Sunday, September 17, 2017

Training Camp Opens For Blackhawks With Questions Needing Answers

By Randy Holndoner (@bhawkschatter)

The Chicago Blackhawks entered training camp on Saturday to another sold out fan festival.  Familiar faces returned in Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp.  New faces entered in Connor Murphy, Anton Forsberg, and Tommy Wingels.  And a buzz has stirred around highly touted prospect, Alex Debrincat

Along with them, come questions that they will all have to help answer as the regular season is less than three weeks away.

Last year, the Blackhawks finished 29th in the league in face-off victory percentage at 47.5%.  Over one-third of those faceoffs were taken by Jonathan Toews (54.9%).  Their second best face-off man, Marcus Kruger (49.1%), now resides with the Carolina Hurricanes.  The remaining centers, Artem Anisimov (44.1%), Tanner Kero (44.4%), and Nick Schmaltz (30.9%), will need to bring those numbers up.  Schmaltz has been working on faceoffs in the off-season.  Coach Joel Quenneville has noticed a difference in his strength for gathering loose pucks.  There has been mention that Schmaltz could become the second line center, and if that is the case, he will have a lot on his shoulders.  Kero, like Schmaltz, will be asked to bring a lot this year as they both enter their second full NHL season.  With the absence of Kruger, Kero has been tapped to fill that role.  Why are faceoffs so important?  Two reasons: One - If you have the puck, the other team does not score.  Two - Pucks lost in faceoffs in your own zone can find their way in the back of your net pretty quickly.

Defensively last year, the Blackhawks gave up a lot of scoring chances which, thankfully, Corey Crawford and Scott Darling were there to stop the majority of them.  They lost three of their top five defensemen last year in Niklas Hjlamarsson, Trevor vanRiemsdyk, and Brian Campbell.  Connor Murphy will be asked to do a lot this upcoming year, as he was the key piece in Hjalmarsson going to the Arizona Coyotes.  He's only 24, and has over 250 NHL games to his name.  Being paired with either Duncan Keith or Brent Seabrook, can only help.  As far as the last pairing (defensemen 5 & 6), Michal Kempny will have to step up, after playing only 50 games last year.  The other spot, we will have to wait and see.  On the back end, Anton Forsberg, who came back with Saad in the Artemi Panarin trade, will be a solid back up for Crawford between the pipes.

The other concern is the scoring loss of Panarin and Marian Hossa.  Also what will happen to Patrick Kane's productivity?  For as concerned as people are that Panarin left, Saad scored just six goals less than Panarin the last two seasons.  He is also a year younger than Panarin, and has more NHL experience.  As for the loss of Hossa, Sharp, 35, will help, but he is coming off hip surgery and a concussion from last year.  He will most likely find himself opposite Kane, which would not be a bad thing since chemistry already exists between the two.

Enter, the wild card, Alex Debrincat.  Debrincat, 19, shined in the prospect camp tournament last week in which he scored 5 goals in the 4 game tournament, including the game-winner.  At 5'7", his size is in question and part of the reason people have their doubts about him.  With the Erie Otters in the OHL, he scored 332 points (167G 165A) in just 3 years.  If the speed of the game is not too fast for him, he could very well make the roster this year.  In time, he could possibly find himself opposite Kane on the second scoring line.  As for Kane, he's been able to score with anyone.  He wont suffer, regardless who his linemate will be.

Preseason will answer who will have the opportunity to help fill these concerns, the regular season will tell us if they can.  18 days till opening night.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Chicago Blackhawks Legend, Pierre Pilote, Passes Away At The Age of 85.

By Randy Holndoner (

Chicago Blackhawks legend, Pierre Pilote has passed away today at the age of 85.

Pilote spent 13 of his 14 year career with the Blackhawks where he was an 8-Time All-Star.  He captured the Norris Trophy, for Best Defenseman in the NHL, three consecutive years (62-63', 63-63', 64-65'), and was a member of the 1961 Stanley Cup championship team.  He was inducted into the Hockey Hall Of Fame in 1975.

He was the Blackhawks Captain from 1961-1968, and lead by example with his leadership and toughness.  He was considered an 'iron man' of the day, where he played in 376 consecutive games. In 821 career games with the Blackhawks, he scored 477 points (77G, 400A), and accumulated 1205 penalty minutes.

