve had with him. He’s a guy I’ll definitely keep in touch with while I’m here and for many years.”

On the ice, Wingels should help the Blackhawks’ penalty kill and add some necessary grit – “bring in some sandpaper, finish checks and at the same time chip in some goals, all kind of things I think [Quenneville] and Stan expect me to bring here,” he said. Wingels has gone on long postseason runs (2016 Stanley Cup final with the Sharks and the 2017 Eastern Conference final with the Ottawa Senators), and he can be another veteran voice and presence for the Blackhawks’ young players.

“Your star players will lead and be the best players that they are. But for a young guy coming up on the third or fourth line sometimes it’s tough for those guys to relate to the star players, not because what the star players do but they’re guys who are up and down and they’re guys who have different roles. [I’ll] be a part of that group who can help transition the young players, who can play a similar role to some of those other players and be a sounding board for guys as well. I’m 29 now. I feel young but somehow I’ve become a veteran. So I’ll just try to help out any way I can.”

As excited as Wingels is to be home, he said his family may be more so. His parents, Bob and Karen, get to spend more time with Wingels’ 1 ½-year old daughter. The Wingels are close to Scott Darling’s family, and know from the Darlings how great it was to have their son play here.

Wingels grew up wondering how far hockey would take him. Now it’s bringing him back home.

“It didn’t take long to decide this is where we want to be. My wife is extremely happy – she lived here a couple of years out of college and knows the city very well – and I have a ton of friends here with my family being from here,” Wingels said. “It’s going to be a fun year for us and I can’t wait to get started.”

What a difference a year makes: Blackhawks sign goaltender Collin Delia

collindelia.png
USA TODAY

What a difference a year makes: Blackhawks sign goaltender Collin Delia

One year ago Collin Delia had just wrapped up his first Blackhawks prospect camp, hoping to improve off a sophomore season at Merrimack College where he struggled in net.

Fast forward to this summer and Delia, who responded in a major way as a junior, is now joining the professional ranks after signing a two-year deal with the Blackhawks on Friday, the team announced.

After playing well in limited ice time as a freshman, Delia became the full-time starter for the Warriors as a sophomore. But he had his growing pains in a new role, going just 8-12-6 while allowing 2.96 GAA. That number ranked 12th of 15 in the Hockey East League, and his .889 save percentage ranked dead last.

But Delia's struggles as a sophomore were non-existent as he returned to Merrimack for his junior season. He rose from the bottom to the top of the conference in save percentage (.927) and ranked third in GAA (2.15). His GAA ranked 14th in the nation and his save percentage ranked 9th nationally.

He recorded three shutouts (he had none as a sophomore), including a 33-save performance in a 2-0 road victory over Wisconsin, and was named a Hockey East Third Team All-Star.

The Blackhawks clearly noticed his improvements as a junior as he arrived last week for his second round of Blackhawks prospect camp.

Last year the Blackhawks signed Alexandre Fortin out of prospect camp. As Insider Tracey Myers wrote last week, Fortin could force his way onto the Blackhawks roster this summer.