Blackhawks

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 win over Predators: Playoff push starts now?

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 win over Predators: Playoff push starts now?

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday night:

1. Blackhawks fly out of the gates.

This is it. No more breaks, no more waiting for the right time to amp it up. The time is now. The Blackhawks are multiple games out of a playoff spot with the stretch run starting, and they played like a team with their backs against the wall out of the gates in their first game back since the All-Star break.

Right from the opening faceoff, there was purpose to their game and it showed after recording nine out of the game's first 11 shots on goal in the opening 15 minutes. The Predators made a late push by peppering six straight shots on goal to close out the period, but the Blackhawks held the fort down and took a 1-0 lead into the second period.

2. Fourth line makes offensive contributions.

David Kampf is the one who gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead 3:03 into the game, but it took all three members of the fourth line to make it happen. Tomas Jurco kept the puck alive along the boards and Vinnie Hinostroza made a beautiful touch pass to Kampf, who ripped his second goal of the season past Juuse Saros.

It was Jurco's first point of the season while Hinostroza extended his point streak to three games. Hinostroza also scored the Blackhawks' second goal for his fifth multi-point game of his career and second this season. He has two goals and two assists over his three-game point streak.

Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz each assisted on Hinostroza's goal, and Kane had to take a big hit to make the play. With the assist, Kane has 50 points on the season and has hit that total in each of his 11 NHL seasons.

3. Anton Forsberg commits costly turnover.

This is an area where Corey Crawford is missed. Forsberg isn't the best at handling the puck, and he made a costly error that directly led to the Predators' only goal.

Mattias Ekholm dumped the puck in, Forsberg retrieved it behind his own net, then made a pass intended for Connor Murphy but was intercepted by Craig Smith, who passed it to Scott Hartnell then set up Kyle Turris to even up the score at 1-1 just 2:12 into the second period.

Fortunately for Forsberg, he came up large in the second period aside from that blunder and kept it a tie game before the Blackhawks eventually jumped out in front 2-1.

4. Predators catch a break.

The Blackhawks regained the lead at the 14:33 mark of the second period, and 39 seconds later they were awarded a power play after Kevin Fiala was whistled for cross-checking. Seven seconds after that, Ryan Ellis flipped the puck over the glass but officials huddled up and came to the conclusion that it was deflected out of play.

Replay angles clearly showed that was not the case, and they may have actually had a point as to whether or not the puck went over the bench or the glass but that wasn't discussed. So rather than getting a 5-on-3 power play for 1:53, the Blackhawks were stuck with just the 5-on-4 and they couldn't do anything with it.

It would've been a prime opportunity to take a two-goal lead into the second period against a Predators team that was 0-9-2 this season when trailing after 40 minutes going into this game. Needless to say, Joel Quenneville was not happy about it.

5. Shutting the door.

You can go back and pick a couple games in January where the Blackhawks probably deserved two points but never got them. The 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Jan. 10 and 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 22 immediately come to mind, where they did many things right but just couldn't find a way to get a win and that's what matters most at this point.

There are no moral victories anymore. Well, the Blackhawks found a way to pick up two points against the Predators despite getting outshot 22-9 in the third period. They bent but didn't break as Forsberg turned aside all 22 of those shots and finished with a season-high 42 saves.

It was one of those "we'll take it" games, and one where you'll build on the positives and take some confidence into Vancouver on Thursday.

Getting to know four newly-signed Blackhawks

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AP

Getting to know four newly-signed Blackhawks

The Blackhawks announced Monday that they have officially agreed to terms with forward Dominik Kahun, defensemen Lucas Carlsson and Darren Raddysh and goaltender Kevin Lankinen on entry-level contracts.

Kahun ($925,000 cap hit), Lankinen ($925,000) and Raddysh ($730,000) each signed two-year deals that run through the 2019-20 season while Carlsson's is a three-year deal that runs through the 2020-21 campaign and carries a cap hit of $792,500.

So who are these guys? Let's meet them:

Carlsson

Drafted in the fourth round (No. 110 overall) by the Blackhawks in 2016, Carlsson set a career-high with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 44 games this season with Brynäs IF of the Swedish Hockey League. He was tied for fourth among all blue liners with seven goals.

Carlsson, 20, doesn't have major upside, but he's a reliable, well-rounded defenseman and that's what drew the attention of Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley.

