Blackhawks

Four takeaways: Sellout streak continues as Blackhawks rout Stars in home finale

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USA TODAY

Four takeaways: Sellout streak continues as Blackhawks rout Stars in home finale

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-1 win over the Dallas Stars at the United Center on Friday:

1. Finishing strong at home

The Blackhawks may not be in playoff contention anymore, but they haven't exactly packed it in down the stretch. With a victory on Friday night, the Blackhawks extended their point streak to five games (3-0-2).

They also finished the season with a 19-14-8 record at home after going 18-18-5 last season. They went 4-1-2 in the final seven games at the United Center.

"Full barn again," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Lots of energy. Nice to see us put some pucks in the net and everyone can feel good about themselves. Obviously, we can carry a good feeling into tomorrow."

Said Kane: "We gotta be good at home and I think that's something that probably hasn't been as good as it should have been the past couple seasons. But still a treat to play here at the United Center and we always feel the fans at our backs, so try to use that to our advantage next season."

2. Corey Crawford injury scare

With two games left, the Blackhawks were expected to give Crawford the start on Friday in front of his hometown fans one last time this season and Cam Ward on Saturday in Nashville for his 700th career NHL game. But the circumstances changed.

While he did start, Crawford left the game in the second period because of a groin injury he appeared to suffer in the opening frame trying to make a save going post-to-post. 

Ward eventually replaced Crawford, who did not return and will not travel to Nashville for the regular season finale. But they don't anticipate his injury being serious. The Blackhawks will call up goaltender Kevin Lankinen from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

3. Personal achievements

It was a well-rounded victory for the Blackhawks, and one that featured several nice milestones. 

Let's run them down:

— With an assist, Erik Gustafsson became the sixth defenseman this season to reach the 60-point mark, joining Brent Burns (81), Mark Giordano (74), Morgan Rielly (72), John Carlson (70) and Keith Yandle (61).
— Patrick Kane became the first winger in Blackhawks history to hit at least 108 points in a single season. Denis Savard did it four times as a center.
— Slater Koekkoek scored his first goal as a member of the Blackhawks.
— Chris Kunitz, who received a courtesy start in front of his family in Chicago, scored a goal in what could be one of his final games in the NHL. He's the only active player with four Stanley Cups.
— Ward became the fifth active goaltender to enter the 700-game club, joining Ryan Miller (757), Marc-Andre Fleury (797), Henrik Lundqvist (857) and Roberto Luongo (1,043).

4. The sellout streak continues

Blackhawks fans have been spoiled. In nine straight years from 2009-17, their team made the playoffs each time, appeared in five Conference Finals and three Stanley Cups. But they want more, and they should want more because of where they were before the Kane and Toews era. Nobody wants to go back to those times.

And despite missing out on the postseason for the second consecutive year, that hasn't stopped fans from packing the building on a nightly basis.

For the 11th straight season, the Blackhawks have led the NHL in attendance. Friday marked their 497th consecutive sellout, including playoffs. It's hard to see that ending any time soon.

A cool gesture by the organization to give back to the fans, the Blackhawks gave their season ticket holders an opportunity to upload a personal photo, which were then put together to create collages that filled the numbers of the players' warmup jerseys for the final home game. The jerseys will be signed and then auctioned for charity, with all proceeds benefiting the Chicago Blackhawks Foundation.

"Tonight was great," Kane said. "Well all year round it's been great, but tonight was great too. Just kind of the wherewithal to have the presence of mind to be whistling at the end and kind of showing thanks for the season even though we obviously didn't have the season we wanted. What was it close to 22,000 fans again tonight? Not really surprised anymore, but something we don't take for granted in here and love playing in front of them."

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NHL to potentially discuss emergency goalie rules at general managers meetings

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USA Today

NHL to potentially discuss emergency goalie rules at general managers meetings

The NHL general managers meetings are set to begin next week and one of the topics on the docket to be discussed may be emergency backup goalie (EBUG) procedures. The recent interest in reevaluating EBUG rules come after 42-year-old David Ayres suited up to play for the Carolina Hurricanes in their 6-3 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs this past weekend.