The Blackhawks brought back Pilote and made him a Blackhawks Ambassador as one of the greats in club history.  He had his #3 retired into the United Center rafters, along with Keith Magnuson in a ceremony in November, 2008.

 Pictures provided by and

Monday, July 17, 2017

Brian Campbell Retires From The NHL After 17 Years

By Randy Holndoner (@bhawkschatter)

Brian Campbell announced today that he was retiring from the NHL.  Campbell, 38, played 17 years in the NHL in which he played in 1082 games, and accumulated 504 points (87G, 417A).

Campbell was a gem in the rough being selected in the 6th round of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft by the Buffalo Sabres.  He spent 8 years in Buffalo before being traded to the San Jose Sharks at the trade deadline.  At season's end, Campbell hit the jackpot in free agency as the Chicago Blackhawks gave him an 8-yr, $57.143mil contract in 2008.  

Campbell was part of the 2009-10 Blackhawks team that captured their first Stanley Cup in 49 years.  Campbell assisted on the game-winning overtime goal scored by Patrick Kane.

After the 2010-11 season, Campbell was traded to the Florida Panthers, where he spent the remaining 5 years of his contract.  During that time, Campbell snapped a 58-year drought for a defensemen capturing the Lady Byng Trophy after the 2011-12 season.  He joined just two other defensemen, Red Kelly (1950-51, 1952-53, 1953-54) and Bill Quackenbush (1948-49), to win the award presented for best sportsmanship.

Campbell returned to the Blackhawks last year at a greatly reduced discount to try to return the Stanley Cup to Chicago, but those dreams died quickly as they were swept by the eighth-seeded, Nashville Predators.  He still calls Chicago home, which was a big reason for his return.

It is a big reason why Campbell will stay involved with the Blackhawks, as he will join the front office, in the business operations department.  He will assist with marketing, community relations, and youth hockey.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Blackhawks Bring Back Patrick Sharp

By Randy Holndoner (@bhawkschatter)

The Chicago Blackhawks brought back a familiar face as free agency opened today, with the signing of Patrick Sharp  for a reportedly, 1 year, $1 million salary ($800,00 base, $200,00 incentives)

Sharp was traded two years ago to the Dallas Stars after being part of the third. Stanley Cup championship in seven years for the Blackhawks in the summer of 2015.

Originally drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 3rd round of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Sharp was traded to the Blackhawks along with Eric Meloche, for Matt Ellison and a third round pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.  I'd say that worked out well for the Blackhawks.  Thank you Dale Tallon.

Sharp, 35, played for the Blackhawks for 10 seasons.  In that time, he played in 679 regular season games, tallying 511 points, (239G, 272A).  In the playoffs, Sharp appeared in 117 games, with 80 points (42G, 38A).  Oh, and 3 Stanley Cups.

Sharp, had a bad season last year for Dallas, as he played in only 48 games with a mere 18 points (8G, 10A).  He suffered a concussion and then was out for the rest of the season needing hip surgery.  A big worry is how he will respond to hip surgery at the age of 35.  The Blackhawks cannot possibly expect the same Sharp that left here two years ago.  But since his contract is so low, it could be low risk, high reward.

He brings experience and chemistry with the core players to the Blackhawks.  He also brings a right-handed shot which the Blackhawks can also use with the departure of Artemi Panarin.  Sharp was used as a defenseman to provide a right-handed shot on the power play in the last few years as a Blackhawk.  With the addition of Connor Murphy last week in the Niklas Hjlamarsson trade, the Blackhawks now have two defensemen with right-handed shots (Brent Seabrook), so Sharp may go back to being a forward on the 2nd power play unit.

Let's see if this reunion tour works out for both Sharp and the Blackhawks.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Blackhawks ink Forsberg, Jurco to contracts

By Randy Holndoner (@bhawkschatter)

Monday, the Chicago Blackhawks signed goaltender, Anton Forsberg to a 2-year, $1.5mil contract and forward, Tomas Jurco to a 1-year $800,000 contract.

