Chicago Blackhawks

Late struggles lead to shootout loss for Hawks

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Late struggles lead to shootout loss for Hawks

The Chicago Blackhawks had a problem last season holding onto slim leads in third periods.

And while doing it once in this early season hardly constitutes a problem, the Blackhawks still weren't too happy they did it.

Bryan Bickell and Patrick Kane scored but the Bruins tied it midway through the third and won it in a 3-2 shootout at the United Center on Saturday night. The Blackhawks held a 2-1 advantage until Nathan Horton scored with 7:56 remaining in the third period. While it's still early and the Blackhawks will take that point, there's no doubt they lost their hold on this one.

"We had a couple plays in second period late in shifts where we were trying to make one more play," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We lost the momentum. We should be going ahead with the puck and we go back and it ends up in our net."

The momentum swung from the Blackhawks early to the Bruins late, but one thing was constant: the goaltending. And for both sides, it was stellar. Corey Crawford, who missed the first two days of practice this week, stopped 35 of 37 shots. Crawford said he felt good after his early-week malady.

"It was a pretty exciting game in the third," Crawford said. "But I've got to find a way to make another save when we're up 2-1 and try to close it out."

Meanwhile, Bruins netminder Tim Thomas flashed the brilliance that helped the Bruins win the Stanley Cup last spring. He stopped 27 of 29 in regulation and denied Jonathan Toews, Kane and Patrick Sharp in the shootout.

"I dont read (shootout attempts) until the last minute," he said. "On all three, because of two five-hole goals tonight, I was trying to make sure they couldnt have the five-hole first, but tried to keep myself in position to cover the other spots."

The Blackhawks could've avoided the shootout altogether if they'd been sharper in the third period. Be it their sloppiness or the Bruins surge, Boston took control and the Blackhawks couldn't get that two-goal advantage.

"For whatever reason we didn't play the way we wanted to in the third," said Kane, who had another stellar game at center. "It's tough to give up a goal (leading) 2-1. It seemed like we were playing back, not pushing the pace. You don't want to cheat and push too much, but at the same time it would've been nice to make it 3-1."

The Blackhawks aren't going to sweat this one too much. The goaltending was sharp. Boston, coming off a summer of celebrations or not, is a deep and talented team. The 60-minute games will come.

"We lost the momentum even though we had the lead in the third," Quenneville said. "You don't have to give them anything but we did."

Briefly

Daniel Carcillo was active physically again, credited with a game-high eight hits. Bryan Bickell was next with six.

Marian Hossa did not play on Saturday night. Coach Joel Quenneville said again after the game that Hossa's upper-body injury is "not that bad. We're hoping he practices Monday and plays Tuesday (against Phoenix)."

Viktor Stalberg returned to the lineup after missing two and a half weeks with a left knee injury.

Could Hobey Baker winner Will Butcher be an option for Blackhawks?

Could Hobey Baker winner Will Butcher be an option for Blackhawks?

The calendar is quickly approaching August and a majority of the NHL's top free agents have already signed new deals or found new homes. But there's one marquee player who has suddenly shaken loose, and will surely draw heavy interest across the league.

That would be 22-year-old defenseman Will Butcher, who informed the Colorado Avalanche that he will hit the open market and become an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 15.

Butcher, a 2013 fifth-round draft pick, was named the recipient of the 2017 Hobey Baker Award, annually given to college hockey's top player, after scoring seven goals and 30 assists in 43 games during his senior campaign while helping Denver University capture its first national title since 2005. It's the second straight year NCAA's top player has elected not to sign with the club that drafted him, with Jimmy Vesey doing the same last year when he signed with the New York Rangers instead of the Nashville Predators.

So could Butcher be a real option for the Blackhawks? There's certainly a reason for both sides to be intrigued by a potential match. 

With Brian Campbell, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya no longer in the picture, the Blackhawks could use a young, NHL-ready blue liner with top-four potential and Butcher provides just that.

He's a 5-foot-10, 186-pound puck-moving defenseman with high offensive upside but also plays a solid two-way game and is responsible in his own end. He carries a left-handed shot, quarterbacked Denver's No. 1 power play unit and possesses strong leadership skills after serving as the team's captain for two years.

While he is certainly no sure thing, Butcher would be as close to pro ready as any prospect in Chicago's system and could factor into the cards as soon as this season. It also doesn't hurt that he shared the same blue line at Denver as Blackhawks prospect Blake Hillman, who drew great reviews from Joel Quenneville at prospect camp.

The good news for the cap-crunched Blackhawks is that the maximum allowable salary for an entry-level contract is $925,000, so that eliminates the possibility of getting into a bidding war with other teams. Signing and performance bonuses can still be included, but that's the least of their worries if they can land a player of Butcher's caliber.

His decision will really come down to best fit and opportunity to play and win, and the Blackhawks can offer all of the above.

Niklas Hjalmarsson says goodbye to Chicago in emotional Instagram post

Niklas Hjalmarsson says goodbye to Chicago in emotional Instagram post

Niklas Hjalmarsson has called Chicago home ever since he was drafted by the Blackhawks in 2005. But now it's time for a new chapter.

After being traded to the Arizona Coyotes in June, the former Blackhawks defenseman officially said goodbye to the city he spent a decade in and helped bring three Stanley Cups to with an emotional Instagram post that perfectly sums up his time here:

One marriage. Two kids. Three rings. 

Hjalmarsson will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Blackhawks fans.