Blackhawks

Blackhawks all-time leading scorer Stan Mikita dies at 78

Blackhawks all-time leading scorer Stan Mikita dies at 78

Stan Mikita, the Blackhawks' all-time leading scorer with 1,467 points, has died. He was 78.

Statement on behalf of the Mikita family:

With great sorrow, the Mikita family announces that Stan passed away on Tuesday August 7, 2018 at the age of 78. He was surrounded by his loving family whom he fiercely loved. Details of planned services will be released when they become available. We respectfully ask for privacy at this time.

Statement from Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz:

There are no words to describe our sadness over Stan's passing. He meant so much to the Chicago Blackhawks, to the game of hockey, and to all of Chicago. He left an imprint that will forever be etched in the hearts of fans — past, present and future. Stan made everyone he touched a better person. My wife Marilyn and I, joined by the entire Wirtz family, extend our prayers and thoughts to Jill and the Mikita family. ‘Stosh’ will be deeply missed, but never, ever forgotten.

Statement from Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough:

Stan Mikita will be always remembered as a champion, an innovator and a master of the game. He embodied the Chicago Blackhawks. His excellence is illustrated by the team records he still holds today. His passion for the game was proved by the longevity of his playing career. The impact he had on the franchise is proved by fact that Blackhawks fans still wear his jersey to the United Center. On behalf of the Chicago Blackhawks organization and our fans, we express our deepest condolences to the Mikita family and all who mourn Stan’s passing.

In 22 seasons in the NHL — all with the Blackhawks — Mikita took home two Hart Memorial trophies as most valuable player, four Art Ross trophies as leading scorer, appeared in nine All-Star games and helped Chicago capture a Stanley Cup in 1961. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983.

Throughout his career, Mikita was known to be an offensive machine. But in his early years, he was also one of the most penalized players in the league, racking up 689 total penalty minutes in his first seven seasons.

It wasn't until the final road game of the 1964-65 campaign when Mikita changed up his style after his 14-month old daughter Meg was watching on TV and asked: "Mommy, why does Daddy spend so much time sitting down?", referring to Mikita sitting in the penalty box away from his teammates.

Mikita's penalty minutes dropped from 154 to 58 the following season, and then to a mere 12 and 14, respectively, in 1966-67 and 1967-68. Because of that, he went on to win the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy — the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability — in back-to-back years and remains the only player in NHL history to capture the Hart, Art Ross and Lady Byng in the same season, having done so twice.

Perhaps his most innovative mark on the game, Mikita and teammate Bobby Hull were credited with inventing the curved stick. One day during practice Mikita's blade got caught in the doorway by the bench and cracked, creating an "L" shape in the stick. Out of frustration, Mikita found the nearest puck and fired a slapshot into the glass, which made a sound he'd never heard before. It was about a month later that Mikita perfected it and used it in a game for the first time.

"Obviously he's a big part of this family, the history of what it means to be a Blackhawk," Jonathan Toews said of Mikita in 2015. "You don’t feel the privilege to play for the Hawks if it’s not for people and players like Stan Mikita. Long after his playing days he’s still a humble, down-to-earth person who still takes the time to talk to everybody. He found ways to make other people feel good about themselves. That says more about him than anything else. We all look up to him and what he accomplished in the game of hockey."

Mikita, who had his number raised to the rafters on Oct. 19, 1980 and a bronze statue unveiled outside the United Center in 2011, will forever be remembered as arguably the greatest player to ever put on a Blackhawk uniform.

MVP? Patrick Kane has Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews' vote for Hart Trophy

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USA TODAY

MVP? Patrick Kane has Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews' vote for Hart Trophy

At age 30, Patrick Kane is playing the best hockey of his career. Even better than his MVP campaign in 2015-16 when he also won the Art Ross Trophy with 106 points.

On Friday, Kane became the seventh player in NHL history to record multiple point streaks of at least 20 games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, joining Wayne Gretzky (7), Brett Hull (3), Guy Lafleur (2), Mario Lemieux (2), Adam Oates (2) and Steve Yzerman. All six of those players are in the Hall of Fame, and it's not hard to see Kane joining them one day.

Through 61 games this season, Kane ranks second in goals (39), first in even-strength goals (30), fourth in assists (54) and second in points (93). He's on pace for 52 goals, 72 assists and 124 points, which would be career highs in all three categories. And he even missed a game with an illness.

MVP? Kane has the Blackhawks captain's vote.

"Relative to his team, absolutely," Jonathan Toews said. "You see who won the Hart Trophy last year, and in my book there’s no doubt that he should be taking home some hardware at the end of the season this year. But we all know he’s not worried about that right now. He’s worried about keeping his streak going and staying hot and playing his game, and every night he’s a big part of our offense, so it’s pretty incredible to see him do it night after night.”

