Chicago Blackhawks

Hawks inch one step closer to a playoff berth

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Hawks inch one step closer to a playoff berth

Friday, April 8, 2011
Posted: 9:06 p.m. Updated: 11:55 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

DETROIT The Blackhawks dressing room was quiet before Friday nights game against the Red Wings. Defenseman Brian Campbell said that could have had two very different meanings.

Either A: Youre not ready or, B: We knew what was at stake and we knew what we needed to do, he said. Im glad it was option No. 2.

Campbell scored the game-winner and the Blackhawks stormed out to a 3-0 first-period lead en route to a 4-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. The Blackhawks finished the night in eighth place; the Anaheim Ducks, a 2-1 winner over the Los Angeles Kings, remained in seventh.

The Blackhawks also kept their two-point lead over the Dallas Stars, who beat the Avalanche in Colorado, 3-2.

Ben Smith scored his first NHL goal as part of that productive first period that began with Brent Seabrooks goal 27 seconds into the game.

Watch: Quenneville on the team's sense of urgency

It was a huge start and scoring first shift certainly helped, coach Joel Quenneville said. The guys had good energy in the morning skate. It was an important game and you could sense it was a different approach. You could see the urgency was in the guys faces. The first shift exemplified that and we took off from there.

It was the start the Blackhawks needed and they kept up that style of play throughout. They won puck battles and constantly pressured the Wings. They were also aggressive in stymieing Detroits scoring chances, blocking 21 shots.

We were prepared and ready to go, said Corey Crawford, who stopped 26 of 28 for his 33rd victory this season. That was one of our best starts in a while. We came out with a little offense and had them on their heels a little bit. That was great for us to get that.

The Wings, meanwhile, were uncharacteristically off. Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said the Wings have had the same issue a few times this season.

Too inconsistent, I think thats our biggest problem, he said. Weve showed up and played well in certain games and in other games we havent played as well or with that desperation you have to play with as you get close to the playoffs. Thats the bottom line, that we as a team have to play better whether were facing a team thats desperate or a team thats not in the playoffs.

Marian Hossa added a power-play breakaway in the second period for the Blackhawks, who are now 4-1-0 against the Wings this season.

Watch: Toews says the team is showing how much they want it

Whether you get that lead or not you have to keep going, said Jonathan Toews. Sometimes its dangerous to have a lead like that early in a game. Its easy to think theyre going to throw in the towel but theyre not that type of team. We did a good job of just staying with it and just finished off a solid 60 minutes.

The Blackhawks will need another 60-minute effort on Sunday. The Stars are still on their tail, the Blackhawks are still jockeying for position, as are the Wings.
Watch: Sharp says it's a desperate situation

In other words, they better stick to Plan B.

We need to get on a roll and play a good game Sunday, Campbell said. Dallas is going to take care of business anyway. Thats my feeling on it. So well be ready to go.

Breaking Through

The Chicago Blackhawks rookie, playing in his second consecutive game, had the puck on his stick and only Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard to beat. But calmly and quickly Smith won that one on one.

Smith scored his first NHL goal and was part of a strong line with Kane and Michael Frolik in the Blackhawks 4-2 victory over Detroit on Friday. For Smith, its just about seizing an opportunity, be it in this call-up or on a scoring chance.

Kane made a great play poking that puck to me. Any time you get the puck and get some time in the slot, you just try to get it off fast. I was able to do that, Smith said. The first couple of shifts there we were buzzing a bit, we had a little chemistry there. Hopefully it builds.

Kane had two assists and Frolik had another as part of that line. Coach Joel Quenneville liked what he saw with that trio.

That line has been pretty special the couple games theyve been together as far as seeing plays, play recognition and defensively, he said. Kaner made a great poke on (that goal), Smith made a nice finish. They were dangerous all night. Theyre three guys who have good sense offensively and defensively, and in the short amount of time theres already a little chemistry there.
Bolland, Brouwer updates

Dave Bolland, who has been sidelined with a concussion for nearly a month, skated in Chicago on Friday morning. It was a good sign for Bolland, who suffered his concussion when Tampa Bay defenseman Pavel Kubina elbowed him in the head on March 9.