The issue of EBUGs comes up so rarely that NHL GMs don’t typically give it much thought. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly spoke about EBUGs this Tuesday during the Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets game.

“It's something we've given some consideration to over the years. As recently as last year, we discussed [it] with the general managers. It happens very, very rarely, but when it happens, it obviously raises everybody's attention to the issue and whether there are fixes that need to be made to that particular issue,” he explained. “We have to work with the [NHL] Players' Association. Who's a player? Who's not a player? What qualifies all of that? But obviously we want what's best for the game, and we want to make sure people aren't putting themselves in danger by playing goal in a National Hockey League game. ... So that's obviously something we have to continue to work through."

Currently, the 2019-20 NHL official rules state, “if both listed goalkeepers are incapacitated, that team shall be entitled to dress and play any available goalkeeper who is eligible."

Ayres drives the Zamboni at the Mattamy Athletic Center in Toronto and frequently practices with the Leafs. Ayres stepped in the net after Hurricanes goalies James Reimer and Petr Mrazek were both injured. He made eight saves and is the oldest goalie in NHL history to make his regular season debut.

The Blackhawks had their own instance of needing an EBUG in 2018 against the Winnipeg Jets. Scott Foster, a then-36-year-old accountant stepped in the net at the United Center after Corey Crawford and Collin Delia were sidelined by injury. Foster saved all seven shots on goal, making him the first EBUG to make a save and a hometown hero in Chicago. 

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How Blackhawks are trying to stay upbeat despite roster subtractions

How Blackhawks are trying to stay upbeat despite roster subtractions

ST. LOUIS — The NHL trade deadline is a unique time of year for fans because it serves as a chance to get a read on what the management group feels about your respective team's current state.

There are the buyers who feel they're good enough to make a deep postseason run, the sellers who admit they're looking more towards the future and the ones who stand pat because they're somewhere in between. But to what degree is telling as well.

For example, the Columbus Blue Jackets went for it all last season by acquiring Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and two other players in exchange for a roster player, three prospects and seven draft picks that included a pair of first- and second-rounders, fully knowing all four players could walk away for nothing in the summer. And they did.

Last season, the Blackhawks stood pat. They didn’t have many assets to sell, but they were knocking on the door of a playoff spot and decided to let it ride.

This season was a different story.

Erik Gustafsson and Robin Lehner were traded in separate deals for asset management purposes, and intentionally or not, the message was sent that the Blackhawks weren't good enough to keep the group together for a legitimate playoff push. Despite how deflating the roster subtractions could make them feel, the Blackhawks are trying to maintain a positive attitude for the remainder of the season.

"No letdown, no taking any steps back," Jonathan Toews said before Tuesday’s 6-5 loss to the Blues. "Stay on your routine, stay on your commitment, keeping that upbeat feel in the locker room and going out there having fun, working hard and putting your best foot forward [for] a win and getting two points every night, so that's all we can do."  

Head coach Jeremy Colliton commended his group for how they reacted to the outside distractions leading up to the trade deadline. He expects them to respond after it.

"It's our job to compete at the highest level," Colliton said. "I give the guys credit, those two games before the deadline we responded really well to the uncertainty. Pulling a player at the last second and they played hard, and that's what we expect going forward. The team-first priorities at all times and sticking together and playing to the end no matter what. If we do that, we'll get our results and let's see what happens."

It would take a miraculous run for the Blackhawks to make the playoffs at this point after falling below .500 based on points percentage following Tuesday's loss to the Blues. But they're not waving the white flag just yet, even though it would psychologically be easy to pack it in.

"You always want to be in the hunt and just fighting for a playoff spot," Patrick Kane said. "Obviously we'd have to go on a pretty big run to make the playoffs this year, but just take it a game at a time here. We've been playing pretty well as a team to be honest with you. I know the results haven't been there, but we've been playing pretty good, we've been playing some tough teams. I think if we continue on this turn we're probably going to get better results down the stretch."  

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