Taylor Hall was named the Hart Trophy winner in 2017-18 after recording 93 points in 76 games for the New Jersey Devils, who finished as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. Toews doesn't see how this is any different, especially if the Blackhawks find a way into the Stanley Cup playoffs. Kane has strapped this team on his back.

Kane hasn't gone more than two games this season without picking up at least one point, and is one of the main reasons — if not the primary — why the Blackhawks have gone from last place in the NHL to competing for a wild card spot in a month. 

Kane's biggest competition is Tampa Bay superstar Nikita Kucherov, who is having a historic year for the Lightning. He's already topped the 100-point mark through 62 games, and is on pace for 132 points. Kucherov would become the first player to hit that point total since 1992-93 when Teemu Selanne and Pierre Turgeon each finished with 132 points.

But Kane isn't far off at a 124-point pace, and he's doing it on a team that has relied heavily on his services. The Blackhawks wouldn't be where they're at in the standings without his consistent production.

"He's been great, no doubt about that," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I can just speak for our team, he's been tremendously valuable. He's at times carried us on his back. ... He's probably going to find another level too."

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Four takeaways: Blackhawks rally three times but come up short against Avalanche

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AP

Four takeaways: Blackhawks rally three times but come up short against Avalanche

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche at the United Center on Friday:

1. Blackhawks fight back three times, but fall short

The Blackhawks trailed four different times, and didn't hold a lead at any point in the game. They responded to Colorado's first three goals, going back-and-forth with their division foe. But they couldn't answer the fourth time as the Avalanche scored with 5:22 left and sealed the deal with an empty-netter in the final seconds.

The Blackhawks were encouraged with the way they played, but were disappointed with the outcome because they thought they deserved better against a team they needed two points from. And they did.

"It is what it is," Jonathan Toews said. "The points are important whether it’s the end of the regular season or near the end of the regular season or even playoffs. We wanted two points. Winning’s all that matters, so I think you do what you have to do to stay in games and find ways to win. We’re right there with them. They played a good game, but I think it was probably one of our best efforts collectively in the last little bit. So a lot of good things, and I think if we have that energy, we’re gonna get better results in the next few games here.”

2. Special teams plays big factor

The Blackhawks and Avalanche each committed four minor penalties. For 12:49 of the 60 minutes, there was some sort of man advantage. And it proved to be a huge part of the game.

The Blackhawks killed off the first three penalties and allowed only four shots on goal during those six minutes, but the Avalanche converted on their fourth opportunity (the lone shot on goal on that power play).

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks went 2-for-4 on with the man advantage, and nearly added a third goal in the final minute of the game but fell short. It was one the more well-rounded special teams performances by the Blackhawks this season.

"We had to rely on our power play a couple times, so it was nice that we came through there," said Patrick Kane, who extended his point streak to 20 games and goal streak to five, and also tied a franchise record with 13 shots on goal. "But that’s the thing I like about this group and our team. No matter what the score, no matter how we start or what’s happening in the middle of the game anything like that, we’re always in the game, there’s always a chance to turn the thing around. I like that about our group."

3. A complete effort but no reward

The Blackhawks have had some rocky starts as of late. Friday was not one of them. And it continued throughout the entire game

At even strength, the Blackhawks led in shot attempts (56-40), shots on goal (31-25), scoring chances (29-20) and high-danger chances (12-11), according to naturalstattrick.com. They were ahead in all four categories, except the one that mattered the most and that's the final score.

That's the hard part to swallow. The Blackhawks elevated their game in a playoff-type atmosphere and turned in one of their most complete efforts in a while, but it was one of those nights where the result doesn't reflect it. And it's unfortunate because it was a big four-point swing in Colorado's direction.

"Of course we would have liked to win," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "It's important points, it was an important game, head-to-head against a team we're battling with. We were really good I thought. It's one of our better efforts of the year and certainly recently. Sometimes the results don't go your way, but the challenge is to reproduce [at] that level and I think if we do, we'll get our fair share of points."

4. Standings impact

For a brief moment on Wednesday, the Blackhawks saw their name above the playoff line. It made for an exciting build-up to Friday's game against Colorado, which later took over that second spot from Chicago.

But after Friday's regulation loss, the Blackhawks fell two points behind the Avalanche, who have a game in hand, and three points behind the Minnesota Wild, who have won back-to-back games. Even the Arizona Coyotes are above the Blackhawks because of points percentage, tied at 61 points but hold a game in hand.

That's why this game was so important. But good news for the Blackhawks? They have two more meetings against the Avalanche this season, and one more against the Coyotes. But more importantly, they have to get right back to work for a divisional showdown against the Dallas Stars on Sunday afternoon.

"It’s only gonna get tougher and tougher as we go along here," Toews said. "We’ve got some tough road games coming up, so obviously we want to take it one game at a time. There’s nowhere to run or hide now. I think every team’s gonna be at their best and it’s a fun time of year to be right in the mix and be playing this type of hockey. I think the guys raised their play tonight, and we know there’s always room for improvement.”

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