Cody Franson

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-1 bounce-back win over Canadiens

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Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-1 bounce-back win over Canadiens

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night:

1. Salvaging a slow start.

The Blackhawks have dominated the first period through three games this season, having outscored their opponents 9-0 in the opening frame entering Tuesday's game. They got off to their worst start of the year in this one though, allowing the Canadiens to strike first just 1:15 into the contest and were outshot 14-2 halfway through the period.

But the Blackhawks salvaged their slow start by scoring two goals in 19 seconds towards the latter stages of the period, and took a lead into the second for the fourth straight game.

2. Alex DeBrincat scores his first of many goals in the NHL.

We teased the possibility of it in our Three Things to Watch, but the Blackhawks' top prospect is officially on the board. The 19-year-old winger snapped a three-game goal drought to open the season by blasting one past arguably the league's best goaltender in Carey Price for his first career tally.

On the play, DeBrincat received a short pass from Patrick Sharp, adjusted his body quickly to get into a shooting position and slapped it home from one of his main sweet spots. He also registered an assist later in the game for his first multi-point effort of his career.

Side note: DeBrincat committed a third-period turnover that led to a breakaway, but his strong backcheck helped disrupt the shot. That's something coaches will certainly appreciate when looking back at the tape.

3. Corey Crawford continues domination against hometown team.

For the second straight game, the Blackhawks perhaps got bailed out by great goaltendering. The Montreal native was outstanding in his hometown return, and he had to be from the very beginning.

The Canadiens peppered the Blackhawks with 14 shots on goal in the first 10 minutes of the game, and finished the contest with a season-high 42 of them. Crawford stopped all but one of them in the win, and improved to 8-0-2 with a 1.49 goals against average and .954 save percentage in 10 career games against Montreal.

The most important save of the game came on a shorthanded breakaway in the second period, which happened shortly before the Blackhawks scored on the power play to take a 3-1 lead. The score wouldn't change the rest of the way.

Crawford has now allowed only one goal in each of his first three games, and increased his season save percentage to .971. A darkhorse Vezina Trophy candidate? 

4. Penalty kill steps up.

Crawford was the biggest reason the Blackhawks won, but the penalty kill unit is a close second. They were a perfect 5-for-5 in that department against a team still searching for its first power play goal of the season.

Early in the first, the Blackhawks killed off a 5-on-3 penalty that could've changed the complexion of the game but their unit stood tall.

Tanner Kero and Tommy Wingels were very noticeable in their own ends, combining for four blocked shots and breaking up a handful of plays with active sticks. It was an all around great effort.

5. Cody Franson's debut could've been better.

Connor Murphy was a health scratch in only his fourth game with the Blackhawks, but it was likely more about getting another defenseman some reps on the second of a back-to-back rather than his on-ice play. And with the Gustav Forsling-Jan Rutta pairing shining and Franson being a right-handed shot, it makes sense why Murphy was taken out instead of the left-handed shot Michal Kempny.

As far of Franson's debut went, it wasn't bad but it wasn't great. He committed a pair of penalties (tripping and slashing) but it didn't cost his team thanks to the penalty kill coming through in the clutch, as we mentioned above.

Franson finished the game with 16:41 of ice time, recorded an assist on Anisimov's goal, and had four shot attempts (two on goal).

Cody Franson’s wait pays off as he gets his deal with Blackhawks

Cody Franson’s wait pays off as he gets his deal with Blackhawks

Once again, Cody Franson had to wait to find out his fate with a team. Once again, it had a happy ending.

Franson signed a one-year deal worth a reported $1 million on Wednesday. The 30-year-old defenseman gives the Blackhawks a steady presence and a much-needed, right-handed shot on the blue line.

When the Blackhawks signed Franson to a player tryout prior to training camp, it was expected he’d sign a deal once Marian Hossa’s placement on long-term injured reserve freed up the necessary cap space. Still, Franson wasn’t assuming anything.

“As far as having a good idea [of it happening], when you don’t have a contract there’s no real time to have a good idea,” Franson said with a laugh. “But I thought my exhibition games went well, practices have been going well. I thought I’ve been doing what I could to give myself this opportunity and luckily it played out.”

Franson talked earlier in camp about having to be patient with potential contracts. In this case he had no choice, as the Blackhawks had to wait for the NHL to rule on Hossa. If Wednesday’s practice was any indication, Franson will pair with Jordan Oesterle in the Blackhawks’ season opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday. Coach Joel Quenneville said Franson has brought what the Blackhawks were looking for from the start of camp.

“He showed us a lot,” Quenneville said. “I like his poise out there, got a good stick and shoots the puck extremely well. I like his size and his leadership qualities. He’s been a good fit with that experience and he’s excited about being here and it’s a great opportunity for us as well.”

Franson has fit into the Blackhawks’ room well. It helps that he already knew a few of the players — he and Jonathan Toews played together at World Juniors and he lives in the same area as Brent Seabrook and Jordin Tootoo in the offseason. As far as the Blackhawks’ system, he adjusted easily to that as well.

“That’s one of the things about having an experienced group and guys like this and guys that have been around for so long and have had so much success is. It’s kind of a system without even needing explaining. If you do have questions, you can ask guys because they’ve done it so much that they’re like having coaches,” he said. “It’s been a smooth transition for myself. It’s been easy to pick up and I’m excited to get going.”

Franson had to wait again for a contract, and there was ultimately no guarantee it would happen. But the odds were in his favor and thanks to a strong camp, the wait is over.

“It definitely allows you to take a bit of a deeper breath,” he said. “It’s nice to have that done, out of the way with, and be able to just focus on the regular season and getting off on the right foot here.”

Blackhawks putting finishing touches on 23-man Opening Day roster

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Blackhawks putting finishing touches on 23-man Opening Day roster

The Blackhawks are putting the finishing touches on their 23-man Opening Day roster, sending Vinnie Hinostroza to the American Hockey League’s Rockford IceHogs and placing forwards Tomas Jurco and Jordin Tootoo, and goaltender J-F Berube on waivers Monday. Michal Rozsival was also placed on long-term injured reserve.

The roster now sits at 27 players (16 forwards, eight defensemen and three goaltenders), but will be reduced to 24 once those other three clear waivers (or get claimed by another team).

That leaves us with one more cut.

Cody Franson, who's on a professional tryout agreement with the Blackhawks, has made it this far without getting the ax, and he's certainly performed well enough in training camp and preseason to earn an opportunituy to at least be in the mix on that blue line. All indications point to the 30-year-old defenseman signing a short-term deal with Chicago after roster space is cleared up, meaning he will likely be the final cut — for now — to get the team down to 23.

Marian Hossa needs to be on the roster Day 1, where he is then expected to be placed on LTIR.

Top prospect Alex DeBrincat has secured a spot, as has Lance Bouma, John Hayden, Tommy Wingels and defensemen Jordan Oesterle and Jan Rutta.

The challenging part may be becoming cap compliant by Wednesday, so it will be interesting to see how that affects the final roster decisions. But if there's anyone that has become an expert at navigating the salary cap though, it's Stan Bowman.