Chicago Blackhawks

Niemi, Sharks get the best of Blackhawks again

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Niemi, Sharks get the best of Blackhawks again

Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010
10:00 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

When the Chicago Blackhawks have won lately, theyve been disciplined. Theyve stayed out of the penalty box, staying calm and staying away from costly penalties and draining kills.

But on Thursday, they got away from that disciplined game and it cost them.

Joe Thornton scored the game-winner a few seconds after the Blackhawks killed off their final Sharks power play of the night and Antti Niemi collected his third victory against his former team in the Blackhawks 5-3 loss to San Jose on Thursday night.

The Blackhawks were called for six penalties against San Jose, which had the leagues sixth-best power play fifth-best on the road entering Thursdays game. San Jose scored two power-play goals and added Thorntons not long after another advantage in the third.

The effort was there, but I dont think sometimes the smarts were there, defenseman Brian Campbell said. Against St. Louis, we had a ton of penalties, before that when we won four games in a row, we took either (no penalties), one or two in every game. Especially against a team like San Jose, youre killing off that many penalties you get out of sync.

Coach Joel Quenneville was unhappy with the lack of discipline and some of the calls.

Ill disagree 100 percent with two calls tonight that I dont even know where they came from. One (on Brent Seabrook) put us down 5 on 3 and the other (on Jassen Cullimore) led to the winning goal, said Quenneville, who was also frustrated with how the Blackhawks gave up some of those goals.

We almost got through that 5 on 3, which wouldve been nice. But that open-side play those plays, empty netters are plays we have to defend against and be in proper position, Quenneville said of the Sharks first power-play goal by Benn Ferriero. Our PK has struggled this year, but those tap-in goals are something weve got to get out of our repertoire.

Marty Turco, who stopped 40 against St. Louis on Tuesday, allowed four goals on just 20 shots against San Jose.

I couldve made a couple more saves, couldve been the difference, Turco said. I certainly dont make excuses for myself.

But despite the errors, the Blackhawks battled back. Troy Brouwer scored a power-play goal with 22.9 seconds remaining in the second period and Campbell came through with just a half second left in the period to tie the score 3-3.

That was a big lift going into the third, Seabrook said. We thought we got some energy from the second period.

The Sharks, however, got over it quick.

There were a few F-bombs for about a minute and then we kind of calmed the dressing room down shortly after, said Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle. We just said, Hey, weve still got a chance to win the game. It took about a minute but it did calm down after that.

The Blackhawks were finding success with good, clean hockey. The last two games, theyve had anything but.

We were taking too many penalties and its tough to get back into it sometimes, Campbell said. I still felt the puck battles were pretty strong tonight. But its unacceptable to not do everything right every night.

Foley, Olczyk extended

The Blackhawks re-signed broadcasting tandem Pat Foley and Eddie Olczyk to three-year extensions on Thursday. The deals will keep play-by-play broadcaster Foley and television analyst Olczyk through the 2013-14 season.

Foley has been with the Blackhawks for 28 seasons, calling games for the team from 1981-2006 before returning to the booth to start the 2008-09 season.

Olczyk played 16 seasons in the NHL, including five with the Blackhawks. Hes been a TV analyst for the Blackhawks over the past five seasons.

Mothers days

The Blackhawks will have their moms on their latest road trip when they head to Los Angeles on New Years Day. It will be the first time the Blackhawks have had such a trip. Players figure manners will definitely be in order.

Im sure guys will be on best behavior, defenseman Brent Seabrook said. A lot of please and thank you.

Quennevilles mother will also be attending.

The enthusiasm just from my own mother coming on this trip, usually shes excited for Christmas but shes excited about the moms trip, Quenneville said Thursday morning. Everyones excited. The dads trip was great, a lot of fun.

Niemis return

Niemi stopped 26 of 29 for his third victory vs. the Blackhawks and first back at the United Center. Niemi said it was different coming back.

It was a funny feeling, he said. Today was even more exciting. Getting to morning practice and seeing the Blackhawks trainers was great and made it feel like a little more than just one game.

Briefly

Jack Skille was a healthy scratch against the Sharks on Thursday. Of that, Quenneville said, we had some tough decisions. Jordan (Hendrys) played well up front and we were looking for consistency.

Fernando Pisani was out due to illness.

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.