Forsberg, 24, was part of the Brandon Saad/Artemi Panarin trade last Friday.  His contract is a one-way contract, meaning that he is all but guaranteed to be the replacement for Scott Darling, who was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in April.  Forsberg played one game for the Columbus Blue Jackets last year, but he Blackhawks were impressed with his play with the Cleveland Monsters in the AHL playoffs last year.

Jurco, 24, was acquired in February from the Detroit Red Wings.  He appeared in 29 games for the Blackhawks with one goal.  The Hawks still have hope that he will be lightning caught in a bottle as for when they traded for Richard Panik two years ago.

With the signings, shows the Blackhawks just a shade under $3mil over the salary cap, with 22 players under contract.  With rumors of still a possible Marcus Kruger trade ($3mil), it would bring the Blackhawks under the salary cap.

With Marian Hossa headed to LTIR ($5.2mil), the Hawks would then have room to sign a forward to replace the vacancy of Artemi Panarin.  Free agency stars on July 1st.

After all that Stan Bowman has done to this point, it isn't enough yet.  What else does he have up his sleeve?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Bowman, Blackhawks, Trade Down, Select Defenseman Jokiharju

By Randy Holndoner (@bhawkschatter)

Through the first 25 picks in the 2017 NHL Draft, there were no trades.  Then it was Stan Bowman and the Chicago Blackhawks' turn.  Always the dealmaker, Bowman pulled a move come the 26th pick.  The Hawks traded down to the 29th pick, and in the process, gained the 70th pick (3rd rd), from the Dallas Stars.

Similar to most years it seems, the Blackhawks dismantle their current squad to meet the expected salary cap.  Bowman had also promised a shakeup of the roster after the embarrassing exit in the playoffs last year in a 4-game sweep of the 8th seed, Nashville Predators.   Bowman was not kidding.

First, he sent core defenseman, Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes in a trade for Connor Murhpy.  Then, a blockbuster trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets,sent star, Artemi Panarin for Brandon Saad.

When it came to the 29th pick, the Blackhawks selected Portland Winterhawks defenseman, Henri Jokiharju.  Jokiharju, 18, is from Tampere, Finland.  This past season was his first played in North America.  He led all WHL rookie defensemen with 48 points (9G 39A) in 71 games, which was also good for 2nd among all defensemen in the league.

Jokihargju has a right-handed shot, which is a commodity in the NHL.  He is considered a very good skater and a puck-moving defenseman.

With the additional 3rd round pick, the Blackhawks will have nine remaining picks for rounds 2-7 on Saturday morning.

Blackhawks Trade Panarin To Blue Jackets, But Bring Back Saad

By Randy Holndoner (@bhawkschatter)

One thing General Manager of the Chicago Blackhawks, Stan Bowman, is not afraid to do, is make a blockbuster deal.  Especially when you have the salary cap to contend with year after year.  This year was no different.

Before the start of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Bowman traded superstar, Artemi Panarin, along with forward, Tyler Motte, and a 6th round draft pick, for former Blackhawks hero, and two-time Stanley Cup champion, Brandon Saad, goaltender, Anton Forsberg, and a 5h round draft pick in the 2018 draft.

Panarin, 25, was the bake to the shake, when paired with former linemate, Patrick Kane.  One of the best one-timers in the league, Panarin captured the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year honors in 2016.  A huge fan favorite, in his two NHL seasons, he has accumulated 151 points (61G 90A), in 162 games.  Panarin had just signed a 2-year, $12 mil contract extension, a $6mil cap hit, which he will take to Columbus with him.

Saad, 24, was a major piece of the 2013 and 2015 Stanley Cup championships in Chicago.  After the 2015 season he was traded to the Blue Jackets for Artem Anisimov.  Saad, was brought back to play with Jonathan Toews, no question.  Since his departure, Toews has struggled to find a linemate that worked so well with him.  Saad brings a game very similar to Marian Hossa, a complete, two-way player game.  He isn't a flashy player, but is a grinder and will make the plays.  In the two seasons he was in Columbus, he tallied 55 goals, just 6 fewer than Panarin.

Forsberg, 24, was brought in as a good candidate to replace Scott Darling as the #2 goalie behind Corey Crawford.  He played in one game for Columbus last year, but the Hawks were impressed with his play in the AHL playoffs last year.

