Chicago Blackhawks

The only certainty? Unpredictability

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The only certainty? Unpredictability

Well, I guess we can all be thankful that this Blackhawks-Coyotes series hasnt degenerated into what we have seen between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphis Flyers -- at least from Pittsburghs perspective. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are one last knockout punch away from their summer vacation after so many national experts had them as their 2012 Stanley Cup champion.

It just goes to show the unpredictability of this time of year.

Why wouldnt Phoenix feel good with a one-goal lead in the final seconds of each of the first two games with the Hawks? This is a team that came into the playoffs with the leagues hottest goaltender, and had allowed all of 16 third-period goals over its final 31 games! So now, the Hawks are in the playoff record books for forcing overtime in consecutive games in a series by scoring with under 15 seconds remaining.

Then theres that next-to-last Coyotes power play unit from the regular season. They banged home a couple in Game 2 to make the Hawks pay for their penalties. Or were they penalties?

I know one definitely was, and their goal on that second one came if it was even just a two-minute penalty Andrew Shaw probably deserved, in hindsight. Still, you just cant hit quarterbacks, err goalies. Anytime. Anywhere. Id like to think of them as hockey players too. I think they are. Put the pressure cooker up there with baseball closers and QBs.

But Im still saying Smith did a Dennis Rodman flop there. He got two big calls Saturday night, and the Hawks were good enough to persevere through that. Who knows if that collision (I still believe without any malicious intent on Shaws part) ends up resulting in a greater penalty than Shea Weber taking Henrik Zetterbergs head and slamming it into the plexiglass right in front of a referee? The league office has been as inconsistent and unpredictable lately as this first week of the playoffs.

After their first win over the 'Yotes in their last five tries, its on the Hawks to use home ice to establish more consistency and tempo in their game, and not give that home ice back. Phoenix and head coach Dave Tippett deserve credit for playing a better overall game for most of the first two games, but the Hawks can certainly use this momentum and this opportunity to take control of the series. Easier said than done.

Yet even by taking control, theyd still need a fourth win. Ask the Canucks from last years first round how tough that is to do. Or the Boston Bruins against the Flyers two years ago. You can bet every Philly holdover from that series will be thinking about that until they get win No. 4 from their in-state rival.

Seven of the last eight games the Hawks have played have gone beyond regulation. We can ask them not to keep us up too late Tuesday and Thursday, but we wont count on it. Its the playoffs.

Tommy Wingels on 'cloud nine' getting to suit up for hometown Blackhawks

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AP

Tommy Wingels on 'cloud nine' getting to suit up for hometown Blackhawks

Tommy Wingels remembers his Chicago youth hockey days. A native of Wilmette, Wingels said the leagues were pretty good then but nothing like the opportunities area kids have to play hockey here now.

“This city has so many youth programs, so much ability for kids to play at every level. If they want to travel, pursue it professionally, if they want to go to college or they just want to enjoy it because their buddies play it. You can do it everywhere around here, and it’s such a unique aspect,” said Wingels. “I think the expectation has changed now. Kids think everyone can make it now. Back then, nobody thought they would make it.”

Count Wingels among those who wasn’t sure he’d make it. But he did, and on July 1 he made a childhood dream come true when he signed a one-year deal with the Blackhawks. Wingels was elated when Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville called him about his potential signing. The details of those calls? Well, those are a little sketchy.

“I don’t even remember half the stuff they said to me because you’re on cloud nine and you’re saying, ‘Yeah, when can we sign and where?’” Wingels said at the Blackhawks convention on Saturday. “My wife commented on how big of a smile I had [walking] off our porch and back into the living room. It was very exciting.”

As a kid growing up in the Chicago area, Wingels played plenty of travel hockey. He watched the Blackhawks when he could, trying to catch what games were on television at that time. But the thought of playing in the NHL, let alone suiting up for the Blackhawks someday, wasn’t in his mind at that time.

