Blackhawks

Cam Ward won't let 'embarrassing' United Center debut with Blackhawks ruin his training camp

Cam Ward won't let 'embarrassing' United Center debut with Blackhawks ruin his training camp

Cam Ward's United Center debut as a Blackhawk couldn't have gone any worse. After allowing two goals on the first two shots he faced, he bounced back by stopping seven in a row to end the first period, but gave up four goals on eight shots in the second for an overall save percentage of .647.

The original plan was for Ward to play the full game, but Anton Forsberg was forced to come on in relief for the third period to help stop the bleeding in a meaningless game.

"Not good," Ward said following Tuesday's 8-6 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. "Definitely was a rough game for me personally. Obviously got off to a rough start right from the get go, they got a fortunate bounce right in front and put it in and unfortunately just wasn't able to get comfortable throughout the game. It's just one of those games, whether it's preseason or not, you want to put forth a good outing and a good effort and tonight just wasn't the night. I'm going to do what I can to flush it away and not let it ruin my training camp and just get ready for the next one."

It's unfair to fault Ward for a few of them without looking at the defensive breakdowns that led to the goals, but there were a couple he would have certainly liked to have back. The 14-year veteran has been around long enough to know these games happen occasionally, but it doesn't make it any easier to reconcile with the final result.

"Any time you let in six it's embarrassing as a goaltender," Ward said. "But like I said you don't want to overanalyze or overthink it. Unfortunately games like this sometimes happen but at the end of the day it doesn't count and I don't want it to ruin my training camp."

With Corey Crawford unlikely to be ready by Opening Night, Ward is expected to shoulder the load until their starter is cleared to return between the pipes. Chicago is counting on the 34-year-old with a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy on his resume who signed a one-year deal in the offseason to be a solid placeholder for the time being and backup because he can handle it physically and the ups and downs mentally.

A performance like Tuesday's doesn't exactly do much to reinforce the Blackhawks' confidence that Ward can do so, but at the same time picking apart a fluky preseason game isn't the best way to evaluate the bigger picture. The good news is that it didn't have any impact on the standings.

'Well, it’s one game," coach Joel Quenneville said. "40 minutes, preseason game. We’ll throw it in the basket. Goaltending tonight, pucks were going in at both ends at an abnormal rate. You have a few games like that over the course of a season. Good thing it was preseason."

Here are four other takeaways from the loss:

2. Dominik Kahun leaving strong impression

With every practice and preseason game that goes by, Kahun is making it difficult on the Blackhawks coaching staff to leave him off the 23-man roster because all he's done is take control of his opportunity. And it's hard to see him not making it at this point.

After scoring a goal in Friday's preseason content against the Ottawa Senators and whose line was most effective when it comes to puck possession numbers, Kahun was promoted to the top line with Alex DeBrincat and Jonathan Toews the next practice to get a stronger look at what he can do against top players and heavier minutes. He hasn't looked out of place since.

A crafty 23-year-old forward, Kahun stood out once again on Tuesday against the Red Wings after scoring a goal by batting the puck out of mid-air, recording seven shot attempts (two on goal), two blocked shots and one takeaway. He also had a breakaway opportunity in the first period.

"I think in camp you can see who's got skills, who can move, who can skate, who can handle the puck," said Toews, who had two goals and an assist. "When you get into games, you see a guy like Dominik has all that but he has a lot of hockey sense, too. As a line, just trying to talk about the little things. I guess I've been known to put too much in some guys heads something but we had some talks this morning as far as where we wanted to play with the puck and he went out there and he was in all the right areas. Nice to see him get one early in the game. I thought he played great in a lot of ways."

3. Adam Boqvist's audition

The Blackhawks have kept Boqvist around because they want to give him a serious look at what he can do playing with and against high-end players. Tuesday was his first real test at that and there were times where he got bodied around a little bit.

He and Brandon Manning struggled as a pairing at 5-on-5 after they were on the ice for 11 shot attempts for and 16 against, but Boqvist was one of four players on the Blackhawks who finished with a multi-point effort and looked effective quarterbacking the first power play unit.

"I thought he did some good things on the power play," Quenneville said. "Defensively there was some room to improve upon, but he still does some things you appreciate."

4. New-look power play paying off early

The Blackhawks changed up their power play format to a 1-3-1 scheme this season, and it's had some early success. For the second straight preseason game they found the back of the net with the man advantage, with two goals coming on Tuesday.

While they allowed a shorthanded goal late in the game, the Blackhawks registered 14 shot attempts on six opportunities and look solid in just about every facet. They were generating chances and didn't have any momentum-killers.

"The power play was dangerous," Quenneville said. "I thought our power play did some really nice things off the rush, on entries, we shot the puck, we had net presence, we had retrievals, we had different plays and different looks. It was good."

