Hawk Talk: From Stanley Cup Final media day

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Hawk Talk: From Stanley Cup Final media day

Thursday, May 27, 2010
8:45 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO Its unlike anything seen before on the hockey side of the United Center, the NHLs media elite all concentrated in one spot on the west side of Chicago, gathered for the 2010 Stanley Cup media day.

Many players enjoyed their own private interview space, up on risers and sitting at tables that looked like the NHLs answer to gear cases packed and unpacked by music roadies. Less prominent stars shared tables in the middle of the roomcase in point, Chicagos bruiser table of Adam Burish, Brent Sopel and Ben Eager.

The Blackhawks strolled out in matching, numbered black pullovers for their session at 1:15 p.m., while Philadelphia hit the tables in crossing-guard orange hoodies at 3. Here are some highlights from the days chatter:

Stan Bowman, Blackhawks GM
On acquiring Marian Hossa: More than anything, he played a style that we were trying to instill in some of our younger guys, which is he plays both ends of the ice. Weve seen that in the playoffs. Hes contributed offensively, but when you watch the game closely, you notice that he does all those little things so well. It has rubbed off on some of our younger players Im sure Joel Quenneville would agree that its not always easy to get your most skilled players to play as hard as Marian does away from the puck and coming back in his own end. So we knew if we ever had a chance to get a player like Marian, we would rally have to make a hard push.

Dustin Byfuglien, Blackhawks forward
Id like to lace em up right now and get going.

I think we match up with Philadelphia very well.

Laughing about his newfound fame: Yep, I just woke up one day and decided to go to work and become famous.

On his weight, a curious emphasis during his session: People are going to ask until Im done playing. Its kind of funny to hear all of the different numbers. Im going to let you guys keep guessing.

Marian Hossa, Blackhawks forward
When you look around at all this here today, you see everything being put under a microscope. But its still the same game.

On his goal drought: It makes me angry, but four more wins is whats most important right now.

On Media Day: Its the same thing that happens in the dressing room but now wearing a nice hoodie in comfortable seats.

On coming to the Blackhawks: When Chicago called me on the first day and talked to my agent, I had a really good feeling. I was looking to make one team my home, so I said to my agent, I think this is it.

On Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville: Q played the game and understands players. He keeps the dressing room loose, and not every coach does that. He is fired up before each game, but he never loses control. He looks pretty relaxed to me all of the time.

On taking pride in being a two-way player: I like to be speedy. Thats my game. When I have a chance to catch a player from behind, I like to steal those pucks.

Ian Laperriere, Flyers center
On the serious facial injury he suffered blocking a Paul Martin shot in Game 5 of the quarterfinals: It bruised my brain. But I was lucky. It bruised the front of my brain, which doesnt do anything. Thats the one place you want to get hit.

On his decision to adapt his game from sheer scoring: Guys who were way more talented didnt want to change. Theyre doing something else now. Not to sound arrogant, but Im 36 and still playing.
Chris Pronger, Flyers defenseman
Youre only as good as your last game. As fast as you can get a pat on the back you can get a pat on the bumand a push out the door.

If were just happy to be here, maybe we should go home.

The key to winning? Its knowing in the locker room you can win every game you go after.

At the end of the day, its just a hockey game. Youve gotta go out and find a way to win.

Im not ever done learning in this game. When youre done learning, you should probably get out of the game.

On similarities between Chicago and Philadelphia: Both teams play with an edge and play fast, without sacrificing defense.

On being the underdogs: The people who arent picking us, theres a reason theyre there and were here The pundits havent been kind to us to begin with.
On Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, who coached him with the St. Louis Blues: Right from the get-go he wanted to mentor me. Hes a guy who played with a good stick. He helped my game enormously. Hes a defensemans defenseman.

Dismissing the challenge Byfuglien creates: I can go down the list of guys in this league who are pretty big.

On how to stop a player of Dustin Byfugliens size: Do you honestly think Im gonna tell you?

Patrick Sharp, Blackhawks forward
On when his game face for Saturday gets fixed on: Pretty much when this interview is over.

On the Blackhawks bad old days: It wasnt as bad as people are making it out to be.

Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks center
Its felt like the longest week ever waiting for this game on Saturday night. But were looking forward to it. Well be ready for it. Were just trying to save our energy for now and not get too jacked up.

The entire hockey world is watching this. These are the type of games you love to play in. Its a fun thing to be a part of.

We've got an entire city behind us. We feel like this is the year for us, and we're going to throw everything we can at Philadelphia."

Win those small battles and you might win the war. Thats what well focus on. Nothing to get excited about.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

After trading Scott Darling, can the Blackhawks find another reliable backup goalie?

After trading Scott Darling, can the Blackhawks find another reliable backup goalie?

What we all expected to happen did happen on Friday night when the Blackhawks traded Scott Darling to the Carolina Hurricanes.

One way or another, be it via trade or just going to unrestricted free agency on July 1, Darling was headed elsewhere. He’s earned the opportunity to be a No. 1 goaltender, it wasn’t going to happen here, and now he’ll get that chance.

But this isn’t about where Darling’s career takes him from this point. This is about the Blackhawks and where they go from here. They’ve been in the enviable position of having some stellar backup goaltenders the past few seasons, from Ray Emery to Antti Raanta to Darling. So as this offseason continues, finding another one becomes top priority.

