Hawk Talk: 'Nuck, 'Nuck, Look Who's There

Hawk Talk: 'Nuck, 'Nuck, Look Who's There

Friday, April 30, 2010
8:03 PM

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

If the Canucks keep scoring 4.17 goals per playoff game (as they did in the first round versus Los Angeles), any questions about whether Roberto Luongo can goaltend his team into a conference final for the first time in his career won't matter. And Antti Niemi will feel at least some of Luongo's pain after the Blackhawks' seven-goal Game 6 clincher last May.

Niemi and the Hawks' defense were good against Nashville. You don't get two shutouts without being good. But you're also not great if you're blowing 3-1 leads in back-to-back games en route to victories that closed out that series. No one needs to tell them the Canucks aren't (with all due respect) the Predators.

Alain Vigneault decided it was ex-Red Wing Mikael Samuelsson "on" and Alex Burrows "off" the Sedin Line going into the Kings series. The result? 12 goals, 29 points from that line alone! The Hawks' top guns seemed to feel their way around what the Predators gave them for three games, and bravely faced the criticisms as panic began to creep into Hawk Nation. They acknowledged they needed to do better, then went out and were.

Toews, Hossa, and Sharp combined for no goals and four assists those first three games (while Patrick Kane still managed a pair of goals and a helper). Then they went out and delivered the knockout punch the final three games, the trio delivering six goals and 18 points.

More times than not, however, these series need that surprise "X" Factor (especially when you're only killing 16 of 26 penalties). Vancouver got that with Steve Bernier - 11 goals in the regular season, four in six games against L.A. If the Hawks aren't killing all but one penalty over a series (and the Canucks' power play clicked on 21 percent in the regular season and 25 percent so far in the playoffs), an offensive breakout from a Bolland, Brouwer, Versteeg..or how about even Andrew Ladd?..would be a huge shot in the arm. Vancouver worked to add depth in the off-season so up to three lines could be dangerous. The Hawks already had it, to the point where all four could be legit threats. Dustin Byfuglien was their "X" Man in the series a year ago - not necessarily from a statistical standpoint, but setting a tone and message, and being a headache. Now he's back on a "fourth" line with Brouwer and John Madden. Wasn't it just two weeks ago that a fourth line including Colin Fraser and Ben Eager really carried this team into the post-season?

Luongo's post-Olympic performance included seeing five of 14 shots get past him in just 20 minutes at the United Center on March 5th. Since winning gold for Canada on his home sheet and telling Kane he wanted to see him in the playoffs again, his goals-against average was above 3, and his save percentage below .900. Things didn't seem to be going much better through less than four full games (including an early exit and two partial overtime periods) against the Kings. But do you look at the 13 shots that got past him in that time, or the fact nine were power play goals? Or both? He tightened up to help the 'Nucks close it out, allowing only a pair each in Games Five and Six. Is he back on track - just in time for this rematch that he and all of his teammates have been obsessed with over the past year?

I've used the phrase before this season; Things Change. And quickly. For the Hawks, just go back to last Saturday's game. Or Monday's first period.

Both of these teams are legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. The one that doesn't find the 'Next Level' is going to be awfully heartbroken in less than two weeks. The only certainty is it'll be fun, and tense, in between.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: What's on Stan Bowman's offseason to-do list?

stan_bowman.jpg
USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: What's on Stan Bowman's offseason to-do list?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast Tracey Myers and Pat Boyle discuss Stan Bowman’s season-ending presser, the coaching dismissals of Mike Kitchen and Ted Dent, plus what are Bowman’s top 3 things, on his offseason to-do list?

Also, Tracey plays the Blackhawks roster game, part of their future or unclear.

Listen to the Hawks Talk Podcast below. 

Blackhawks' Trevor van Riemsdyk to play for USA at 2017 World Championship

Blackhawks' Trevor van Riemsdyk to play for USA at 2017 World Championship

Trevor van Riemsdyk has accepted Team USA's invitation to represent his country at the 2017 IIHF World Championship, the club announced Wednesday.

It will be his first career appearance in the tournament, which begins May 5 and runs until May 21 in Cologne, Germany and Paris, France.

Van Riemsdyk joins Danny DeKeyser, Noah Hanifin, Charlie McAvoy, Connor Murphy and Jacob Trouba as NHL defensemen to join the Americans' blue line group. The roster also includes Jimmy Howard, Dylan Larkin, Anders Lee and Brock Nelson, and sits at 22 players (12 forwards, seven defensemen and three goaltenders).

The 25-year-old Blackhawks defenseman set career highs with five goals, 11 assists, 16 points and a plus-17 rating in 58 games during his third professional season. He missed six weeks with an upper-body injury at the beginning of the year.

The Blackhawks' deep postseason runs and an opportunity to rest from them have prevented players from going in years past, but an early exit in the Stanley Cup playoffs gives them a chance to play for their countries — especially with the league already announcing its lack of participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Marcus Kruger (Sweden) and Artemi Panarin (Russian) are the only two other Blackhawks participating in the tournament, having accepted their countries' offers. Patrick Kane recently declined after giving it serious consideration.