Blackhawks

Carcillo, Kane and the power play

612958.png

Carcillo, Kane and the power play

When the Blackhawks signed Daniel Carcillo last July 1st to cap off a day that also included free agent deals with Andrew Brunette, Jamal Mayers and Sean O'Donnell, they were fully aware of the wide range of what they were getting -- and getting themselves into -- as part of addressing their needs.

If you didn't know already, CarBomb-in-a-Can was right there for all to see since his return from a six-game injury absence in the four-and-a-half periods he played Friday and Monday.

There was the nice clean hit on Todd Bertuzzi that his teammates and Hawks fans absolutely loved, and Bertuzzi absolutely hated in that first period against the Red Wings. There was his second assist in as many games by creating a neutral zone turnover versus Edmonton, skating in and perfectly setting up Jonathan Toews for the game's first goal.

And there was his cat-and-mouse game with Tom Gilbert seven minutes into the second, sending the puck in, probably capable of winning a race to it, but playing the body full-speed below the goal line extended for a violent crash into the boards.

While Gilbert sat out Tuesday night's game in Buffalo with an apparent knee injury, the injury it looks like Carcillo sustained as Gilbert bounced back onto him might be longer-term, on top of the suspension he's sure to receive.

This high-speed game involving split-second decision-making about the consequences of contact has required an adjustment over the past year for players like Carcillo, Mayers, Ben Eager, Cal Clutterbuck, Raffi Torres, etc.

Some have learned more quickly than others, but a poor decision on a bang-bang play could only be a shift away.

You can see the potential in the signing of Carcillo with what he provided in the first four periods of his return. But between the injury and whatever discipline Brendan Shanahan and company hand down, who knows how soon we'll see Carcillo again as he recovers, serves and searches for the fine line in his style of play. And when he does come back, will the drastic swings in how he helps and hurts the team remain? It certainly won't be in what would've been his return to Philadelphia Thursday night.

Kane

Speaking of Philadelphia, it'll be the Hawks' first trip back to the scene of their greatest triumph over the past half-century.

Patrick Kane's Stanley Cup clincher turned him into the conquering hero, the toast of Chicago, and the life of the party. My bet is with Carcillo not around, Kane will hear the most grief from the City of Brotherly Haters when he takes the ice.

Here's also hoping it gets things going for him. Kane will admit to a certain extent that having just nine goals as 2012 begins is bothering him a bit. I have to think it's eating away at him more than he lets on.

With just two goals in his last 20 games, it's probably starting to reach snake-bitten levels. And while he leads the team and is among the league leaders in assists, "88" is probably wondering what his off-season conditioning commitment (before wrist surgery) and goals for a huge, Hart Trophy-worthy career year has gotten him.

He's been the good soldier, switching back and forth between center and wing, and says the most important thing is that the team is still among the best in the NHL without his hoped-for goal production. I -- and probably Kane himself -- can't believe he'll wind up with under 20 goals. He's way too gifted for that to happen, but we wait.

And yes, the good news is the team is where it is despite those numbers.

Power play unit

Kane was moved to the second power play unit at Tuesday's practice.

Back on the first unit was Andrew Brunette -- who has as many goals this season as Kane while averaging six-and-a-half fewer minutes of ice time. After scoring four power play goals the first month of the season, and with that unit in a 1-for-22 funk, the veteran with the soft hands and the "strong base" who doesn't mind camping out in front deserves the opportunity.

It's a big reason they made him one of those July 1st signings. Besides Kane, the second unit included the guy 16 years Brunette's junior to see if he can handle that position. Jimmy Hayes started his NHL career skating on a line with Brunette, and we're sure some secrets about playing that role to jump-start the PP will be shared to see if the kid can earn a longer stay with the big club than the Saads, Pirris, Morins and Smiths.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 4-2 win over Coyotes: Puck don't lie

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 4-2 win over Coyotes: Puck don't lie

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night:
 
1. Surviving a crazy first period.

The Blackhawks committed four penalties in the opening frame within a 2:18 span, and escaped unscathed from it despite a pair of 5-on-3 opportunities for the Coyotes.

