Blackhawks

Blackhawks lock up backup goaltender with signing of Cam Ward

Blackhawks lock up backup goaltender with signing of Cam Ward

The Blackhawks secured their backup goaltender for next season by officially inking Cam Ward to a one-year deal on Sunday. It's reportedly worth $3 million and includes a full no-trade clause, according to TSN's Bob McKenzie.

It was the first signing of the day for the Blackhawks, which shows you just how much they prioritized that position this offseason.

"Cam was someone we talked to right away when the period opened up to interview players," Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said. "A couple things. First off, he's obviously got the experience. That's an important factor with somebody that has a pedigree of winning and being able to handle that load if need be. Obviously we're not expecting him to have to carry the load for us. But we do think it's nice knowing that you have a goaltender in Cam that's played a lot of hockey.

"At this point in his career, he's still able to play quite a bit and I think it forms a really nice tandem between him and Corey [Crawford]. At the end of the day, I think you need to have two proven goaltenders if you want to have a realistic chance. We still have good depth at goaltending. Looking at all the teams that had success, you use 3-4 goalies a year.

"You can't just get by with one or two. We still have a lot of younger guys growing in that role. But with Cam, he brings some experience in the role, and I think as you get older sometimes your role changes from being a number one to being a 1A or a 2. Cam has shown the ability to transition into that and still be an effective goalie."

Ward is coming off a season in which he compiled a 23-14-4 record with a 2.73 goals against average, .906 save percentage and two shutouts in 43 appearances with the Carolina Hurricanes.

The 34-year-old netminder has started at least 40 games in 10 of his 13 NHL seasons, so he's certainly capable of handling a heavy workload if needed. And with the uncertainty regarding Crawford — despite the team's consistent belief he'll be ready by training camp — it's not out of the question.

"I’m definitely going into it with the mindset that I’m there to support Corey," Ward said. "I think very highly of Corey as a goaltender. I look forward to meeting him and being a partner with him. Certainly, I’m in that support role that when called upon I will try to do the best I can to help contribute and get wins for the hockey club just like Corey will be doing at the same time.

"Looking forward to meeting everybody with the coaching staff and kind of get an idea but the sense is that I’m definitely there to be supportive of Corey and play when called upon."

Ward hasn't played in the postseason since 2009, but did win a Stanley Cup with Carolina as a rookie in 2006 and won the Conn Smythe. 

His underlying numbers haven't been great towards the latter stages of his career, though.

Over the last five seasons, Ward's goals saved above average — a metric that measures goals allowed below the expectation based on shot danger faced — at even strength is minus-40.73, according to corsicahockey.com. That ranks dead last out of the 165 eligible goaltenders during that span.

Sure, there may have been better options on the market. But Carter Hutton is heading to Buffalo to become a starter and is getting paid like it (three years, $2.75 per year). Jonathan Bernier has higher upside, but he battled three separate injuries over the final two months of last season, one of which was a concussion, so there's too much risk there for a Blackhawks team that can't afford to go through that kind of situation again at the goaltending position.

And if there was real concern about Crawford's health, the Blackhawks likely would've signed somebody for more than a year. This tells us they merely want to make sure their backup is capable of starting 30 games or so and can give the Blackhawks a chance to win on Crawford's off days.

In a limited role and less pressure to perform on a starter-type contract, Ward could be a decent fit for the Blackhawks while Collin Delia and Anton Forsberg continue to develop in the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs.

"I think you learn a lot," Ward said. "In our position a lot of it has to do with the mentality of the position and to be able to deal with the highs and lows. And certainly when I look throughout my career there has been just that, a lot of highs and a lot of lows. So there isn’t much that I haven’t experienced. You learn from it and you challenge yourself. I think I’m better because of it. It’s helped mold the goaltender and the person that I am today. 

"The bottom line is you play to win hockey games and that’s going to be my focus and doing everything I can to help win hockey games for the Blackhawks. You have to realize that there are going to be nights that are going to be pretty and there are nights that it’s not going to be pretty. But did you win the game? That’s what matters the most to me."