So will this help the Blackhawks?  Answer, yes.  Saad is a complete player whereas Panarin is pure offense.  Saad, although carries the same salary cap hit as Panarin, $6mil, is signed for four years, compared to Panarin's two.  Kane can play with anyone and generate points.  Toews and Saad were a tandum that no one wanted to deal with.  Saad also has more experience and is a year younger than Panarin.  Also, they gained another draft pick for next year.

The little things are what add up in a league like this where the salary cap forces teams to rip rosters apart in order to stay competitive.  Blackhawk fans should be used to this happening by now.  They ripped apart the 2010 Cup champions and then won two more Cups within five years.  How many other teams have done so in the salary cap era besides Pittsburgh?

Blackhawks Trade Hjalmarsson to Coyotes

By Randy Holndoner (@bhawkschatter)

Stan Bowman promised a shakeup to the Chicago Blackhawks next year and he did so by trading one of the core defensemen on the team.  The Hawks traded 3-time Stanley Cup Champion, Niklas Hjalmarsson, to the Arizona Coyotes, for fellow defenseman, Connor Murphy, and prospect, Laurent Dauphin.

Hjalmarsson, 30, spent his entire 10-year career with the Blackhawks.  In that time, he was part of 3 Stanley Cup championships.  Hjalmarsson was the stay-at-home defenseman that blocked shots like nobody's business.  Amazingly, he had missed only 11 games in the last four years.  He was the Blackhawks' #3 D-man and will most likely play along Oliver Ekman-Larsson on the top defensive line in Arizona.  Hjalmarsson arrives in Arizona with two years remaining on a $20.25mil contract, a cap hit of $4.1mil.

Murphy, 24, will likely assume Hjalmarsson's spot as a top 4 defenseman in Chicago.  Murphy, slightly bigger at 6'4", 215 lbs., is considered a stay-at-home defenseman as well, but with a bit more defensive pop.  Murphy has spent his four year NHL career, all with the Coyotes.  Murphy brings a right-handed shot, which will compliment the Hawks since Hjalmarsson was a left-handed shot who preferred the right side.  A former #1 pick, 20th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Murphy comes to Chicago with five years remaining on a 6-year, $23.1mil contract, a cap hit of $3.85mil.

Dauphin, 22, played 24 games for Arizona last year, gathering 3 points (2G 1A), and will most likely spend time with the Blackhawks' AHL affilliate, Rockford Icehogs.

A shakeup was needed, and this was just the beginning.  For those who don't "get it", Bowman is keeping the Blackhawks competitive, getting the team younger (6-year difference between Hjlamarsson and Murphy), adding youth prospects (Dauphin), reducing salary cap, ($250k in which every bit counts), and keeping key players under contract (gained 3 years with Murphy).

Love him or hate him, Bowman is trying to get the best he can and stay competitive.  He blew the 2010 championship team up for picks, and drafted players like Saad and Shaw.  How did that work out?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Marian Hossa to Miss Entire 2017-18 Season For Blackhawks

By Randy Holndoner (@bhawkschatter)

This deals a huge blow to the Blackhawks with worries of Trevor van Riemsdyk and Marcus Kruger, both being possibly sent to the Vegas Golden Knights, within the next couple of days.

From the Blackhawks website, Hossa gave a statement:

"Over the course of the last few years, under the supervision of the Blackhawks medical staff, I have been privately undergoing treatment for a progressive skin disorder and the side effects of the medications involved to treat the disorder. Due to the severe side effects associated with those medications, playing hockey is not possible for me during the upcoming 2017-18 season. While I am disappointed that I will not be able to play, I have to consider the severity of my condition and how the treatments have impacted my life both on and off the ice.

The Chicago Blackhawks organization, including Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough and Stan Bowman, and my agent, Ritch Winter, have been very supportive throughout this entire process. I would also like to thank my teammates and the amazing Blackhawks fans for their understanding. With respect to the privacy of my family, I will not be commenting any further on my health."

General Manager and Senior Vice President, Stan Bowman, had this to say:

"The Chicago Blackhawks are in full support of Marian Hossa as he addresses his medical issues. This is extremely difficult for us because we all know the incredible person and player that Marian Hossa is - competitive, loyal and humble. He has played a major role in the success our franchise has experienced in recent years, which makes his departure from our lineup a significant loss. His teammates and coaches know he battled through some very tough physical difficulties but never complained or missed games despite the challenges he faced. The organization will continue to provide him every resource he needs to maintain his health."

