Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Monday Morning Music City Musings

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Hawk Talk: Monday Morning Music City Musings

Monday, April 26, 20101:45 PM

By Chris BodenCSNChicago.com
Marian Hossa was on the ice, but Jonathan Toews and Brent Sopel were not.

Hossa expressed relief over NHL disciplinary boss Colin Campbell ruling he shouldn't be suspended following Saturday's hit on Dan Hamhuis, who was disappointed both will be on the ice tonight for Game 6. Predators coach Barry Trotz accepted the verdict, and was ready to move on.

That's what he's been telling his players to do the last couple of days since the roof almost came off the United Center four minutes into overtime on Hossa's goal that put the Hawks in the series driver's seat. He told us after the morning skate that, emotionally, his team was at "Gound Zero" in the locker room. He believes he's gotten them to the point that it's set aside and that they'll give the Blackhawks their very best tonight.

He may also finally have leading scorer Patric Hornqvist available again. Trotz says Hornqvist will skate in pregame (as he did this morning), and that it'll literally be a "gametime decision." Hornqvist was hopeful in the locker room, but said he would not play with his upper body injury unless he's 100 percent. Glad Brian Campbell didn't feel the same way.

Trotz also says he'll try some new things on that 0-for-21 power play -- that maybe he and his coaching staff have been too stubborn in their ways, and are ready to tweak a thing or two. The addition of Hornqvist would certainly help, as he also led the club with 10 power play goals.

The man who's had a big hand in that penalty-kill success -- Sopel -- was given the morning off to help his body prepare for a few more blocked shots tonight. Joel Quenneville says he'll play, as will Toews, who soldiered on after his leg appeared to take a bad hit along the boards Saturday.

It was difficult to gauge from the locker room this morning jumping from interview to interview the team's mood. It seemed pretty serious. And it's hard to even tell whether scoring the first goal or two might have an effect on these Predators. Maybe at this point, it would have a greater influence than at any other point in the series, based on Saturday. But keep in mind that overcoming a 3-1 deficit in Game 5 was as impressive as their inability to close it out was unimpressive. They seemed to have gained the Hawks' respect, as well they should. Letting a series rest on Game 7 -- even at home -- is no guarantee, especially against this team if they bounce back tonight, and especially in this postseason.

One thing the local media draws on is a game played on March 11 in San Jose. The Predators took a 4-2 lead into the third period, allowed six Sharks goals, and lost, 8-5. The naysayers thought it was the start of their slippery slope in the competitive West as other teams outside the top eight appeared to be stepping up their games. Trotz's Troupe responded with a six-game win streak, starting with wins in Anahaeim and L.A. So before the Hawks start planning for a rematch with Vancouver ... first things first. If the Predators are down, they may as well knock 'em out and expect the elimination game to be, as they say, the toughest one to get.

I'll be on from Bridgestone Arena on "SportsNite" at 6:30, "Blackhawks Pregame Live" at 7:30, and in-game interviews during Game 6, starting at 8:00 on Comcast SportsNet Plus, when we expect to talk with John Madden along the bench just before the puck-drop.

Five takeaways from Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs

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USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs

We're going to be a little honest. The first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs could've been better.

It didn't help that the Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks swept their series', wiping out those West Coast games for the last week and a half. There were also only five overtime games, four of which came in the Washington-Columbus series, compared to 18 in the first round last season.

But having said all that, we might be in for one of the most entertaining second rounds in recent memory.

Before we get to that, here are five takeaways from Round 1:

1. Artemi Panarin is a playoff performer.

We're not going to rehash whether the Blackhawks made a mistake in trading away one of the best offensive players in the league.

Instead, let's talk about how the Bread Man proved to skeptics that he's a superstar in his own right, yes, even without Patrick Kane.

It was fair to wonder whether Panarin's production would be on par with what it was in his first two seasons in Chicago, because it was also fair to do the same for Kane, who put up his best point totals in each of those two seasons as well playing alongside Panarin — 106 points in 2015-16 and 89 in 2016-17, respectively.

But the idea that Kane made Panarin was always a lazy narrative, because they both benefited from each other. In fact, Panarin set a Blue Jackets record by registering a 82 points in a single season without Kane, proving he could thrive in a role where he was "The Guy."