5. Top guns leading the way

The Blackhawks need their top guys to be their top guys this season if they want any chance at getting back to the playoffs. It was a good start on Tuesday.

Kane (three assists), Toews (two goals, one assist) and Duncan Keith (one goal, two assists) all had three-point outings in the loss and led the charge.

"Kaner was special, Jonny at the net and our net presence was better than we've seen," Quenneville said. "Our guys from the top are shooting pretty well."

2019 Blackhawks development camp: Final thoughts and takeaways from scrimmage

2019 Blackhawks development camp: Final thoughts and takeaways from scrimmage

Thoughts and takeaways from the final day of Blackhawks development camp at Fifth Third Arena, which featured the prospect scrimmage:

1. The standouts

In the middle of the week, GM Stan Bowman singled out Adam Boqvist, Kirby Dach, Ian Mitchell and Alex Nylander as the four players who had stood out so far, in large part because they're on another level in terms of talent. Dach was taken No. 3 overall, Boqvist and Nylander were drafted No. 8 overall and Mitchell has first-round talent and the confidence to go with it.

In particular, Boqvist and Dach were easily the most noticeable prospects during Friday's scrimmage. They were flashy, creative and produced on the scoresheet. Boqvist finished with a primary assist — a beautiful setup, which you can see in the video below — while Dach scored two goals and added an assist. They were all over the ice. Check out the clips below, as the two of them dominated the highlight reel.

2. Additional observations

—  Josiah Slavin had a hat trick, including the game-winning goal with 6.9 seconds remaining. He made the most of his scrimmage, no doubt.

— Antti Saarela scored two goals, one of which came on a penalty shot — see video below. 

— Nylander didn't seem as engaged as others, but his skill alone was enough for him to be noticeable. Good things happened when he was on the ice.

— Alexis Gravel was solid in net. He gave up only one goal and it came in the final minute of the first period when Dach scored on a breakaway.

— Nicolas Beaudin and Alex Vlasic were quiet, but in a good way. They were sound defensively.

3. Names to watch going forward

— Philipp Kurashev: A crafty playmaker with a heavy shot, Kurashev took a huge step in his development this past season. He led the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL with 65 points (29 goals, 36 assists) in 59 games and earned All-Star honors at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship after leading all skaters with six goals.

He's a smooth skater, fast, smart and strong on the puck. Kurashev will start the season in Rockford and is expected to play a large role. He was the hidden gem in the Ryan Hartman deal in 2018. The Blackhawks used their fourth-rounder acquired in that trade to take Kurashev.  

— MacKenzie Entwistle: This is a player to watch in Rockford this season simply because he knows his role and is really good at it. A bottom-six, versatile forward who can play center or win and is dependable on the penalty kill. Those are players coaches love to have at the next level because they accept their role and take pride in doing so. 

— Brandon Hagel: Here's a player who essentially fell into the Blackhawks' laps. The Buffalo Sabres drafted him in the sixth round (No. 159 overall) in 2016 but did not offer him a contract ahead of the June 1 deadline in 2018, so they lost his signing rights. The Blackhawks pounced in October by signing him to a three-year, entry-level contract.

And how did he follow his season up? By finishing fourth in the WHL in scoring with 102 points (41 goals, 61 assists) in 66 games with the Red Deer Rebels for a points-per-game average of 1.55. It was a 43-point improvement from the previous season, albeit he played in 10 more games. 

Still, this is someone who the Blackhawks weren't expecting to have in their pipeline but he is and could turn into a solid player. A scout once told me Hagel is highly competitive, which is one of the top criteria for the Blackhawks when evaluating a young player. Hagel appeared in eight games for Rockford last season and compiled only one point, but it's a small sample size. It will be interesting to follow his progression in his first year as a pro and playing against bigger men.

Other notes:

— Jake Wise participated in on-ice sessions all week but did not play in the scrimmage. He's still working his way back from a shoulder injury.

— Other non-participants: Evan Barratt (hip), Parker Foo, Dominik Kubalik (rest), Niklas Nordgren (injury) and Tim Soderlund (visa issues).

Scrimmage videos:

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.

2019 Blackhawks development camp: Day 4 thoughts and takeaways

2019 Blackhawks development camp: Day 4 thoughts and takeaways

Here are four thoughts and takeaways from Day 4 of Blackhawks development camp at Fifth Third Arena:

1. MacKenzie Entwistle's growth

When the Blackhawks traded Marian Hossa's contract to Arizona last summer, Entwistle was perhaps viewed as a throw-in on the surface in the seven-player deal. But he certainly wasn't viewed that way by the Blackhawks.

Entwistle was drafted in the third round, No. 69 overall in 2017. The Blackhawks had the very next pick at No. 70 overall and were preparing to take him. They ended up selecting Andrei Altybarmakyan instead, but the organization had their eye on Entwistle and it was important for him to be included in the deal with the Coyotes.