Of course, the only goal allowed in the period came from a fluke deflection off Jordan Oesterle's stick and slipped underneath Corey Crawford's five-hole.

Joel Quenneville likes to say the team that takes advantage of their 5-on-3 opportunities has a pretty good chance to win the game. It applied in this case, with the Blackhawks coming out victorious after surviving that stretch.

2. Power play comes alive early.

The Blackhawks got off on the right foot in an area that has been an issue for them this season, capitalizing on their first power play of the game 24 seconds into it when Richard Panik redirected a Jonathan Toews shot that tricked past Louis Domingue.

Good thing too, because it was the only man advantage they'd get. Well, excluding the power play they received with 17 seconds left in regulation when the game was already decided. 
 
3. Another controversial review in Arizona.

What's with it with controversial reviews in Arizona and the Blackhawks being on the wrong end of the call?

The Blackhawks appeared to have taken a 3-1 lead when Tommy Wingels converted on a penalty shot, but it was overturned after officials reviewed it and determined the Coyotes netminder got a stick on Wingels' initial shot. Replays didn't exactly show conclusive evidence, but the NHL released a statement proving otherwise:

Video review determined that Wingels shot the puck into the net after Arizona goaltender Louis Domingue made contact with the puck. According to Rule 24.2, "No goal can be scored on a rebound of any kind."

Shortly after, the Coyotes scored in the final minutes of the period to even up the score at 2-2 in a big turn of events at the time.
 
4. ... But puck don't lie.

The overturned penalty shot didn't matter in the end though, because the Blackhawks came away with the victory and Wingels ended up getting his first goal after all on an empty netter that iced the game.

It was Wingels' first goal as a member of his hometown team, and it was well deserved for a guy who was part of the fourth line that turned in arguably their best performance of the season.
 
5. Lance Bouma rewarded with game-winning goal.

Speaking of which, it was fitting that Bouma scored the game winner with 4:24 left in the third period because that trio of Bouma, Wingels and John Hayden was around the net for the majority of the night.

They combined for two goals and two assists, had eight attempts shot attempts (five on goal), eight of the team's 16 hits and four blocked shots.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Niklas Hjalmarsson, Coyotes

1020_hawks_yotes.jpg

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Niklas Hjalmarsson, Coyotes

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes Saturday night on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Niklas Hjalmarsson's new home.

Brace yourselves, Chicago. It's going to be a weird site seeing Hjalmarsson in a different sweater other than the Blackhawks, where he spent his first 10 NHL seasons and won three Stanley Cups.

Now he serves as an alternate captain and blue-line anchor for the Coyotes, who are the only team still seeking its first win of the season. You know they'll be hungry to snap that skid, especially when there's extra motivation for a player on their team facing a bunch of old friends.

2. Connor Murphy returns to Arizona, too.

The man Hjalmarsson was traded for will also be returning to a place he called home for four years. Murphy's role with the Coyotes increased every year before he was dealt to the Blackhawks as part of a shake-up for both teams, so you know he's going to play with something to prove.

Murphy is a physical defenseman, and has laid several notable big hits this season. His former teammates surely know it, and may want to keep their heads up.

3. Patrick Kane 2.0?

Ever since he was drafted with the No. 7 overall pick in 2016, Clayton Keller has drawn comparisons to Kane. They're both undersized, offensive playmakers, possess supreme stick-handling abilities and are American-born players.

Keller got a brief taste of NHL action last year, but he's secured a full-time spot with the Coyotes this season and has been arguably their best player so far.

The 19-year-old forward paces all rookies with five goals and ranks second with seven points, and leads the Coyotes in both categories. Expect to see his name as a finalist for the Calder Trophy for the league's top rookie at the end of the season.