Panarin finished the regular season with five straight multi-point games, and opened the playoffs with seven points (two goals, five assists) in three games, including the overtime winner in Game 1. He went pointless in the final three games, but he admitted after the Blue Jackets were eliminated that a knee injury sustained early in Game 5 played a role in his effectiveness — or lack thereof — over the final two contests. That's not an excuse, just a fact.

He now has 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in 17 postseason games for his career, which is nearly a point-per-game average. Panarin is a big-game player, and anybody that thinks otherwise is reading too much into the Blackhawks' first-round sweep at the hands of the Nashville Predators last season, where every single member struggled.

2. Do the Penguins have what it takes to three-peat?

The Penguins became the first team in the salary cap era to win back-to-back Stanley Cups. Now they can become the first to make it three in a row, and there's a realistic chance of that happening after they became the sixth team in NHL history to win nine straight playoff series following their first-round win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

There's one major caveat, as there is to almost anything: Can they stay healthy?

Evgeni Malkin will miss Game 1 against the Washington Capitals with an apparent leg injury, and Carl Hagelin has already been ruled out for the first two games.

That's a huge factor in all this, because the Penguins still have three more rounds to go if they want to make history and would need to do it with their second-best player clearly not at 100 percent and probably won't be for the rest of the playoffs.

If there's a year the Capitals can finally slay the dragon having lost nine of their past 10 playoff series against Pittsburgh, it's this one. They've got home-ice advantage, they're healthy, playing well in all phases and don't have the expectations that have seemed to weigh on their minds in the past.

3. Vegas, baby.

Has there been a more fun bandwagon to be a part of than the Golden Knights' during their inaugural season? They racked up 109 points, won the Pacific Division and swept the Los Angeles Kings when many perceived that to be a coin flip.

Marc-Andre Fleury was ridiculous, recording a 0.65 goals against average, .977 save percentage and two shutouts in four games against the Kings. Vegas as a team allowed only three goals and scored seven, with each of those seven goals coming from a different player.

It's been an incredible story.

The next stop will be against the San Jose Sharks, which certainly won't be a cakewalk. Expect that to be an evenly-matched series between two teams that aren't satisfied with how far they've come already, especially the Golden Knights. They want to make history by winning a Stanley Cup in Year 1 of existence.

Would it surprise anyone at this point?

4. Boston-Toronto lives up to the hype.

The script was set up perfectly.

Five years after the Maple Leafs overcame a 3-1 series deficit but collapsed in Game 7 at TD Garden by squandering a three-goal lead in the third period, the opportunity to rewrite history was right in front of them.

The Maple Leafs again fell behind 3-1, rallied back to win two straight, had three separate one-goal leads in Game 7 at TD Garden but couldn't seal the deal. It also could've served as a healing moment for the city of Toronto, which was hit with tragedy when a van drove onto a sidewalk and killed 10 people and injured 15 others, the same way Boston came together following the marathon bombings in 2013.

Unfortunately for the Maple Leafs, destiny did not prevail and they're still seeking a first-round series win in the salary cap era.

It was as riveting a Game 7 as you'll see, and the hockey gods rewarded fans after a dull first round. But...

5. Get ready for Round 2.

Nashville vs. Winnipeg. Vegas vs. San Jose. Tampa Bay vs. Boston. Washington vs. Pittsburgh.

Close your eyes and pick a series and that could be the most entertaining of the second round. Each of them have the potential to be great.

It's the first time in NHL history the final eight teams standings compiled at least 100 points in the regular season, meaning it truly is the best of the best that's left. So enjoy it.

And good luck with your predictions, because going 0-for-4 looks more likely than 4-for-4.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Attempting to rebuild Blackhawks into a Stanley Cup contender

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Attempting to rebuild Blackhawks into a Stanley Cup contender

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish joins Pat Boyle to answer your mailbag questions. Among the questions they tackle: What was your favorite moment from the Blackhawks’ past season and were you surprised that Joel Quenneville didn’t make any changes to his coaching staff? 

They also discuss re-signing Vinnie Hinostroza, backup goalie options for Corey Crawford and who do they like in the Jets-Predators second-round series?

Plus, Burish looks at the Penguins roster and sees some similarities to the Blackhawks’ situation and attempts to rebuild a Stanley Cup contender.

Listen to the full podcast right here: