Blackhawks' mental toughness on full display this postseason


Blackhawks' mental toughness on full display this postseason

Corey Crawford, Teuvo Teravainen, and Antoine Vermette all have something in common. Each of them were benched at some point during this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs, and have responded by proving to be three of the most valuable pieces on the Blackhawks as the postseason has gotten deeper.

Crawford, who was temporarily replaced by Scott Darling in the first round, has faced plenty of adversity throughout his career, but perhaps none more challenging that this year's playoffs. The Blackhawks netminder lost his net, regained it, and hasn't looked back, silencing his critics the way he often does when the game's matter most.

"He's been really good in this series," said coach Joel Quenneville following a 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5.

[MORE: Blackhawks need balanced emotions in Game 6]

Teravainen, who was a healthy scratch as recently as Game 3 of the Western Conference Final, found himself fighting for a roster spot during the regular season and has since evolved from a secret weapon to a dangerous one.

After scoring the game-tying goal and assisting on the game-winner, Teravainen became the first rookie to register two third-period points in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. He followed that up by potting another one in Game 2, becoming the fifth rookie since 1927 to score a goal in each of the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final.

“We’re fortunate he’s been in some big stages and settings in the past," Quenneville said after Teravainen's breakout game in Game 1. "He seems to do well in those situations."

And as if the Blackhawks' most important trade deadline acquisition wasn't making his presence felt already, Vermette is reassuring that the first-round pick and prospect general manager Stan Bowman gave up for him was worth it after recording his third game-winning goal of the postseason on Saturday night.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The Blackhawks center struggled to find his role — at one point, was moved to wing — in Chicago, but never got discouraged. He used each opportunity as a chance to positively contribute in a way he hadn't been used to.

“It’s tough," forward Kris Versteeg, who'd been a healthy scratch in 10 of the Blackhawks' 17 games in the first three rounds, said on staying mentally prepared. "Vermy was a top guy in Phoenix. He played top minutes. And when you come here it’s an adjustment. Obviously your minutes are gonna be cut down, and you’ve got to adjust to the system and adjust to a different playing style and the different minutes you’re playing. He’s done a great job here, especially of late."

Experience is the main reason the resilient Blackhawks feel they can win any game and any series, no matter the circumstance. But credit their mental toughness for sacrificing the individual spotlight for team victories, especially those who don't get as much recognition in the first place.


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Seth Gruen (Big Ten Unfiltered) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) join Kap on the panel. 

The Blackhawks drop their 8th straight. So should their “One Goal” be to tank?

Plus, Jon Lester isn’t a fan of the new pace of play proposals. Is he right?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?


With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?

After losing their eighth straight game and falling 12 points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks' playoff chances have dipped to a season-low 0.2 percent. It would take a miracle for them to extend their postseason streak to 10 at this point, where getting just one win seems like a monumental task.

The Blackhawks were probably never really going to be buyers before the Feb. 26 trade deadline even if they were still in the hunt, but it's hard to imagine they had plans to be sellers. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has reiterated over and over again that he's confident in this group, one that's getting younger and faster.

But now they've reached a territory where they have to consider selling off spare parts simply to coup some draft picks or prospects that they could perhaps retain or use as sweeteners in the offseason.

So which players could the Blackhawks realistically sell?

Let's start with the two players getting rewarded with top-six ice time as of late: Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels.

These are two players that play with high energy and go to the greasy areas, something that's important in the playoffs when scoring goals becomes more difficult. They can clean up rebounds. Wingels, particularly, likely has more value and it's showing given his recent success on the power play as a net-front presence guy. He also isn't a stranger to the playoffs with 54 games under his belt compared to Bouma's five.

Both of them are pending unrestricted free agents and are making $1 million or fewer, which certainly works in the Blackhawks' favor considering they won't cost much and their cap hits are easy to fit in on any interested team.

Maybe a team would like to take a flyer on Tomas Jurco, who's a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but that would be a move somebody makes as more of a longer term project than strengthening your depth for a playoff run this spring.

On the back end, Michal Kempny and Jan Rutta could be in play for a contender looking to ensure some depth as a sixth or seventh defenseman. Again, each of them are making less than $1 million so it's a low-risk situation for clubs whose Plan A or B fall through and may be interested in at least getting something.

While they don't have much NHL experience, they're both 27 years old and have played the sport long enough to know what they can bring to the table.

Once Feb. 26 passes and potential roster spots open up, expect the Blackhawks to start calling up the kids. 

Matthew Highmore deserves a look after leading the Rockford IceHogs with 20 goals and 32 points. John Hayden has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 15 games since joining Rockford, and belongs in the NHL. Even Anthony Louis, who's taken a step forward, should get a taste of the action as he continues his development.

Carl Dahlstrom is getting his shot now. Erik Gustafsson is in that process as well. Gustav Forsling had another extended look during the first half of the season before the team decided it would be wise to continue his development in Rockford, where he can play top-pairing minutes.

All of this would give the Blackhawks a better indicator of how they can approach the upcoming offseason, and which young guys they can possibly add into the mix for 2018-19. But first, we have to see how the end of February plays out before making those calls.