Entwistle took a big step in his development this past season. He started the season as captain of the Hamilton Bulldogs in the OHL, was traded to Guelph Storm and averaged more than a point per game. Guelph went on to win the OHL championship, and he was a key reason why.

In between all that, Entwistle represented Team Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship. He scored three goals in five games and shined in a bottom-six, penalty-killing role. And that's exactly what he sees himself doing at the pro level, which the Blackhawks like to see when players accept what kind of players they are.

"I was kind of slotted into a role that was sort of an energy, penalty kill sort of type of player," said Entwistle, who's up 10 pounds from last year. "And I think for me that really helped me and it grew me as a player because at the next level that's sort of the player I'm going to be and I've kind of accepted that."

2. Alex Vlasic holding his own

The biggest skater at Blackhawks prospect camp is Vlasic, who was taken in the second round (No. 43 overall) in June. He's 6-foot-6, 198 pounds and is an absolute tower when you put him up against some of the undersized forwards.

He's a defensive-minded defenseman, and that's something the Blackhawks are excited about because he would complement their other offensive-minded blue liners well in the pros. At least that's what they're hoping.

Skating is going to be something he has to continue to work on given his large frame, but the Blackhawks feel he's ahead of the curve in that department and don't see it as a concern.

"He's pretty smooth," GM Stan Bowman said. "I think that's always the challenge with guys that big. He covers a lot of ground with his reach but his skating, he's kept up quite well being one of the youngest guys here. He's tough to play against, he defends really well and I think that's a strength of his guy. So I think it's just going to be a progression for him. He seems to have a pretty good understanding of his path and he's not trying to make the NHL [right away], he understands he's got some growth to do and I think those are the players that end up figuring it out as he's got a good idea of what it's going to take to become an NHL player."

Vlasic reiterated that he expects to play at Boston University for "maybe two or three years and then figure out what I'm going to do from there." Chad Krys recently turned pro after three years at BU, and Jake Wise is going into his sophomore season. Vlasic has been spending time around them this week, which has made it "pretty comfortable for me."

3. Nicolas Beaudin's transition to pro

The Blackhawks have high hopes for Adam Boqvist and Ian Mitchell, both of whom have been standouts at development camp. Same with Kirby Dach and Alex Nylander up front. 

Beaudin is kind of the forgotten guy, which seems odd because he was taken in the first round in 2018. But it might be because there's still a lot of room to grow in his game. 

After four years in the QMJHL, Beaudin is turning pro and is expected to start the season with the Rockford IceHogs. The Blackhawks like that they'll be able to have more of a hands-on approach in his development with him being under their roof on a daily basis.

"He's a smaller defenseman so it's going to be the defending part," Bowman said on what Beaudin's biggest transition might be. "We like his two-way ability. He was probably the top defenseman in the Quebec League last year. He was on a good team and played a lot of minutes. Played all situations there so you're trying to find your niche as a defenseman and I think the biggest thing is don't get away from what you do well.

"He's a pretty smart player, he's got some creativity to his game. He's not a high-risk player but he's got the ability to play offense as well as be defending and learning at his size how to play against bigger players. Have a good stick, use his feet and his brain to defend. All the attributes you want a player in the NHL to have. Good gap, force players to unload the puck before they're ready to and when he gets it he makes pretty smart decisions with it. So it's not one thing with Beaudin, it's becoming an all-around defenseman."

4. Dominic Basse’s side of the Mark Kelley story

One of my favorite stories from the NHL Draft came after the Blackhawks drafted Basse in the sixth round (No. 167 overall), and it waas told by Blackhawks VP of amateur scouting Mark Kelley, who shared the journey he went on to scout Basse for the first time:

"The first time I went to see him this year I drove in a snowstorm. Luckily it was 45 minutes from my house to get there and I got there and I get situated and I look out there, watched a little warmups, the game starts and he was on the bench. So he was coming off between periods, he was the last guy and I said to him, 'Hey, you! When are you playing?' And he told me: 'I'm going to be the starter tomorrow and Monday.' So I came back. He caught my eye."

I caught up with Basse on Thursday and got his side of the story and whether he recalls the encounter:

"I actually remember him. Good thing I didn't say something bad. I thought he was just a parent. I was walking through and he's like, 'Hey! When are you playing?' I was just surprised and was like: 'Sorry sir, I play this day and this day.' And he's like, 'alright' and just left and I thought, 'OK, that's that.'"

That was the only time Basse had any interaction with Kelley. He saw the interview of Kelley explaining his side after the draft ended, but it wasn't until development camp when he actually put a face to the name.

"I kind of made a little sense of it when I came to prospect camp and I saw his face again and I was like, 'Oh wait I think I remember that face. I've seen him somewhere.' And then it all came together when he said that during the interview. It was pretty funny."

Other notes:

— Kyle Olson did not participate in the on-ice session because of an illness. 

Videos:

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.