Hes doing better, really progressing there. The fact hes on the ice means hes turning the corner, said Quenneville, who was hopeful Bolland could be ready for the postseason. Certainly the fact hes on the ice gives you signs it could happen. Where there wasnt a lot of hope a while ago thats changed. Anything can happen, but we like the fact that hes improving.

Troy Brouwer, whos day to day with a right-shoulder injury suffered against Montreal on Tuesday, may also be close.

I like his progress, Quenneville said. Right now hes just day to day, but hopefully well see him on the ice soon.

Kruger scratched
Marcus Kruger was scratched for the second consecutive game on Friday night. Kruger came here from Sweden and made his Blackhawks debut against the Florida Panthers on March 23.

I really liked the way he played the first couple of games, Quenneville said. Whether its pace, strength, understanding how we have to play or different ice surfaces, hell grasp that as we go along here. Hes still going to be useful and I still like what he does.
Briefly

Tomas Kopecky left after taking a Viktor Stalberg shot to his left ear with 8:26 remaining in regulation. Quenneville said afterward he was fine.

Crawford got a secondary assist on Hossas goal, his first career NHL point.

Watch: Crawford jokes about his assist

Ryan Johnson played in his 700th career NHL game on Friday.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Projecting Blackhawks' Opening Day lineup in 2017-18

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USA TODAY

Projecting Blackhawks' Opening Day lineup in 2017-18

With Blackhawks single-game tickets having gone on sale Monday — and less than a month away from the first preseason game of the 2017-18 season — it's time to start breaking down what the team's lineup could look like on Opening Day.

Brian Campbell, Scott Darling, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marcus Kruger, Artemi Panarin and Trevor van Riemsdyk were among Chicago's key departures in an offseason makeover, along with Marian Hossa, who's sitting out the upcoming campaign with a medical condition.

There are plenty of important shoes to fill. So how will the reformed Blackhawks stack up?

Let's give it a crack.

(A quick note: All indications are that the Blackhawks will place Hossa on long-term injured reserve as soon as the regular season starts, so we didn't include him on the 23-man Opening Day roster even though he will be. Instead, we added an extra player we believe will serve as the 23rd man going forward.)

First line: Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Richard Panik

Second line: Patrick Sharp - Artem Anisimov - Patrick Kane

Third line: Ryan Hartman - Nick Schmaltz - Tomas Jurco

Fourth line: Lance Bouma - Tanner Kero - Tommy Wingels

Extras: Jordin Tootoo

Thoughts: 

— It's practically a lock that Joel Quenneville will open the season with Saad-Toews-Panik at the top, but that doesn't necessarily mean it'll stay that way or finish like that. At the Blackhawks Convention in July, Quenneville toyed with the idea of even putting Sharp on the first unit alongside Saad and Toews after the 35-year-old veteran looked "unbelievable" in the gym during offseason workouts.

— Speaking of Sharp, we're slotting him in at that second-line left wing position to start based off Quenneville's high praise of the winger. And it makes sense, trying to rekindle some magic with Kane off the bat and provide stability on the top-six while spreading out the bottom-six.

— Schmaltz could certainly be a candidate to jump up to the second line with Anisimov and Kane (or perhaps even swap center positions with Anisimov, but we won't get cute early on). The lack of center depth, however, might force him into a third-line center role to start, which isn't the worst idea. He won only 30.9 percent of his faceoffs last season, and the only way to get better is by taking more reps. 

— Hartman and Jurco each spent more time on the left wing than right with the Blackhawks last year, but Jurco played more on the right side in Detroit so that's where we pegged him here. He's probably going to get a longer leash to nail down a full-time spot, and be put in a position to succeed in a third-line role. 

— To round out the four-line rotation, Kero is surely going to play the role of Kruger by handling the bulk of defensive zone draws with newly-signed versatile forwards Bouma and Wingels serving as his wingmen. Tootoo comes in as the extra. 

— It will be tempting to throw highly-touted prospect Alex DeBrincat into the fire right away, but there's no need to rush it and we don't believe the Blackhawks will, either. He's still only 19 years old, and it'd be asking way too much of the 5-foot-7, 170-pound OHL player of the year to log important minutes straight out of juniors.

