Hawk Talk: Summer history class, peek into future

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Hawk Talk: Summer history class, peek into future

Monday, Aug. 9, 2010
11:08 PM

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

So how have I been giving myself a break over the summer from what turned into a nine-month hockey season (or was it 10-12, considering free agency, trades, and following the Cup)? Watching every one of the NHL Networks 35 years of Stanley Cup-clinching games, dating back to 1975, that theyve been airing each weeknight. Theyre all the way up to the 2000-2004 clinchers this week. The power of the DVR makes the games move even more quickly through the commercial breaks. But its been a good way to refresh the historical hockey memory bank of what the great teams were about, who was on them, and any common threads they shared (besides the postgame, Cup-hoisting emotions).

There is a lot of Scotty Bowman through the years, and even going back to his great Canadiens teams of the mid-to-late 70s, you can see the template that we saw in the Blackhawks championship. The handful of elite players. The one or two very good, if not great, defensive pairings. The third- and fourth-line guys who all contributed in their own ways. And while those traits are pretty common among every Cup winner, theres one quality the Bowman teams seemed to have that stood out above the rest: the puck possession style weve seen the Hawks employ the last couple of seasons. They looked a lot like the Red Wings and Penguins teams he won with. Yes, each of those teams also included a handful of highly-skilled offensive stars: Yzerman, Shanahan, Federov, and Lidstrom. Lemieux, Jagr, Coffey, Stevens, Tocchet and Mullen. Lafleur, Shutt, Robinson, and Lapointe. And thats not even getting into the leaders, grinders and unsung heroes any title team in any sport needs.

As great as the Drydens, Parents, and Fuhrs (and Espositos) were back in the day, these replays confirm how Patrick Roy took goaltending to the level and standard we see today. His athleticism and consistency in net raised the bar that the Belfours, Haseks, and Brodeurs had to pursue. But its interesting to also see how Bowman went from veteran Mike Vernon as his guy on Detroits97 Cup champs, to the relatively-untested Chris Osgood the next year. Its the opposite of what the Blackhawks will try to pull off now with the untested Antti Niemi gone after winning the Cup, and turning to the Cup-hungry veteran, Marty Turco.

The Blackhawks core that theyve wanted and needed to keep together remains, up front and on the blue line, and theyll have to take charge in carrying the momentum from the Cup out of the gate when they begin to defend in less than two months. As much as the kids who are replacing the departed depth guys may have earned the opportunity at Rockford, theres no doubt it will still be a learning process early on. Theyre capable of and certainly confident enough filling those spots, but a seamless transition for the likes of Skille, Dowell, Bickell, Stalberg, etc. might be a bit much to expect at the outset. They all have the upside, along with Kyle Beach, Shawn Lalonde, Marcus Kruger and others. This team will still be a force in the West, and the coaches are excited about the off-season moves creating new challenges that should keep the team hungry, with something to prove. The regular season ride will have a few more bumps, and the goal will be to have the newcomers continue to improve and hit their stride by next April, while at the same time having that Cup-winning core healthy and hungry.

There have been no repeat Cup winners since the lockout and the salary cap era began, and no champion the previous four years has gone through the level of turnover these Hawks have been forced to experience. That will be an incentive to the returning group, and with the moves Stan Bowman has been forced to make, hes added quality in restocking the farm. If some of his new and existing prospects reach or come close to - their upside, the franchise should keep contending for the Cup for several more seasons. Financial decisions will be a continuing process every year with the commitments theyve made to that core, and theyd at least want youthful, talented options. Whether its the guys getting opportunities this year cycling onto the roster, or a Morin, Leddy, Olsen, or Hayes being ready to step up down the road, they want and need to keep the minor league system strong, which it appears to be again. If you havent read some of the reviews of Jeremy Morins recent performance at the U-20 Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, look it up.

Stan Bowman recently revealed some additional maneuvers he was forced to make around last seasons salary cap to keep the roster as deep as it was, knowing it would make this off-seasons job more difficult. The call he made paid off in the end. His busy summer job is over. The curiosity about how good the defenders of the Cup will be, is only beginning.
Stay with CSNChicago.com and watch SportsNite on Friday and Saturday, as we travel to Buffalo and share Patrick Kanes day with the Stanley Cup

Johnny Oduya feeling better, more up to speed with Blackhawks

Johnny Oduya feeling better, more up to speed with Blackhawks

Perhaps the best thing about the Johnny Oduya trade back to the Blackhawks, for both parties involved, was that Oduya wasn't needed immediately.

It's not that the Blackhawks didn't want the veteran defenseman, who helped them win Cups in 2013 and 2015, back in the lineup as soon as possible. Oduya was coming off an ankle injury, one he re-aggravated and missed about a month when he was with the Dallas Stars. He needed time to fully heal and with the Blackhawks in good shape in the standings and with solid depth at defense, he could.

