Hawk Talk: Meaty, middle portions of Circus Trip

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Hawk Talk: Meaty, middle portions of Circus Trip

Sunday, Nov. 21, 2010
4:00 p.m.

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

After what happened 24 hours earlier in Calgary, Blackhawks fans needed a chuckle, and the team probably needed some affirmation. Leave it to the Canucks to provide just that. While we in Chicago might still wonder just what we have in these Blackhawks, the loyalists in the beautiful town in B.C. are probably wondering the same thing, just when they thought they made moves that would end in an ultimate celebration in that franchise's 40th anniversary.

6-0-1 at home. Seventeen points for the Sedins the previous four games. Newly acquired depth and skill on defense and some sandpaper and grit to stack behind two talented top lines. Result? Blackhawks 7, Canucks 1.

First Alain Vigneault had to pull Roberto Luongo (again) before the second period was out. He had to watch Sharp, Toews, and Kane score, and Hossa set up three of the four that chased his goaltender. Then he had to watch the Hawks' depth guys he thought they could neutralize this season light it up, too. It got to the point of frustration afterward that he mistakenly tried to call out Joel Quenneville for trying to run up the score further on a 5-on-3 while his Nuck-leheads were marching to the penalty box. Sorry, Alain, but double-check who actually was on the ice, and what the real top two Hawks power play units look like. You have our respect as a coach for just reaching 300 wins, but still, none of them have come against the Hawks in your two meetings this season. The season you didn't have to worry about Dustin Byfuglien four (or more) times and Ladd and Versteeg joining Dave Bolland to torment your top line.

Now, the Hawks move on on this trip to face the other Western contender who's been under their thumb the last couple of seasons. San Jose so far is, well, still San Jose. 9-6-4. Just when a convincing third straight win at home over Los Angeles last weekend gets people thinking they might be ready to get it together, they blow a 3-1 lead at Colorado to lose in overtime, then a 4-2 lead with three minutes left in Dallas to lose in overtime. They returned home Saturday night and got blanked 3-0 by a Columbus team that's believing more and more in itself, courtesy of Rick Nash's three goals and Mathieu Garon's third shutout.

Coach Todd McLellan never got a veteran, skilled replacement for Rob Blake following his retirement, though GM Doug Wilson made a bid for Niklas Hjlamarsson. Now these front offices, teams, Hjalmarsson, and, potentially, Antti Niemi cross paths for the first time since the Hawks swept the Sharks last May to punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals. McLellan has an interesting decision to make in goal. Antero Niittymaki was in net Saturday night, Niemi for the late collapse in Dallas. Niittymaki's been much better, and the team has played better in front of him, than Niemi. But does he hope to get Niemi on track by starting him versus his ex-teammates? It would certainly fire the Hawks up. But if they happen to light up Niemi like they did Luongo and the Canucks, the opposite could happen and Niemi might never get on track this season.

On the other hand, will Quenneville decide a second straight start could be in order for Corey Crawford, who's been getting better with each spot start and seems unfazed by what's generally been once-a-week playing time? If Niemi starts, it provides an appetizing storyline either way. He'd be facing the man who was signed to replace him in Marty Turco, or the goalie he barely edged out in backup competition to Cristobal Huet in training camp a year ago.

Chris Boden is the host of Blackhawks Pre- and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet.

It’s a business, but Blackhawks still feel sting of emotional deals

It’s a business, but Blackhawks still feel sting of emotional deals

Coach Joel Quenneville stood in the United Center hallway, summing up what had been a difficult Friday.

“Very emotional deals,” he said on Saturday morning, as Day 2 of the NHL Draft commenced. “A lot to process there.”

Indeed, the Blackhawks had a busy and difficult day on Friday, trading defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to Arizona and swapping Artemi Panarin and Brandon Saad in a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Quenneville was seen by media leaving a coaches meeting in between the Hjalmarsson and Panarin/Saad trades on Friday morning and he wasn’t at the Blackhawks’ table on Friday, unusual for the opening night of the draft. But he said his absence wasn’t about the trades.