A few days ago Pat Boyle and I discussed a few topics on the HawksTalk Podcast, including what we considered to be on general manager Stan Bowman’s to-do list this summer. Getting a reliable backup goaltender has to be on there because the Blackhawks have shown over the past few seasons that having that great 1-2 punch in net has proven very successful.

Let’s go back to the 2013 offseason. In the summer of 2013 the Blackhawks signed two goaltenders. One was Nikolai Khabibulin, the other Raanta. We all remember how that went. Khabibulin, another former Blackhawks player brought in on the hopes that he had something left, didn’t. He started four games — two of which Corey Crawford came in and finished — suffered an injury in mid November and never played another game for the Blackhawks. Then on Dec. 8, Crawford, playing in his 27th game of the Blackhawks’ first 32 games of that season, got hurt. Enter Raanta, who went on a tear through December, going 8-1-3. That season highlights the need for reliable depth at that position more than any in recent memory.

You’re familiar with the other examples, too. Emery was outstanding when he had to be in the lockout-shortened 2013 regular season — please see that 45-stop outing vs. Calgary — and he and Crawford earned the William M. Jennings Trophy that year. Darling showed how dependable he could be several times the past few seasons, from his work in the 2015 first-round series against the Nashville Predators to his record (6-3-1) when Crawford was out with appendicitis through the first three weeks of last December.

That depth at goaltending has been especially critical the past two seasons. How many “goalie wins” did the Blackhawks have through the 2015-16 season, when they struggled to get consistent line combinations past their second one? How many did they have at the start of this past season before they did get that four-line rotation in February?

Crawford has played between 55 and 59 games in each full regular season dating back to 2010-11. Injuries happen. Slumps happen. Being overworked happens. Having a backup on which you can rely is something every team would love to have and something the Blackhawks have had recently, and they’ve benefitted from it.

It’s easy for us to sit here and say the Blackhawks need to do this. Actually finding that guy is an entirely different matter. But the Blackhawks have done it well lately, and despite the team’s quick exit this spring, there are still plenty of reasons for a would-be backup goaltender to come to Chicago.

Darling was the latest to embrace the backup goaltending role in his time here. His moving on was inevitable. Now the Blackhawks need to find the next guy who can keep their 1-2 punch in net going.

Why Scott Darling is a perfect fit for Hurricanes

Why Scott Darling is a perfect fit for Hurricanes

Chicago will always be home for Scott Darling. Literally.

He's a Lemont native who grew up rooting for the Blackhawks, signed with the franchise in 2014 and reignited his career by winning over the backup job, and enjoyed the highest level of success by becoming the first local kid to win a Stanley Cup in Chicago.

But as he said at the end of the season, Darling has paid his dues as a backup in the NHL and is ready for the next step of being a No. 1 goaltender.

The Blackhawks gave him that opportunity Friday, shipping his negotiating rights to the Carolina Hurricanes for a third-round pick in 2017.

And, assuming a long-term extension gets done, the fit couldn't be better for both Darling and Carolina.

The Hurricanes play such a structured game under Bill Peters, who is arguably the most underrated coach in the league. He served as the head coach for the Blackhawks' AHL affiliate Rockford IceHogs for three seasons from 2008-11, and was also part of Mike Babcock's coaching staff in Detroit for three years after that. He comes from a solid coaching branch. 

Peters preaches puck possession and team defense, and both categories have excelled during his tenure in Carolina.

Why is this good news for Darling? Because both of those areas have been vital in all three of the Blackhawks' championship runs this decade, meaning there won't be much of an adjustment schematically.

Over the last three seasons combined, the Hurricanes have been the sixth-best possession team in the league (controlling 51.7 percent of the even-strength shot attempts), have allowed the second-fewest shots on goal per game (27.7) and own the second-ranked penalty kill unit (84.4 percent success rate). 

Defense and dictating the pace of play has never been a problem for the Hurricanes; it's the goaltending that's been a sore thumb for a long time, and they've finally addressed it.

In the last three seasons, Carolina has finished 28th, 29th and 29th in even-strength team save percentage at 90.9 (2015), 91.5 (2016) and 91.2 (2017). This past regular season, only two goaltenders — Craig Anderson (94.0) and Vezina Trophy-favorite Sergei Bobrovsky (93.9) — who appeared in at least 30 games had a better 5-on-5 save percentage than Darling, who recorded a 93.7 percentage.

He is a significant upgrade from Eddie Lack ($2.75 million cap hit) and Cam Ward ($3.3 million), both of whom are under contract through 2017-18. (That's a situation Carolina GM Ron Francis will have to sort out as the expansion draft approaches, but there's no doubt Darling will head into training camp as the clear-cut starter).

There's reason to be excited about the Hurricanes' long-term vision and growth on the back end, too. They were the third-youngest team last year, and their blue line group is led by 25-year-old All-Star Justin Faulk and 20-year-old Noah Hanifin, the club's No. 5 overall draft pick in 2015.

The Hurricanes are right there. They're ready to take off after missing out on the postseason for eight consecutive years, in large part because they haven't gotten the goaltending needed to consistently win games.

With the addition of Darling, they hope to have finally found that missing piece to the puzzle.