Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Speaking offensively

Hawk Talk: Speaking offensively

Sunday, May 30, 2010
11:38 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO Raise your hand if you thought the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals would result in 11 goals, the most in 18 yearssince the last Stanley Cup Finals game played in Chicago, in fact.

OK, now, hold it up for awhile, because the IRS is on its way for a thorough audit, a sitdown with the lie detector and a date with the breathalyzer.

To be sure, the gritty Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers went for a very light sandpaper grade for the first 50 minutes of the game, resulting in 10 goals through just two periods and two rosters of completely discombobulated skaters.

There was a lot of action: Shootout at the OK Corral, said a relieved Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville postgame. Things settled down as the game progressed, but certainly, I dont think anybody envisioned 5-5 heading into the third period.

Quennevilles forwards, while enjoying the scoring thrust from their own side, were just as mystified.

When it was right around 4-3, 4-4, I looked up and said, What is going on out there? admitted Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp, who scored the clubs game-tying third goal. I dont think either club drew the gameplan up like that.

When we came off after the second I looked up, said the author of Chicagos game-tying fourth goal, winger Kris Versteeg, spinning a similar tale of shock and awe. I saw it was 5-5 and said, 'Holy crap, what is going on?'"

It certainly wasnt the game anyone expected. Yes, the Flyers entered action having scored more goals than anyone in the 2010 postseason and the Blackhawks had already scored five or more goals five times in 16 playoff games. But with blue line stalwarts on and aggressive forechecking forwards on both clubs, not to mention goalies who had combined to stop shots at a .950 clip in their conference finals, offense looked to be offset, bigtime.

While acknowledging Chicagos blueliners would need to buck up as the series progresses, Blackhawks alternacap Duncan Keith put the defensive debauchery in perspective.

Giving up five goals is bad, he acknowledged. But giving up six is worse.

And its that simple. In the end, the Blackhawks can say they played poorly in a number of areasfirst-line scoring, misbegotten penalties, turnovers, goaltending, lazy defense and forecheckingand still have a win to show for it. Putting one in the left-hand column makes it easier to grin about the way Game 1 played out.

There was one big difference, said Versteeg with regard to how his first true Stanley Cup game played out vs. the 1,000 road hockey Cups he won growing up. I dont think we ever scored as many on the driveway as we did tonight.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Blackhawks’ depth could be key as roster becomes clearer

Blackhawks’ depth could be key as roster becomes clearer

Jeremy Colliton has tried to dismiss any notion that forward lines in preseason games or practice groups in training camp give any indication as to what the Blackhawks might look like come October 4 in Prague. But with only two preseason games remaining – one of which could very well be the Rockford IceHogs against the Boston Bruins – it would be quite a shock to see the lines shuffled much before the team heads overseas.

“To me, it’s becoming more clear what our lineup is going to look like,” Colliton said after a 3-2 overtime win over an abbreviated Bruins squad on Saturday. “I think we’re getting what we want out of training camp here.”

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews look like a safe bet to once again start the season on the top line, with Alexander Nylander getting the first look on the left wing. On the second line, the combination of Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat look like they will have Andrew Shaw pestering opponents and opening up some ice for them.

Where the Blackhawks hope to see a major improvement is in the bottom six, where the team struggled to generate offense last season. Stan Bowman’s additions this summer seem to have the Blackhawks in much better position to not have to rely so heavily on their top two lines or top power play unit.

The third line looks fairly set with Brandon Saad on the left wing and Dominik Kubalik on the right wing. David Kampf looks like the favorite to center that line, but the Blackhawks did give Anton Wedin a look there against the Bruins, and he delivered a primary assist on Saad’s goal.

“I think he plays with a lot of energy and he’s a conscientious player. I think he works hard. Both sides of the puck, he’s got a little bit of skill. He’s a strong skater,” Colliton said of Wedin. “I thought he did well, I liked that line. I thought Saad was excellent.”

The fourth line of Drake Caggiula, Ryan Carpenter and Zack Smith earned high praise as well.

“I thought that Carpenter line with Smith and Caggiula was really good, really effective for us,” Kane said. “I think that’s something we might have been missing a little bit last year. Good to see them going, seems like that could be a fun line to watch.”

When the Blackhawks’ season ended this past April, Colliton said he wanted to rely less on Kane and use his star in a more “targeted” way. If the third and fourth lines can generate some scoring, or at the very least some offensive zone time, it could go a long way in getting the Blackhawks into a position to confidently roll four lines.

“We have so much more depth, definitely. There’s no question,” Colliton said. “To have the opportunity to move guys up at times, they should be fresh and ready to make a difference further up the lineup. We have competition, which I think is a good formula for us.”

So, while Colliton may try to play coy on forward lines and defense pairings, Kane has much less to hide.

“That was pretty much our lineup, or close to our lineup, so we’re trying to identify the way we want to play,” Kane said. “Obviously, I think we had some spurts tonight where we did that well and some other times where we struggled a little bit. It’s early in the season, we’re still trying to figure it out.”

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Blackhawks announce second round of roster cuts

dylan_sikura_usa_today_3.jpg
USA Today

Blackhawks announce second round of roster cuts

After making a first wave of roster cuts to pare their roster down from 55 to 49, the Blackhawks announced a more significant second round Saturday afternoon.

Per the team, forwards Dylan Sikura, Matthew Highmore, Brandon Hagel, Philipp Kurashev, Mikael Hakkarainen, Alexandre Fortin, Reese Johnson, MacKenzie Entwistle, defensemen Nicolas Beaudin, Joni Tuulola, Lucas Carlsson and goaltender Matt Tomkins have all been assigned to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

The Blackhawks roster now consists of 33 players: 18 forwards, 11 defensemen and four goaltenders. 

The news comes just hours before the Blackhawks square off with the Bruins in the team's fourth game of the preseason Saturday night.

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