“Not at all,” he said.

Still, as Quenneville said, big moves are a lot to process, even for a team that’s done its share of shedding players since the 2010 offseason. General manager Stan Bowman said Friday was filled with, “high emotions… when you make some difficult decisions.” Jonathan Toews said on Friday night that, “everyone’s kind of shocked” by recent events, including Marian Hossa’s loss. Toews added he was wary of saying the team was better today, out of respect for departed players.

“It’s hard to sit there and say that without sounding like you’re being disrespectful to two teammates you care for and know were huge parts of the team,” he said.

We talk about the business side of hockey all the time. You make the tough decisions and then you move forward. But there’s a human element to all of this that’s easy to forget. Players, especially those who are with an organization for a long time as Hjalmarsson was, make their impact on and off the ice. Teammates and coaches are spending endless amounts of time together, and those bonds, coupled with what they all go through during regular seasons and Stanley-Cup runs, endure. Saying goodbye is difficult.

For Quenneville, seeing Hjalmarsson leave was very difficult.

“Well, certainly Hammer, he’s one of those heart-and-soul guys and was instrumental in winning some championships for us. You feel for him and what he meant to his team and his teammates and fans here and the city of Chicago. He’s one of those guys that you have an appreciation to watch and see how he competes and knowing what he fights through to stay on the ice in a lot of games. He’s a heart-and-souler. Those guys are hard to see go,” Quenneville said. “Bread Man wasn’t here long enough to really get that consistency over term. But Hammer really did give a lot to the organization. And we are very appreciative of the Bread Man, because he could wow us and entertain us and a great kid, as well.”

Still, there’s the positive side. Quenneville and Toews are thrilled to have Saad back in the fold. Toews and Saad had great chemistry, the first time around and Quenneville said he’ll put those two together to start the season – “I know that [Patrick Kane] finds a way to make it happen, no matter who’s playing at center or on his left. It really adds a one-two punch that hopefully we get consistency and predictability in that area,” Quenneville said.

Saad should also help fill at least some of the void left from Hossa.

It’s another offseason during which the Blackhawks are feeling the losses, professionally as well as personally. You process, you deal with the sting and then you proceed. That’s the business.

“As a coach, we’re in the short-term business, we’re thinking about now,” Quenneville said. “So we’re going to do everything we can to better ourselves right now and looking to win today. And that’s our challenge and that’s what we look at.”

Blackhawks 2017 NHL Draft capsules: Scouting reports

Blackhawks 2017 NHL Draft capsules: Scouting reports

A recap of the Blackhawks' selections in the 2017 NHL Draft, and their scouting reports, including analysis from Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman and VP of amateur scouting Mark Kelley:

Round 1, pick 29: Henri Jokiharju, Finnish defenseman

Round 2, pick 57: Ian Mitchell, defenseman 

— What you need to know: Mitchell, 18, scored eight goals and added 29 assists in 53 regular-season games with the Spruce Grove Saints of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, and also scored a goal and recorded three assists in 10 playoff contests.

— Scouting report: Mitchell is a little undersized (5-foot-11, 165 pounds), but is known to be a smooth skater and puck-mover. He carries a right-handed shot, which GM Stan Bowman said is a "commodity" in the NHL these days.

— Analysis from Bowman: "He's got a high skill set. He's not the biggest guy, but he's got great competitiveness, speed, skating, he's got quick hands. We like that part of it."

Round 3, pick 70: Andrei Altybarmakyan, Russian forward

— What you need to know: Altybarmakyan, 18, had 20 goals and 25 assists in 31 regular-season games with the Serebryanye Lvy St. Petersburg of the Maritime Hockey League. He also tallied nine points in 27 games with SKA-Neva St. Petersburg.

