Blackhawks

Stanley Cup Final feeling never gets old for Blackhawks

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Stanley Cup Final feeling never gets old for Blackhawks

Jonathan Toews is one of several Blackhawks making his third Stanley Cup Final appearance. He’s played in many postseason games.

Considering how many lengthy playoff runs the Blackhawks have had, the grind it takes to get here, the shine wears off a little, doesn’t it? Well, no, actually.

“I think last night for me was one of the toughest nights to get to sleep because of the excitement,” Toews said with a smile on his face. “I’m sure a lot of the guys share that same feeling.”

[MORE HAWKS: Jonathan Toews continues to lead by example for Blackhawks]

Indeed, they do.

There’s something about this time of the postseason, whether it’s your first time going to the Final or your third time: you’re like a kid, brimming with anticipation, excitement and perhaps some sleeplessness. The feelings never get old and the Blackhawks, who will face the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 on Wednesday night, are experiencing them again.

“Not that I can’t believe we’re here, but there [was] definitely excitement after the Game 7," Patrick Sharp said. "It was tough to kind of relax on the plane and get to sleep when I got home. I remember the first time in 2010; we were close to winning, and there wasn’t a whole lot of pregame naps going on. It wasn’t great sleep at nighttime. It was so much excitement. I think the more times you go through it, the more relaxed you can get. But having said that, the excitement and energy is still there.”

[MORE HAWKS: Lightning ticket policy attempting to block Blackhawks fans out]

The Blackhawks enter this Final much like they did the other two: they have an idea of what the Lightning will bring but they’re not as familiar with Tampa as they are their usual Western Conference foes. It will be a challenge, for sure; some are comparing the current Lightning to the Blackhawks of a few years ago. And while the Blackhawks-Anaheim Ducks matchup was a physical series, this will certainly be a speedy series.

“They definitely have a lot of speed, you’re right on that; a lot of skill, too,” Duncan Keith said. “They have forwards who have real good hockey sense. They’re in the final for a reason. We’ve said it before: it’s going to be a tough challenge. They’re a young team that’s going to be excited. We’re excited to have the challenge as well.”

There’s just something special about the playoffs in general, but especially about the Stanley Cup Final. A big reason for that is it’s so hard to get to this point once, let alone three times. The Blackhawks aren’t talking about their potential place in history yet; there’s too much hockey left to be played and, as Patrick Kane said after Game 7, “we haven’t done anything yet.” The anticipation will be there, though. So, perhaps, will be a few sleepless moments.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Get your Western Conference Champs gear here]

“I love it. It’s what we dream about, what it’s all about, as a player or coach, is getting to this situation,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “The best part about winning a Cup is the road [you take] to try and win it. You get to this stage, we put ourselves in a good spot, let’s get excited.”

UPDATES

- Quenneville said Bryan Bickell and Marcus Kruger are fine and will play in Game 1 on Wednesday. Bickell didn’t play from the early second period on in the Blackhawks’ Game 7 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday. Asked if Bickell was hurt or just not playing well, Quenneville said, “we’ll say it was my decision but we’ll say a little bit of both.”

- Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk will travel with the Blackhawks and is expected to practice with on Tuesday. Quenneville said the team will gauge where van Riemsdyk is following practice. He added that he’ll keep all options open regarding the fifth and sixth defensemen spots.

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?