Team Physician, Dr. Michael Terry, who has worked with Hossa with this disorder stated this:

"Marian has been dealing with the effects of a progressive skin disorder that is becoming more and more difficult to treat and control with conventional medications while he plays hockey. Because of the dramatic nature of the medications required and their decreasing effectiveness, we strongly support his decision not to play during the 2017-18 season. We feel in the most certain terms this is the appropriate approach for Marian in order to keep him functional and healthy in the short term and throughout his life."

After the Blackhawks were eliminated by the Nashville Predators, Hossa had mentioned in a Slovokia publication that he looked forward to beginning his offseason training.

The only positive news that can come from this is that the Blackhakws can place Hossa on Long-Term Injured Reserve (LITR), for the entire season and not have his $5.275 cap hit effect the teams salary cap problems.  If Hossa retires, the Blackhawks will be hit with a $3.675 cap capture penalty through the 2020-21 season due to Hossa still having four years remaining on his 12-year, $63.3 million contract.

This would be a horrible way for one of the best and most respected players in the league to leave the game, if he cannot return from this.  Hossa had a bounce back season last year scoring 26 goals, with 19 assists, in 73 games last year.

For his career, Hossa has put up Hall of Fame numbers with 1134 points (525 goals, 609 assists), in 1309 career NHL games, to this point.  He was part of Blackhawks' 2010, '13, and '15 Stanley Cup wins, while appearing in 2 others (Detroit, '09, Pittsburgh, '08).

Sunday, June 18, 2017

NHL Releases Protected/unprotected List of Players For Expansion Draft

By Randy Holndoner (@bhawkschatter)

For the Chicago Blackhawks, the following is the list of protected players.  No surprise really of any of them.


Of the unprotected/available players for the expansion draft:

Key players of interest are Marcus Kruger and Trevor van Riemsdyk, who have both been of the chatter of this upcoming expansion draft.  There have been rumors of supposed deals where both players would go to Vegas dependent upon Vegas selecting one of the players and then trading for the other.

We shall see what develops as we get closer to that day.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Blackhawks Re-sign Panik to 2-yr Extension

By Randy Holndoner (@bhawkschatter)

The Chicago Blackhawks have resigned forward, Richard Panik to a 2-year extension worth an unconfirmed $5.6million ($2.8mil cap hit).

Panik, 26, had career highs last year, playing in every game (82), accumulating 44 points (22G 22A), and was a +14.

Panik started the year as hot as anyone in the NHL by scoring six goals on his first nine shots.  He cooled down afterwards, but in the second half of the season, joined with Jonathan Toews and Nick Schmaltz, helped the Blackhawks go on a string of wins that catapulted them to win the Central Division.

In the very brief playoff series against the Nashville Predators, Panik managed just a single assist in four games.

Originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2nd round (52nd overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Panik was moved to Toronto, where he was traded to the Blackhawks on January 3rd, 2016, in exchange for Jeremy Morin.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Blackhawks Trade Darling to Hurricanes

By Randy Holndoner (@bhawkschatter)

Stan Bowman and the Chicago Blackhawks said goodbye to Lemont, IL native, and Stanley Cup Champion goaltender, Scott Darling today as they traded him to the Carolina Hurricanes for a 3rd round draft pick in the upcoming draft in June.

Darling was to be a unrestricted free agent as of July 1st.  Bowman found a suitor for Darling, who finished tied for 5th in the league in save percentage (.924).  With the Blackhawks backed up against the salary cap yet again, Bowman did the only thing he could do, get something in return for him.  Darling should easily earn a multi-year salary averaging between $3-$4 million per year.  With the 3rd round pick in return, the Blackhawks now have 10 draft picks in the upcoming draft (one pick in the 1st-4th, and 7th rounds, three 5th rd, and two 6th rd picks).

Darling came to the Blackhawks as a journeyman goalie who fulfilled a kids dream of playing for his hometown team and winning the Stanley Cup in 2015.  Over 3 years with the Blackhawks, Darling compiled a record of 39-17-9, 2.37 GAA, .924 SV%, 4 SO.  He and Corey Crawford combined to with the Jennings Trophy in 2015 for least goals allowed.