— Scouting report: An offensively skilled player with a sneaky good shot. He's 5-foot-11, 183 pounds with a left-handed shot, and is known to be a playmaker.

— Analysis from Kelley: "We started watching him last year's draft. We didn't watch him hard, but he popped up in a few of the international tournaments and we had reports on him. Then going into this year, his name kept coming up, we spent a lot of time at St. Petersburg to see him, we actually brought him into Chicago to get to know him a little bit. Just the way he plays the game, his personality is contagious. We're really excited about him."

— Analysis from Bowman: "He's a real electrifying-type player. His skill set is, he's got great speed, offensive skill, he's a competitive guy too, he's not afraid to throw some body checks. He plays an up-tempo style. He's maybe a little bit off the radar for some people, but we were very impressed with him. I think he's got a chance to be a real special player."

Round 3, pick 90: Evan Barratt, center

— What you need to know: Barratt, 18, scored 18 goals and added 38 assists in 63 games this past season for USA's national under-18 team, and also registered a goal and five assists in seven games to help USA win the gold medal in the IIHF Under 18 World Championships. He will play for Penn State in 2017-18.

— Scouting report: Barratt's biggest strength is his hockey IQ, and playing hard in all three zones on the ice. He's 5-foot-11, 187 pounds, has a left-handed shot and says he models his game after Derrick Brassard.

— Analysis from Kelley: "Every shift, every practice he plays all out. His teammates love him and his opponents don't."

— Analysis from Bowman: "I think the fans here are really going to like what they see from him. Real competitive. Ultra competitive player. He's got skill too, so I don't want to sell him short in that department, but I think the thing we like the most is the way he battles really hard. It was great to see him, he was pretty emotional getting picked, you can tell he wants it pretty bad and I think that's the one quality about him that we like the most."

Round 4, pick 112: Tim Soderlund, Swedish forward

— What you need to know: Soderlund, 19, scored three goals and added four assists in 39 games last season for Skelleftea of the Swedish Hockey League.

— Scouting report: He's an undersized (5-foot-9, 163 pounds) versatile forward with a left-handed shot who's known for his speed, and isn't afraid to go into the dirty areas.

— Analysis from Kelley: "He's energetic. If you go to the game but I didn't tell you who he was, you'd find him. He plays hard, he plays inside. He's not a big guy, but he attacks."

Round 4, pick 119: Roope Laavainen, Finnish defenseman

— What you need to know: Laavainen, 18, had five goals and 16 assists in 48 games last season for Jokerit's under-20 team.

— Analysis from Kelley: "We thought this year, the strides he made from September through April, he just kept coming and coming. He has good size, another right-handed shot, he skates well, he plays really well with his partner."

Round 5, pick 144: Parker Foo, forward

— What you need to know: Foo, 18, had 34 goals and 32 assists in 60 regular-season games with the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, and also added 10 goals and 10 assists in 13 playoff contests. He will play for Union College in 2017-18.

— Scouting report: Foo is 6-foot-1, 170 pounds and carries a left-handed shot. He prides himself on being a reliable two-way player and be responsible defensively. 

Round 5, pick 150: Jakub Galvas, Czech defenseman

— What you need to know: Galvas, 18, scored one goal and added five assists in 36 regular-season games with HC Olomouc of the Czech league.

Scouting report: Galvas is a 5-foot-11, 165-pound right-handed shot defenseman who can be effective both on offense and defense, and contribute on the power play, too.

Round 7, pick 215: Josh Ess, defenseman

— What you need to know: Ess, 18, had two goals and 11 assists in 18 regular-season games with Team Southwest in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League before potting eight goals and 20 assists in 23 regular-season games with Lakeville South High, where he also added three goals and two assists in three playoff tilts.

— Additional info: Ess, who's 5-foot-11, 183 pounds, will play college hockey next season at Wisconsin, where he will be coached by Tony Granato — older brother of Blackhawks newly-hired assistant Don.

— Analysis from Kelley: "He has very good instincts and skates really well."