— That leaves Laurent Dauphin, Alexandre Fortin, John Hayden, Vinnie Hinostroza and David Kampf off the roster for now as well, and it's not a bad thing. There just isn't enough room for everybody, and their developments are better served playing every day in the AHL rather than being fringe players in the NHL and taking turns sitting in the press box.

No. 1 defensive pairing: Duncan Keith - Connor Murphy

No. 2 defensive pairing: Michal Kempny - Brent Seabrook

No. 3 defensive pairing: Gustav Forsling - Jan Rutta

Extras: Jordan Oesterle, Michal Rozsival

Thoughts:

— First off, there is no replacing Hjalmarsson. He was a linch-pin on the Blackhawks' blue line for a decade. It will take a collective effort to help alleviate that loss. While Murphy's defensive game needs improvement, he has to be the favorite to play alongside Keith strictly based on balancing out the rotation. It also helps that he's a right-handed shot, complementing the left-handed two-time Norris Trophy winner.

— Kempny and Seabrook had really strong possession numbers together last season, and should formulate the second unit. Kempny struggled to anchor down an every-day spot in his rookie campaign because of his defensive inconsistencies, but Quenneville is likely to give him an extended leash just like he did with the youngsters last year, simply because he has to.

— Forsling showed real promise in training camp a year ago, and it was enough to break last year's Opening Day roster. He stayed on for the first half before being assigned to Rockford, but it was necessary for his development in order to secure a full-time spot this year.

— Oesterle and Rutta — and perhaps even prospect Ville Pokka — are expected to vie for the sixth spot, with Rozsival serving as the seventh defenseman for insurance. We have the 27-year-old Czech defenseman getting the first crack at it, but it could be an ongoing competition for much of the year.

Starting goaltender: Corey Crawford

Backup goaltender: Anton Forsberg

Thoughts:

— For the first time in a while, the Blackhawks are heading into the season with some uncertainty surrounding their backup goaltending situation. Crawford is the clear-cut starter, but for two-plus years the Blackhawks felt like they've always had two No. 1s with Darling.

— Forsberg legitimately might be the X-factor for the Blackhawks' season. Darling appeared in 32 games last season, and 29 the year before, essentially starting one-third of the team's games over the last two years. And he thrived in that role. Forsberg has high potential, but can he take that next step and be a consistent goaltender the Blackhawks need him to be? That's the question that nobody can answer until we actually see it.

— If the Forsberg experiment doesn't work out, or they prefer to enhance his development with every-day starts in Rockford, the Blackhawks signed Jean-Francois Berube who could see some playing time. But it's Forsberg's job to lose.

Where does Patrick Kane rank among Hart Trophy candidates for 2017-18 season?

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USA TODAY

Where does Patrick Kane rank among Hart Trophy candidates for 2017-18 season?

Patrick Kane is among the Hart Trophy candidates for the 2017-18 season, but what are his early odds to reclaim the title?

The 28-year-old Blackhawks star followed up an 106-point campaign in which he became the first American-born player to win the Art Ross and Hart Trophy by finishing tied for second in the NHL with 89 points last season.

But he's facing some tougher odds going into this year.

Bovada revelead Wednesday that Connor McDavid is the front-runner to repeat at 3/2 odds, followed by Sidney Crosby (5/2), Auston Matthews (17/2) and Alex Ovechkin (9/1). Kane ranks fifth at 14/1.

Here's the rest of the list:

  • Vladimir Tarasenko: 15/1
     
  • Evgeni Malkin: 16/1
     
  • Carey Price, John Tavares: 20/1
     
  • Jamie Benn, Steven Stamkos: 25/1
     
  • Erik Karlsson, Nikita Kucherov: 33/1
     
  • Jack Eichel, Ryan Getzlaf, Patrik Laine, Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin: 50/1
     
  • Nicklas Backstrom, Brent Burns, Braden Holtby, Phil Kessel, Artemi Panarin, Joe Pavelski: 60/1


A couple solid value picks would be Karlsson at 33/1 and Burns at 60/1, both of whom made strong cases to be in that conversation last year as defensemen.

You'll also notice Panarin as a darkhorse candidate. It will be interesting to see how Kane and Panarin fare without each other in the prime of their careers. Who knows, maybe they'll be sharing the stage together as finalists in Las Vegas next June.