“When he’s on the ice, he makes things happen," Kelley told Scott Powers of The Athletic last summer. "I think what impressed the Sweden under-20 coach was Lucas’ ability to challenge in all three zones. He’s an active defensively. Offensively, he challenges. He keeps plays alive.”

Kahun

The 22-year-old forward spent the last four seasons with EHC München of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, Germany's top professional hockey league, where he established career highs in assists (29), points (41) and tied a personal best with 12 goals, leading Munchen to their third straight championship in 2018 after recording four goals and 10 assists in 17 playoff contests.

He raised eyebrows at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, where he compiled five points (two goals, three assists) in seven games and won 55.4 percent of his faceoffs (41 of 74), helping Germany capture a silver medal.

“He has made an enormous step this year, has become much more stable and mature," German national team coach Marco Sturm said after the Olympics. "I am sure that he would grab it in the NHL,” Sturm told the Hamburger Morgenpost.

Most recently, Kahun had a goal and two assists in seven games for Germany during the IIHF Men's World Championship. He's 5-foot-11, 176 pounds whose known to be a solid two-way player and can play center but may need some time to adjust to the smaller ice surface and NHL style of speed and physicality.

Lankinen 

Lankinen is 23 years old and coming off a season in which he was in the discussion for the Urpo Ylönen trophy, annually awarded to the top goaltender of the Finnish Elite League, after registering a league-best 1.33 goals against average and .946 save percentage in 15 games with HIFK.

He missed a large portion of the season because of an injury, but it didn't stop him from turning in a strong postseason, guiding his team to a bronze medal after posting a 1.99 GAA and .936 save percentage in 13 playoff games. The year before that, he led the league with seven shutouts in 42 games, backstopping his team to a silver medal.

This is a low-risk, medium-sized reward signing for the Blackhawks, who could use some more young goaltending depth in the pipeline, especially given how this season unfolded with the big club.

Raddysh

The Blackhawks signed Raddysh to a one-year AHL contract last June, and he turned it into an NHL one after a strong season with the Rockford IceHogs.

Raddysh, 22, accumulated 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) in 66 regular-season games with the IceHogs, and has appeared in each of the team's playoff games en route to the Western Conference Final.

Last season Raddysh was named the OHL's top defenseman after scoring 16 goals and 65 assists for 81 points in 62 games for the Erie Otters, where he was teammates with current Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat. He's the Otters' all-time leader in assists (143) and points (184) among defensemen.

Raddysh might be nothing more than a depth defenseman, but his development is worth monitoring because the offensive production is there and that's something the Blackhawks lacked this past season from their back end.

Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa: 'I will not play hockey anymore'

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AP

Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa: 'I will not play hockey anymore'

Days after putting his Gold Coast condo on the market, Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa revealed to a Slovakian newspaper that he is moving back to his hometown country and doesn't plan on returning to the NHL.

"I will not play hockey anymore," said Hossa, who missed the entire 2017-18 campaign due to a progressive skin disorder and the side effects of the medications involved to treat it. "I have a valid contract with Chicago for the next three years, but I have only one health and it does not allow me to return."

Because he has three years left on a deal that carries a $5.275 million cap hit, Hossa is not expected to sign his retirement papers until the contract is completed or else it would result in salary cap consequences.

The news is not surprising, but it officially allows the Blackhawks to move on without him in the fold roster-wise and toy around with some options this summer.

The first is stashing his contract on long-term injured reserve, as they did last season when they utilized the in-season preference.

The second, which Hossa wondered could happen, is finding a trade partner that would absorb the remainder of his contract, usually done by lower payroll teams aiming to reach the cap floor.

And it wouldn't be difficult trying to find a buyer, considering Hossa's actual salary is $1 million per year over the next three seasons. Hossa, of course, has a no movement clause but it's likely he would waive it given his status at this point.

The good news for Chicago is, the three-time Stanley Cup winner didn't rule out joining the Blackhawks organization in some capacity after his contract expires in 2020-21, whether it's in a front office role or as a team ambassador.

In 19 NHL seasons, Hossa accumulated 525 goals and 609 assists for 1,134 points in 1,309 regular-season games, and added 149 points (52 goals, 97 assists) in 205 postseason contests. He's one of 45 players in league history to net at least 500 goals in his career.