Blackhawks

Blackhawks breakdown:Steve Montador

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Blackhawks breakdown:Steve Montador

Over the next five weeks, CSNChicago.com Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers and PGL host Chris Boden will evaluate the 2011-12 performance of each player on the Hawks roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in numerical order.

In his first season with the Blackhawks, Steve Montador played 52 games -- but only one after Feb. 7 due to concussion issues. Montador averaged 14 minutes and 46 seconds per game. He scored five goals -- two on the power play -- and has nine assists for 14 points. Montador had 45 penalty minutes, 49 hits and 46 blocked shots. He did not take the ice for a single playoff game.

Boden's take: Theres really no choice but to give Montador an incomplete after missing 27 of the last 28 regular season games and all six playoff games with concussion symptoms. He wasnt particularly noticeable in the 52 games he did play in, except for having some success parked in front on the net on the power play to ignite that unit out of its season-opening slump. He came to town with a reputation for turning the puck over, but it didnt appear to plague Montador more than anyone else. He also came here via a trade for his free agent rights with the best overall offensive numbers of his career the previous season in Buffalo (21 assists, 26 points). He also supplied the only righthanded shot among defensemen who were on the NHL roster outside of Brent Seabrook. But the Hawks gave him a four-year, 11 million contract many observers believe he couldnt come close to getting anywhere else, so that 2.75 million salary cap hit has three years left on it.

Myers' take: When the Blackhawks signed the veteran to a four-year deal on the eve of July 1, they hoped he would bolster depth and bring some of the puck-moving element lost when Brian Campbell got traded to Florida. While Montador had his moments - mostly when he was put in front of the net on the power play - he had an otherwise so-so season. He struggled out of training camp, was in the third defensive pair and then suffered a concussion that sidelined him the final two months of the season. As Hawks debuts go, it was a tough one.

2012-13 Expectations

Chris: Providing Montador makes a complete recovery, were still waiting to see if he can provide something more than what was on display last season. His power play contributions were nice, but it didnt turn out to be a long-term solution, and shouldnt be counted upon moving forward. Montadors not afraid to mix it up with an opponent, and that is something this team needed - and still needs. Like Niklas Hjalmarsson, the money hes being paid usually requires greater production. If both end up being in the third pair together, or split between the second and third pairs, the Hawks need grit, intelligence, strong penalty-killing and shot-blocking. If Montador fills those roles effectively and hovers around 20-25 points on the other end, hell earn the money left on his contract - whether outsiders believe its a reasonable one or not.

Tracey: The first priority for Montador is to come back healthy. He was skating on his own by the end of the regular season, so he should be fine come September. But Montador has to have a better go-around this time. The Blackhawks need his veteran presence and need him to help bolster that group of defensemen.

How do you feel about this evaluation? As always, be sure to chime in with your thoughts by commenting below and check out some of Montador's highlights above.
Previously: Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson
Up next: Sean O'Donnell

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks face Golden Knights for first time

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks face Golden Knights for first time

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Vegas Golden Knights Tuesday on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 8:45 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Corey Crawford vs. ... Oscar Dansk? 

The Golden Knights have seen both Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban go down with injuries, so they're scraping for goaltenders at this point.

On one end of the ice, you have one of the best netminders in the league and a two-time Stanley Cup champion in Crawford. On the other, you have a 23-year-old rookie in Dansk making his first official NHL start who will be backed up by a 24-year-old rookie in Maxime Lagace, who has never appeared in an NHL game.

In his first game action, Dansk stopped 10 of 11 shots in relief during Saturday's 3-2 overtime win over St. Louis.

2. Fast start.

The Blackhawks are tied for second in both goals scored (13) and fewest goals allowed (four) in the first period, which has a large reason for their early season success.

The Golden Knights aren't the kind of team that gets out to a blazing start. They've allowed only five goals in the opening frame, but they've scored only five as well, which ranks among the bottom 10 teams in the league. 

3. Beware of James Neal.

The Golden Knights became the first team in NHL history to win six of their first seven games of their inaugural season. And they probably don't have half of those wins if it weren't for Neal, who scored the game-winning goal in each of their first three games.

He leads the club with six goals and eight points, and serves as the motor for a team that doesn't have much offensive talent. He's the go-to guy, and somebody you have to keep an eye on when he's on the ice.

 

Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against LeBron and the Cavaliers

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against LeBron and the Cavaliers

Here are Three Things to Watch in the Bulls' Tuesday night tilt against the Cavaliers on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live.

1. LeBron James will be on your television

Love him or hate him, LeBron James is must-see TV. Now in his 15th NBA season, James has shown no signs of slowing down. Despite playing just one preseason game (against the Bulls), James has shown anything but rust in three games, averaging 25.0 points on 60 percent shooting, 8.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in nearly 37 minutes. He's a threat every night to do something you've never seen on a basketball court, His Airness included. Justin Holiday and Paul Zipser will have their hands full against the game's best player.

2. Lauri Markkanen, Week 2

Small sample size alert! But through the season's first week Markkanen and Ben Simmons are the only rookies averaging a double-double (Dallas' Dennis Smith has played just one game, averaging 16 points and 10 assists). While the Bulls have struggled through two games, Markkanen's net rating is third best on the team and he leads the Bulls bigs in rebounds per game and rebound percentage. Markkanen has shown some versatility offensively, and his 7 free-throw attempts have been a nice surprise as well.

3. Don't forget: The Bulls swept the Cavaliers last year

OK, so expecting a victory Tuesday night in Cleveland isn't smart. The Bulls will be underdogs just like they were in each of the four games last season, all of which were Bulls winners. It was the first time in 52 division series that LeBron James had been swept, which is pretty remarkable considering the Bulls were the No. 8 seed and the Cavs coasted to a third straight NBA Finals. We're not over here predicting a win. But just remember: the Bulls have fared well against James in the regular season.