Quiet offseason better than Blackhawks' rivals


Quiet offseason better than Blackhawks' rivals

It's been a quiet offseason for the Blackhawks with their only roster move thus far being the signing of free-agent defenseman Sheldon Brookbank.

But is it possible that by standing pat, they've actually improved? Most teams in the Central Division have suffered a substantial departure without making any significant additions.

The Red Wings lost future Hall of Fame defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom when No. 5 decided to retire. They also traded another one of their top-4 defensemen when they sent Brad Stuart to the San Jose Sharks and watched 25-goal scorer Jiri Hudler sign with the Calgary Flames.

Detroit was considered one of the favorites to land Ryan Suter, Zach Parise or both, but didn't sign either. To date, their biggest additions have been forwards Mikael Samuelsson and Jordin Tootoo. While they're still trying to lure Shane Doan out of Phoenix, this has been a very un-Red Wing-like offseason.

Speaking of Suter, his exit from Nashville greatly impacts a Predators team built around one of the NHL's best defensive units. But he wasn't their only significant loss. Supremely skilled right winger Alexander Radulov chose to go back to the KHL rather than re-signing. In nine regular season games, Radulov scored three goals with four assists. He had a goal and five assists in eight playoff games.

While the Columbus Blue Jackets weren't a threat to the Blackhawks, they dealt their best player, Rick Nash, to the New York Rangers for three players and a draft pick. Most experts believe they got "fleeced." Nash, 28, is a five-time All-Star who has scored at least 30 goals in each of the last five seasons despite being surrounded by minimal offensive talent.

The St. Louis Blues were impacted the least by the free agency scene. Only two players from last year's roster aren't under contract and they remain unsigned. Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo and center Jason Arnott could still return and even if they don't, St. Louis might not feel too big of an impact by their loss.

The Blackhawks racked up 101 points and finished sixth in the ultra-competitive Western Conference last season while playing without Jonathan Toews for 23 games. With better health and the weakening of some division rivals, keeping the current roster could still result in a better 2012-13, and thus, a possible deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Three Things to Watch: Bulls-76ers

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Bulls-76ers

The Bulls square off against the Sixers tonight on NBC Sports Chicago, with coverage beginning at 6:30 with Bulls Pregame Live. Here are three things to watch as the Bulls begin the stretch run of their regular season.

1. The new rotation: Most of the Bulls’ rotation looks the same, but the addition of David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne will have a different feel. The Bulls clearly want to get a look at these guys before the end of the regular season, meaning they’re not just going to get sporadic minutes. They’ll have to play through their mistakes, play out-matched at times and be put in uncomfortable situations. But the Bulls need to see what they have, especially in Payne, who has missed the entire season to this point with a broken foot.

2. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons: They’re quite the 1-2 punch and have the Sixers looking at their first playoff appearance since Derrick Rose hadn’t yet torn an ACL. Yeah, that’s a long time. Embiid just finished his first All-Star appearance (starting in his second year) and Simmons is the front runner for Rookie of the Year. The Bulls will have their hands full with these two. Luckily…

3. Kris Dunn is back: The Bulls wanted to get Dunn some run before heading to All-Star Weekend to play in the Rising Stars Challenge, and he looked healthy in that thumping against the Raptors last week. The good news is John Paxson says Dunn won’t be on a minutes limit, which means he’s healthy. That, of course, is more important than how he’s playing. It’ll be fun to see him, LaVine and Markkanen play together down the stretch. Their numbers together aren’t great, but the Bulls are 2-2 with all three in the lineup, and tanking or not…it’s more fun to watch when those three are rolling. 

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."