“I wouldn’t say until the middle of high school did I ever think playing professional hockey was a possibility,” Wingels said. “Coming into high school you think college might be one [possibility]. But not until then did I ever talk about it or think about it.”

Wingels said he talked to a good deal of teams in 2006, the first year he was eligible for the NHL Draft, but he wasn’t selected that summer or the next. It wasn’t until the 2008 NHL Entry Draft that former Blackhawks defenseman/now San Jose general manager Doug Wilson picked Wingels, then playing for Miami University, in the sixth round. Wingels was a steady presence for five-plus seasons with the Sharks, putting up career numbers in goals (16), assists (22) and points (38) in the 2013-14 season. Wingels is forever grateful to Wilson for the opportunity.

“He’s the No. 1 reason why I’ve had an NHL career,” Wingels said. “[He had] the confidence to draft me and he was extremely patient in developing me through my years at Miami. He’s one of the best guys I’ve met in the game and I’ve enjoyed all the interactions we’ve had with him. He’s a guy I’ll definitely keep in touch with while I’m here and for many years.”

On the ice, Wingels should help the Blackhawks’ penalty kill and add some necessary grit – “bring in some sandpaper, finish checks and at the same time chip in some goals, all kind of things I think [Quenneville] and Stan expect me to bring here,” he said. Wingels has gone on long postseason runs (2016 Stanley Cup final with the Sharks and the 2017 Eastern Conference final with the Ottawa Senators), and he can be another veteran voice and presence for the Blackhawks’ young players.

“Your star players will lead and be the best players that they are. But for a young guy coming up on the third or fourth line sometimes it’s tough for those guys to relate to the star players, not because what the star players do but they’re guys who are up and down and they’re guys who have different roles. [I’ll] be a part of that group who can help transition the young players, who can play a similar role to some of those other players and be a sounding board for guys as well. I’m 29 now. I feel young but somehow I’ve become a veteran. So I’ll just try to help out any way I can.”

As excited as Wingels is to be home, he said his family may be more so. His parents, Bob and Karen, get to spend more time with Wingels’ 1 ½-year old daughter. The Wingels are close to Scott Darling’s family, and know from the Darlings how great it was to have their son play here.

Wingels grew up wondering how far hockey would take him. Now it’s bringing him back home.

“It didn’t take long to decide this is where we want to be. My wife is extremely happy – she lived here a couple of years out of college and knows the city very well – and I have a ton of friends here with my family being from here,” Wingels said. “It’s going to be a fun year for us and I can’t wait to get started.”

28 Days to Kickoff: Lake Park

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28 Days to Kickoff: Lake Park

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Jul. 31, we’ll unveil the @CSNPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 25.

School: Lake Park

Head coach: Chris Roll

Assistant Coaches: Keith Lukes, Kyle Reehoff, Bill Erzig, Bill Modelski, Chris Benak, Tom Redlin, Larry Orrico, Peter Catalano, Kevin Johnson, Chris Salerno, Charlie Witt

How they fared in 2016: 2-7 (1-7 DuPage Valley Conference), missed the 2016 IHSA state playoff field

2017 Regular Season Schedule:

August 25th @ Waubonsie Valley

September 1st vs Wheaton South

September 8th @ DeKalb

September 15th @ Naperville North

September 22nd vs Wheaton North

September 29th @ Metea Valley

October 6th vs Glenbard North

October 13th @Neuqua Valley

October 20th vs Naperville North

Biggest storyline: Can Lake Park make some noise in it's final season in the DuPage Valley?

Names to watch this season:  Senior QB Jackson Behles Senior WR Diamante Smith

Biggest holes to fill: The Lancers bring back experience (15 returning starters) but will need to find more depth at a few key spots this summer.

EDGY's Early Take: Lake Park had a rough 2016 season and will rely on an experience senior class this season. The schedule remains as brutal as ever both in the DuPage Valley slate along with a tough Week 3 non conference game at DeKalb. Look for the Lancers to battle all comers and make a run at a state playoff berth this season.