Now with the playoffs right around the corner, Oduya is feeling more like himself.

Outside of missing two games that were the second halves of back-to-backs, Oduya has been playing steadily since March 9. Oduya's minutes have ranged from around 16 to 21 in games. He said he's now 100 percent healthy from his injury and he's feeling the difference on the ice.

"It makes a big difference," Oduya said on Thursday, prior to facing the Stars for the first time since his trade back to Chicago. "I mean, obviously sometimes you get more or less lucky, depending on what you get and the style of play and what you do or not. Skating is a part of my game I try to use as much as possible to get in good position and try to take away time from the opposition as much as possible.

"Even with battling and things like that, of course it's nice to feel more confident," Oduya added. "In any situation, you're in you want to feel confident on the ice."

The Blackhawks have seen that confidence in previous postseason runs and are looking to see it again in Oduya. Coach Joel Quenneville considers Oduya, "Mr. Reliability."

"You look back at what he delivered for us, not just the regular season, but he's been solid and reliable in the playoffs. He's assumed some important matchups and important minutes," Quenneville said. "Last year, we didn't have him on the back end and watching him this year, it was the perfect fit him coming back."

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The Blackhawks' defensive group hasn't changed much since Oduya's first stint here. The system probably hasn't been altered much, either. Still, Oduya's not taking anything for granted and is trying to get back on the same page quickly.

"Same as the last time I came into a great hockey team and I really just want to get up to speed and up to date as quickly as possible," Oduya said. "Little things that may have changed. I want to fit in as well as I can. That's the idea anyone has coming in late in the year. The guys here make it pretty easy; the coaching staff is familiar with the way I play and helps speed up things a little more."

The Blackhawks are trying to be their best heading into the postseason. So is Oduya. He needed a little extra time to get back to health and he may still need a little time to get back to speed, but he's just about there. 

"I feel pretty good. Of course it's a lot easier when you have guys around you you've seen before, a coaching staff," Oduya said. "It's a work in progress, anyway. I want to be better, I want to evolve with the team and want us to be better, too. It's a work in progress."

Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Stars: Another slow start but better finish

Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Stars: Another slow start but better finish

It wasn't pretty, but the Blackhawks found a way to pick up another two points and improved to 6-0-1 over their last seven games, and 18-3-1 over their last 22.

With Minnesota's loss to Philadelphia, the Blackhawks have taken an eight-point lead for first in the Central Division and are only two points away from the Washington Capitals for home-ice advantage throughout the entire Stanley Cup playoffs.

Let's take a look at Quick Hits from the 3-2 shootout victory over the Dallas Stars on Thursday night:

What Worked: The finish and shootout. While the Blackhawks scored the game's first goal, it was another slow start by a team that has had a few of those over the last several outings and has preached working on turning in more of a complete effort. They recorded only 14 shots on goal in the first two periods, and it took more than six minutes after Patrick Kane's goal to record their next one.

But they finished on a positive note yet again, and went 2-for-3 in the shootout thanks to Kane and Artemi Panarin, who potted the game winner. Kane said after the game that he tried his move on Scott Darling during morning skate and it worked. So he went with it tonight in an effort to snap a mini shootout drought and he did.

What Didn't Work: Controlling the puck. The Blackhawks seemingly have the puck more than their opponent does almost every game, but it doesn't reflect in the shot department because they often look for the perfect pass or shot and fail to record one at all. They had 50 shot attempts with 26 of them on goal compared to the Stars' 64 attempts with 44 on goal. They know they must get better at that.

Star of the game: Corey Crawford. After allowing four goals on only 10 shots in Tuesday's overtime loss to Vancouver, the Blackhawks netminder bounced back in a huge way. He matched a season-high with 42 saves, and recorded his 30th win of the season.

He Said It: "He played amazing tonight. Reason we won the game. Hats off to him, he's done that a lot this year. For a goalie it's probably tough to show up every night, even the goals he let in last game you can't put all the blame on him, but he was outstanding tonight." — Kane on Crawford's performance

By the Numbers:

167 — Niklas Hjalmarsson blocked one shot in the win, and it was enough to set a new career high in that department, previously established during the 2010-11 campaign (166).

15 — Trevor van Riemsyk assisted on Marian Hossa's goal in the third period, giving him a career-high 15 points on the season in 50 games. He had 14 points in 82 games last year. He also extended his point streak to three games.

6 — With the victory, Crawford has earned at least 30 wins in six of his seven NHL seasons as a full-time starter. The only time he didn't reach that mark was during the lockout-shortened year in 2012-13 when he went 19-5-5.