New Blackhawks impress in preseason opener

New Blackhawks impress in preseason opener

Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011
Posted: 10:27 p.m. Updated: 11:52 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com Blackhawks InsiderFollow @TraMyersCSN
Box score
VIDEO: Crawford ready for pressure

SASKATOON, SASKATCHEWAN -- Two of the newest Chicago Blackhawks Rostislav Olesz and Jamal Mayers scored. But Jordan Eberle got the go-ahead goal late in the third as the Edmonton Oilers went on to a 4-2 victory in Tuesday night's preseason opener.

"I thought some guys played well for us," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "The pace was pretty good. It's 2-2 late in the game, you'd like to get something out of it."

Ryan Smyth scored as an Oilers power play was about to expire in the second period. Josh Green also scored for Edmonton.

The Blackhawks went 0 for 4 on the power play. Ray Emery started for the Blackhawks, allowing two goals. Alex Salak played the second half, allowing one.

Quenneville was also happy with Mark McNeill's night. McNeill assisted on Mayers' goal.

"Thought he had his best game tonight," he said. "He seemed to have good pace, have the puck more."

Boden's Breakdown

Two of the players the Blackhawks picked up in the offseason made an impact on the scoresheet. But the preseason-opening 4-2 loss to Edmonton in Saskatoon didn't leave us with a much clearer idea whether Ray Emery or Alex Salak is better-suited to backup Corey Crawford.

The first goal Emery gave up he couldn't quite pounce on before Ryan Smyth did. On the other, he was beaten stick-side on a blast from the right wing. He did make a couple of decent stops in the first period.

As for Salak, he was barely tested much as the Hawks controlled the puck for much of the third period. But a Jordan Eberle shot just after the Oilers remained perfect on the penalty kill was too quick for Salak and the Oilers added an empty-netter.

While David Toews took the first shift with brother Jonathan, he was then mostly relegated to the fourth line with Phillip Danault and Jimmy Hayes. Toews, meanwhile, teamed up with Viktor Stalberg and Rostislav Olesz as the most dominant line of the night.

Olesz has looked good so far in camp, and the player with some question marks that Stan Bowman got back in the Brian Campbell trade continued showing something, scoring the Hawks' first goal as they came back from a 2-0 deficit. He was active throughout. The Hawks will need some players to go into corners and get pucks for their goal scorers. Olesz, if healthy, has the body to do that, and being a 7th overall draft pick, has some skill, too. Stalberg had a handful of chances as well, but could probably use one or two to go in so he doesn't think some of his luck from last year is carrying over.

Jamal Mayers scored the tying goal off a nice feed down low from Kyle Beach, who'll need a lot more of that to overcome the veteran grit and depth the team committed to in the off-season, and his minus-24 rating last year in Rockford. Those two were centered by this year's top pick, Mark McNeill. The other line of Marcus Kruger, Ben Smith and Brandon Saad had its share of chances as well, but couldn't bury any. Kruger was at the doorstep late when the score was still 3-2 and an Edmonton player saved the puck in the crease.

The result wasn't what the Hawks wanted, but that's less important than seeing who can do what. Joel Quenneville and his staff started to get some ideas, even though the No. 2 goalie job remains unclear. Because of his tryout status, they have five more games (by Oct. 1) to decide on Emery, and he may not necessarily play in all of them. His next test comes Thursday night in Pittsburgh.

--Chris Boden

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

Blackhawks acquire Michael Latta from Kings in swap of minor leaguers

Blackhawks acquire Michael Latta from Kings in swap of minor leaguers

The Blackhawks made a minor league deal on Saturday, announcing the acquisition of forward Michael Latta from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for defenseman Cameron Schilling.

Latta, 25, has two goals and four assists in 29 games this season with the Ontario (Calif.) Reign of the American Hockey League.

He has four goals and 13 assists in 113 career games in the National Hockey League, all with the Washington Capitals from 2013-16.

Latta, who was a third-round pick (No. 72 overall) by the Nashville Predators in 2009, will report to the AHL's Rockford IceHogs. He carries a $600,000 cap hit, and is a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

Schilling ranked second among defensemen on the IceHogs with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 40 games, and had a minus-3 rating. The 28-year-old blue liner signed a two-year contract worth $575,000 per season with the Blackhawks in July 2015.

One-goal victories are great but Blackhawks’ method has to change

One-goal victories are great but Blackhawks’ method has to change

See the Blackhawks get off to a slow start. See the Blackhawks get outshot. See the Blackhawks lean on their goaltending. See the Blackhawks find some offense in the third period. See the Blackhawks win.

This is a story the Blackhawks have written and played out plenty this season. Despite all evidence that it should work out to the contrary, the Blackhawks continue to pull out victories. But as we're well into the second half of the season, how much longer can they win with this formula? And is this, more than anything, a testament to how much they need to acquire someone (or plural) at the deadline to bolster their forward lineup?

Entering Sunday night's game against Vancouver the Blackhawks remain second in the Western Conference, two points behind Minnesota. Not surprisingly, they enter Sunday coming off another one-goal victory, a 1-0 decision over Boston on Friday night. Friday's game was cut from the same cloth as so many other one-goal games this season (please see above for the script). 

Here's how the Blackhawks are doing in one-goal games (through 48 games played this season) and how they've done in previous seasons:

Year Record
2016-17 18-7-5
2015-16 17-7-9
2014-15 22-13-6
2013-14 17-8-15
2012-13 19-3-5 (lockout yr.)
2011-12 22-6-11
2010-11 16-13-9
2009-10 23-9-8

The Blackhawks played 41 one-goal games (half of their regular-season games) in the 2014-15 season. Thirty of their 48 games this season have been one-goal games. But again, it comes down to how you're winning those games, and the Blackhawks are winning just about all of them in the same way: deal with a slow start and come back in the third period, relying on goaltending the entire time.

Being outshot the amount of times the Blackhawks have this season remains alarming. Sure, sometimes a lot of shots don't mean a lot of quality chances. But it's still better than minimal shots, and any shot can be an opportunity for a rebound, a deflection, something. From our stats guru Chris Kamka, here's a breakdown of the Blackhawks' shots per game vs. opponents, dating back to 2008-09:

Year Shots/Gm Opp. Shots/Gm Diff.
2008-09 32.7 28.6 +4.2
2009-10 34.1 25.1 +9.1
2010-11 32.2 28.7 +3.6
2011-12 31.5 28.6 +3.0
2012-13 31.1 26.2 +4.9
2013-14 33.1 27.2 +6.0
2014-15 33.9 30.2 +3.8
2015-16 30.5 30.8 -0.3
2016-17 29.3 31.1 -1.7

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

It's no surprise that the Blackhawks' differential was especially good in their Stanley Cup-winning seasons (and even 2013-14, when they went to the Western Conference Final). Those Blackhawks teams were deep, especially at forward. They weren't waiting for the perfect shooting opportunities as much as just firing. They had great four-line rotations, something they've sorely been lacking the past two seasons, which makes a difference with puck possession.

The Blackhawks will see what's available at the trade deadline. As I wrote a few days ago, there will be names out there but, considering some teams are still hoping for playoff spots, you take mentions for what they are right now. Over the next few weeks the picture will become clearer, and adding the right depth could rekindle that four-line rotation.

We've said throughout this season that the Blackhawks can't keep this up. We said it in November, and December, and now. Understand where we're coming from here; the Blackhawks can absolutely keep winning one-goal games. They've shown that in recent seasons and in the postseason, when the ability to do that is critical. But it's doubtful they can keep doing it the way they have most this season.