How to watch Blackhawks vs. Hurricanes: Time, TV schedule and streaming info

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USA Today

How to watch Blackhawks vs. Hurricanes: Time, TV schedule and streaming info

The Blackhawks host the Carolina Hurricanes in the second fame of a three-game homestand. The Blackhawks have been playing well as of late thanks to a schematic change made by head coach Jeremy Colliton.

And the Hawks are making a push up the standings in the process.

On Tuesday night, Patrick Kane will also look to celebrate his birthday in style by continuing his hot streak, which has been a vital part of the Hawks success this season.

Here's how you can watch and stream the game:

Date: Tuesday, November 19
Time: 7:30 p.m. CST
Location: United Center | Chicago, Ill.
TV: NBC Sports Chicago
Stream: MyTeams

NBC Sports Chicago Coverage

SportsTalk Live: 6:00 p.m. CST
Blackhawks Pregame: 7:00 p.m. CST
Blackhawks Postgame Live: 10:00 p.m. CST*

* - Immediately following conclusion of the game

Can't watch this game because your provider dropped NBC Sports Chicago?  Go to MYSPORTSCHICAGO.COM or Call 1-844-700-NBCS to get your Chicago sports back!

After facing early adversity, Blackhawks starting to believe they could be 'a dangerous team'

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AP

After facing early adversity, Blackhawks starting to believe they could be 'a dangerous team'

NASHVILLE — The Blackhawks were optimistic about their group going into the 2019-20 season because it was an offseason centered around changing the makeup of the roster. They were also on a 100-point pace from January-on to close out the 2018-19 campaign, and getting a full training camp under head coach Jeremy Colliton to build on that was supposed to pay off from the start of the season.

But after opening this season with a 3-6-2 record, the Blackhawks started to question themselves. They didn't have an identity and found themselves caught in the middle of wanting to be an offensive team but also stressing a defense-first mentality after they gave up the second-most goals last season.

Since making a schematic change on Nov. 7, the Blackhawks have earned nine out of a possible 10 points in their last five games and have scored 24 goals over that span for a goals-per-game average of 4.80. They had scored 33 goals total in the previous 14 games for an average of 2.36 per game.

The Blackhawks are starting to look like the hockey team Chicago was hoping they'd be this season, and the internal confidence is growing also.

"We got through a difficult time and being in the beginning of the year, it's magnified," Colliton said following a 7-2 win over the Predators on Saturday night. "If we would've went through that stretch in January, with 40 good games before, then maybe it's not as big of a deal. But when you come out of the gates like that, you put the team under pressure, everyone's under pressure. Happy that we were able to come out of it and stick together.

"Now there's definitely some belief that we're a dangerous team and we're going to be difficult to beat."

The first month of the season was difficult on everyone. The players, the coaches, the management group. Something needed to change, or the results wouldn't.

The Blackhawks are relieved that not only did they prevent things from spiraling out of control, but they're coming together as a team and stringing together wins. 

"It's more like urgency to get going in the right direction," Colliton said on whether he personally felt pressure after their slow start. "We like our team, we like our players, just wasn't working. So as a coach and our staff and the players too, we have a responsibility to turn over every rock. It doesn't mean going back and forth and zigzagging with what we want to do, but I think the guys have really done a good job of responding to adversity, and now we're on a run."

Having gone through the adversity this early in the season, the Blackhawks will be better for it in the long run knowing they can overcome whatever challenges are thrown at them along the way, as long as they continue playing the right way. Because if they do, the Blackhawks will give themselves a chance to win on a nightly basis, especially with the offense being unleashed and Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner serving as the last line of defense.

"We've had a great team, but we just had a little rough start at the beginning," Alex Nylander said. "We're coming together now and we're creating chances and we're shooting the puck more, so we've been doing a really good job the past couple games and we just need to keep going like this."

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