Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Summer history class, peek into future

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Hawk Talk: Summer history class, peek into future

Monday, Aug. 9, 2010
11:08 PM

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

So how have I been giving myself a break over the summer from what turned into a nine-month hockey season (or was it 10-12, considering free agency, trades, and following the Cup)? Watching every one of the NHL Networks 35 years of Stanley Cup-clinching games, dating back to 1975, that theyve been airing each weeknight. Theyre all the way up to the 2000-2004 clinchers this week. The power of the DVR makes the games move even more quickly through the commercial breaks. But its been a good way to refresh the historical hockey memory bank of what the great teams were about, who was on them, and any common threads they shared (besides the postgame, Cup-hoisting emotions).

There is a lot of Scotty Bowman through the years, and even going back to his great Canadiens teams of the mid-to-late 70s, you can see the template that we saw in the Blackhawks championship. The handful of elite players. The one or two very good, if not great, defensive pairings. The third- and fourth-line guys who all contributed in their own ways. And while those traits are pretty common among every Cup winner, theres one quality the Bowman teams seemed to have that stood out above the rest: the puck possession style weve seen the Hawks employ the last couple of seasons. They looked a lot like the Red Wings and Penguins teams he won with. Yes, each of those teams also included a handful of highly-skilled offensive stars: Yzerman, Shanahan, Federov, and Lidstrom. Lemieux, Jagr, Coffey, Stevens, Tocchet and Mullen. Lafleur, Shutt, Robinson, and Lapointe. And thats not even getting into the leaders, grinders and unsung heroes any title team in any sport needs.

As great as the Drydens, Parents, and Fuhrs (and Espositos) were back in the day, these replays confirm how Patrick Roy took goaltending to the level and standard we see today. His athleticism and consistency in net raised the bar that the Belfours, Haseks, and Brodeurs had to pursue. But its interesting to also see how Bowman went from veteran Mike Vernon as his guy on Detroits97 Cup champs, to the relatively-untested Chris Osgood the next year. Its the opposite of what the Blackhawks will try to pull off now with the untested Antti Niemi gone after winning the Cup, and turning to the Cup-hungry veteran, Marty Turco.

The Blackhawks core that theyve wanted and needed to keep together remains, up front and on the blue line, and theyll have to take charge in carrying the momentum from the Cup out of the gate when they begin to defend in less than two months. As much as the kids who are replacing the departed depth guys may have earned the opportunity at Rockford, theres no doubt it will still be a learning process early on. Theyre capable of and certainly confident enough filling those spots, but a seamless transition for the likes of Skille, Dowell, Bickell, Stalberg, etc. might be a bit much to expect at the outset. They all have the upside, along with Kyle Beach, Shawn Lalonde, Marcus Kruger and others. This team will still be a force in the West, and the coaches are excited about the off-season moves creating new challenges that should keep the team hungry, with something to prove. The regular season ride will have a few more bumps, and the goal will be to have the newcomers continue to improve and hit their stride by next April, while at the same time having that Cup-winning core healthy and hungry.

There have been no repeat Cup winners since the lockout and the salary cap era began, and no champion the previous four years has gone through the level of turnover these Hawks have been forced to experience. That will be an incentive to the returning group, and with the moves Stan Bowman has been forced to make, hes added quality in restocking the farm. If some of his new and existing prospects reach or come close to - their upside, the franchise should keep contending for the Cup for several more seasons. Financial decisions will be a continuing process every year with the commitments theyve made to that core, and theyd at least want youthful, talented options. Whether its the guys getting opportunities this year cycling onto the roster, or a Morin, Leddy, Olsen, or Hayes being ready to step up down the road, they want and need to keep the minor league system strong, which it appears to be again. If you havent read some of the reviews of Jeremy Morins recent performance at the U-20 Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, look it up.

Stan Bowman recently revealed some additional maneuvers he was forced to make around last seasons salary cap to keep the roster as deep as it was, knowing it would make this off-seasons job more difficult. The call he made paid off in the end. His busy summer job is over. The curiosity about how good the defenders of the Cup will be, is only beginning.
Stay with CSNChicago.com and watch SportsNite on Friday and Saturday, as we travel to Buffalo and share Patrick Kanes day with the Stanley Cup

Eight-defensemen rotation tricky, but Blackhawks understand juggling act

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USA TODAY

Eight-defensemen rotation tricky, but Blackhawks understand juggling act

For Jordan Oesterle, the wait really wasn’t a terrible thing.

Sure, he was used to playing more consistently in the past. But he knew with the Blackhawks carrying eight defensemen that several players, including him, would need to practice patience and understanding.

“It hasn’t been too long. It’s only been a week and a half so it’s not terrible,” said Oesterle on Thursday morning, a few hours before he made his Blackhawks debut against his former team, the Edmonton Oilers.

For the second consecutive season the Blackhawks are going with eight defensemen to start the season. In one way, it’s good: if anything goes awry, be it someone’s game or someone’s health, the depth is readily there.

But so are the challenges. It’s a juggling act, a delicate balance between making the right decisions and making sure a player understands that a scratch may be more about the rotation and not his individual game.

Communication, above all, is key.

“It’s not easy being the guys who are in or out, right on that bubble situation where you come in not knowing if you’re going to play. But as a staff we want to keep everyone involved,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We know the depth of your defense is going to get challenged at some point during the year. We feel the eight guys who are here can play but that’s how we’ve always done it: We’ve always let guys know whether you’re in or out. Sometimes you have to be more patient than you’d like but handling it the right way, whether you’re a good pro or teammate, that can be healthy around the environment of your team.”

Based on all outward appearances, everyone has handled it well. Connor Murphy has been a healthy scratch twice – “I mean I just want to see the team win really...if we're winning and guys are playing well that's all that matter,” Murphy said after his first scratch.

Oesterle was a healthy scratch the first seven games. Michal Kempny, who Oesterle replaced, has been scratched the last two games. Cody Franson has also sat seven games. Franson, whose patience has been in place while awaiting contracts in his career, is practicing it again. But he’s appreciated the Blackhawks’ communication on it.

“This situation gets tough when they don’t say anything to you; you don’t know if it’s because of the way you’re playing, you don’t know if it’s something you did or what the situation is. The coaching staff has done a great job of being in our ear, letting us leave our work at the rink and not take it home with us,” Franson said. “That goes a long way in being able to stay positive and in the right mindset through it.”

After starting with eight defensemen last season the Blackhawks eventually went back to seven. Will they do that again this season? Maybe, but whoever gets sent down would most likely have to go through waivers. The Blackhawks reassigned Gustav Forsling last season to get back to seven defensemen and get Forsling more playing time. But this season Forsling and Jan Rutta have been dependable and have pretty much become the Blackhawks’ second pairing.

So for now, eight defensemen it shall be. Being part of the rotation isn’t always easy but so far players seem to get that it’s for the greater good.

“It’s one of those things where we’ve got eight quality guys. I think no matter who’s sitting on any given night, it might not necessary be due to how they’re playing or how they’re doing individually,” Franson said. “I think Q’s done a great job of managing that situation. That’s one of those things where it’s a great problem to have but it’s not an easy one to handle. So we’re all aware of what’s taking place right now and you just try to be as professional about it as you can.”

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.