As to who will be back up for Crawford next year, that is yet to be seen as Mac Carruth and Lars Johansson are also set to become unrestricted free agents.

Bowman has started the off-season moves already.  With ten picks in this year's draft, don't be surprised to see at least one or more of these picks, possibly packaged with a veteran, for some young talent.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Blackhawks' Bowman Shaking The Tree, But What About The Roster?

By Randy Holndoner (@bhawkschatter)

Chicago Blackhawks General Manager, Stan Bowman stated things were going to change, after their embarrassing 4-game sweep dismissal from the playoffs at the hands of the Nashville Predators.

It started by firing Assistant Coach, Mike Kitchen yesterday.  Kitchen had been with the Blackhawks since the 2010-11 season and was part of the '13 an '15 championship teams.  Honestly, it makes sense since the Hawks' penalty kill has been horrible the last two seasons, including one of the most brutal starts in NHL history this past season where they gave up 14 goals in the first 26 attempts.

Head Coach, Joel Quenneville was not happy with the dismissal of Kitchen.  Kitchen was Quenneville's assistant while Q was the head coach of the St. Louis Blues back in 1998-99.  That lasted 6 years until Kitchen came to the Blackhawks after the 2010 season.

Next, Bowman went further into the Blackhawks system and relieved Rockford Icehogs Head Coach Ted Dent from his duties today.  Dent, had been part of the Blackhawks minor league system dating back to the 2006-07 season when he was an Assistant Coach with the then AHL affiliate, Norfolk Admirals.  Dent and the Icehogs had a horrible year (25-39-12) and missed the playoffs for the fist time in six years under Dent's reign.

That is fine that Bowman has shaken the tree, but he needs to shake the roster.  He said to not be surprised if some of the core players are not here next year.  The problem with this?  Any player with a substantial cap hit, (Toews, Kane, Keith, Seabrook, Hossa, Crawford) have No Move Clauses (NMC)s in their contracts.  This means that if Bowman was to trade one of these highly priced players, they would have to agree to waive their no trade clause to make it happen.

The most logical candidate to leave if he agrees to waive his NMC, would be Brent Seabrook.  His cap hit is $6.875mil for the next seven seasons.  He scored just 3 goals, the lowest in his 12 year career.  This coming a year after his contract year in which he scored a career high 14 goals.  Can Bowman swing a deal for a 5th/6th, young, D-man, and possibly a 2nd rd pick?  Who knows, but one thing was blatantly obvious in these playoffs.  The Blackhawks defense is slow, and getting older.  Seabrook, unless he was injured, was not moving well.

They gave up 31.4 shots per game this season.  The last time they gave up that many shots?  1988-89 season.

Bowman is now being tested hard for the first time since the break-up of the 2010 Stanley Cup team.  What he does here will be looked at a lot more closely this time around.  Two exits in the first round of the playoffs, when you are expected to go deep, will do that to a person.  The motto is 'One Goal', not 'One Series'.  Let's see what magic Bowman has left in his wand to turns this team around.

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

How The Predators Swept The Blackhawks. What's Next For Chicago?

By Randy Holndoner (@bhawkschatter)

The Chicago Blackhawks found themselves packing their bags for the summer as the Nashville Predators swept the Blackhawks with a 4-1 victory.

For the Predators, the fourth time is a charm.  After being eliminated by the Blackhawks in 2010, 2013, and 2015, they had something to prove.  Boy did they show it.  They outplayed the Blackhawks in almost every aspect.  

To win the Cup, you need bounces and breaks to go your way.  The Blackhawks found themselves on the wrong side of almost every bounce.  That is not taking anything away from a Predators team that dominated this entire series.  Pekka Rinne was solid in net, although was not tested often in the series.  Amazingly, Rinne, in the series, had as many points as any of the Blackhawks (2 assists in Game 2).

Board battles, faceoffs, net presence, all were dictated by the Predators in this series.  Another glaring problem was the slowness of the Blackhawks in the series, particularly their defense.  The Predators outscored the Blackhawks in the series, 13-3.

Big questions now arise for the Blackhawks.  Two first-round exits in the last two seasons now for this franchise.  More disturbing, in the last two post seasons, Jonathan Toews has scored 1 goal (11 games).  Patrick Kane, two goals.

What does this mean for this team that will have to deal with yet another season of salary cap questions.  Do players become expendable now to be traded for younger talent?  Brent Seabrook, who did not have a good year, has a $6.8mil cap hit for the next seven years.  Marcus Kruger, who has a $3mil cap hit for the next two seasons would be a reasonable choice to leave.

Stan Bowman would have rather thought about these problems two months from now, but instead, he'll have a couple of months to think of a way to turn this franchise around.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Predators Take Commanding 3-0 Series lead with 3-2 OT Victory Over Blackhawks

By Randy Holndoner (@bhawkschatter)

The Nashville Predators took a commanding 3-0 lead in the best of seven series against the Chicago Blackhawks with a 3-2 come from behind victory from the stick of Kevin Fiala, 16:44 into OT.

The Blackhawks took a 2-0 lead heading into the 3rd period.  Their first goals and lead of the series.

Dennis Rasmussen solved Pekka Rinne (34 saves) with a stuff shot in front of the net from a pass from Marcus Kruger.  Later in the period, Patrick Kane scored his first of the playoffs on the power play to give the Hawks a 2-0 lead.

Then, in the 3rd, a Viktor Arvidsson shot took a weird bounce off the glass behind Corey Crawford, (46 saves), and dropped in front of the net where Filip Forsberg tapped it in to cut the lead to 2-1.  Then, a controversial goaltender interference, which was later called a good goal, tied the game at 2 with just under 6 minutes left in regulation when Forsberg again scored after Arvidsson brushed Crawford while trying to make a save.

In the overtime, the Predators had the better end of play as the Blackhawks started to look slow and tired.  It cost them when an arrant drop pass from Marian Hossa was picked up by Nashville and led to the winning goal by Fiala who patiently waited till he had Crawford alone and down, and stuffed it into the back of the net.

The Blackhawks again were horrible at the faceoff dot winning just 42% of the draws.  Marcus Kruger and Artem Anisimov combined for just 9 wins while losing 29.  A horrible 24%.  

The Predators look to close the series out Thursday night in Nashville.

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Rinne, Predators Dominate Blackhawks, 5-0, Take 2-0 Series Lead

By Randy Holndoner (@bhawkschatter)
Pekka Rinne recorded his second consecutive shutout as he and the Nashville Predators dominated the Chicago Blackhawks, 5-0 at the United Center to grab a 2-0 series lead in this best of seven series.

Not only did Rinne dominate in net stopping all 30 shots he faced, he added two assists in the game and has more points than Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have goals in their last 8 playoff games combined.

It took just 3:44 into the game for the Predators to find the back of the net as Ryan Ellis sent a slapshot from the point that Corey Crawford did not see as Viktor Arvidsson screened him in front of the net.  That is something that the Blackhawks have yet to do this series.

The Predators dominated play on the boards, won puck battles, and faceoffs.  the fourth line for the Predators continued to give the Blackhawks fits as Harry Zolniercyzk scored on a partial breakaway in the second period to extend the lead.

Blackhawks head coach, Joel Quenneville juggled lines constantly once again in order to find a connection that could solve the Predators defense.  The more he did this, the more the Blackhawks seemed out of sync.  Missed passes, blown coverages, slow line changes.

The Predators kept the game fast paced as the Blackhawks were chasing pucks after a while.  The Blackhawks had a hard time penetrating the Predators blue line as they constantly clogged up the neutral zone with four defenders.  When they did enter the zone, the Hawks had no chance to set up as the Preds constantly applied pressure.

Frustration kicked in at the end of the game when Ryan Hartman took a senseless penalty that gave him a roughing penalty along with a misconduct penalty as he checked Craig Smith in the head after he already knocked him to the ground.  To add insult to injury, as the score was already 4-0, Kevin Fiala capitalized on the power play to end the scoring, to make it 5-0.

The series is still a long way away from being over, but the Blackhawks have dug themselves deep.  They have a lot to do in order to get out.  This team has done it before, but can they do it again?


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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Rinne, Predators Shutout Blackhawks, 1-0, To Take Game 1

By Randy Holndoner (@bhawkschatter) 

Game One between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Nashville Predators was a defensive battle as the Predators stole home ice advantage from the Blackhawks with a 1-0 victory.  

Nashville goalie, Pekka Rinne stated he looked forward to getting the chance to play the Blackhawks again, who had bounced he and the Predators twice in the first round the previous two times these two teams met ('10, '15).

Rinne proved that by being the star of the game as he stopped all 29 shots he faced.  Viktor Arvidsson scored the lone goal in the first period on a nice redirect near the front of the net.

Corey Crawford stopped 19 shots in the loss.  The Blackhawks did not play poorly, but they did have poor shot selection as for when they did get shots off, no one was in front of the net to screen Rinne.  The Predators had 26 blocked shots.   The Blackhawks need to find better lanes and be smarter with the puck.  They had good puck possession, but not good shots or net presence.

Artem Anisimov returned for his first game since an injury side-lined him for the last three weeks of the regular season.  He looked good, and did have good net presence, which resulted in some good chances.  He was the only person in front of the Predator net to create those scoring chances.

Notable Mentions: It's the first time the Blackhawks have been shutout at home in the playoffs since the 2012 playoffs.  Dating back to last year's playoffs, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have combined for one goal.  That is not the "One Goal" Blackhawks fans or management were thinking when stating that phrase.

3 Stars Of The Game
1 - NSH - Pekka Rinne - 29 saves, 1.000 SV%, SO
2 - NSH - Viktor Arvidsson - 1G
3 - CHI - Corey Crawford - 19 saves, .960 SV%

Next Game: Saturday, Nashville Predators at Chicago Blackhawks, 7PM


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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Keys For Blackhawks To Beat Predators

By Randy Holndoner (@bhawkschatter)

The Chicago Blackhawks and the Nashville Predators face off for the third time in the last eight years as their playoff series start tomorrow night in Chicago.

The Blackhawks won the regular season series, three games to one.  Due to the NHL scheduling this year, all four games were played by January 8th.  Both teams have gone through changes since they last met.

Specifically for the Blackhawks, their penalty kill.  They started the season with an historically horrible PK.  The Predators were a big reason for that as they went 5-for-9 on the power play in their first two games against one another.  The Hawks fixed their PK for the second half of the season and finished 24th overall for the season.  That is saying something considering as of October 26th, they had killed just 12 of 26 power play attempts.

So what should we look for this series?

Keys to a Blackhawks series victory
1 - Hot players - In their last 30 games Patrick Kane has 40 pts., Artemi Panarin 30 pts., and Jonathan Toews 30 pts.  Last season, the St. Louis Blues held Kane and Toews to a combined one goal in a 7-game, 1st series loss.  They will have something to prove.

2 - Net Presence - Artem Anisimov returns to the lineup and will provide a big body in front of Predators goaltender, Pekka Rinne.  If they are going to win this series, Anisimov, Tanner Kero, and Richard Panik, will have to be a screen against Rinne.  Also, others like Ryan Hartman, and Jonathan Toews, will need to crash the net for rebounds.  Playoffs are full of ugly goals.  This series will be no different.

3 - Faceoffs - The Blackhawks were ranked 29th in faceoff winning percentage (47.5).  Unless Toews plans on taking every faceoff (54.9), someone will have to step up their game.  If you win the faceoff, you win the puck, the other team can't score.  Especially if the draw is in your zone.

4 - Shots Against - The Blackhawks averaged 31.4 shots against this year.  Not since the 1988-89 season, have the Blackhawks given up so many shots against on average for a season.  That has to stop.  That gives too many chances to the opposition.  You play with fire.  Which leads me to #5.

5 - Defense - The addition of Johnny Oduya at the trade deadline was probably the biggest move the Blackhawks could have made to make a run for the Cup.  Being able to have a foursome of him, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson, will be huge.  Not to mention having Brian Campbell available to log long minutes should help the Blackhawks tremendously.

6 - Goaltending - The last line of defense.  Corey Crawford and Scott Darling have seen a ton of rubber thrown at them this year and they combined for a .918 SV%.  Good for 6th in the league.  Crawford will get the nod again this post season and try to bring home a 3rd Stanley Cup.

This won't be an easy task for the Blackhawks, but they should will win this series, 4-2.


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