Blackhawks

It's time for Blackhawks to develop Kirby Dach and Adam Boqvist

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USA Today

It's time for Blackhawks to develop Kirby Dach and Adam Boqvist

It's no secret things are rough for the Blackhawks, who are 12-15-6, right now. They've lost four straight games, been outscored 14-6 in their past three and are last place in the Central Division.

The team reached a new low after blowing a third period three-goal lead in St. Louis Saturday night and falling 4-3 in regulation to the Blues. A brutal turnover in the Hawks' defensive zone from Alex Nylander gave St. Louis their first goal of the game and all the momentum they needed to win. Nylander didn't miss a shift after.

"Okay, that was a mistake," Hawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said of Nylander's egregious error after the game. "But there was a mistake on the entry, there was a mistake on the coverage where we double up. 

"If we bench everyone who makes a mistake, we're not going to have any players. So yeah, there's a time and place for that no question, but I think that the real issue is that up and down the lineup we don't do the right things all the time every shift. And again, until that changes, it's hard to win."

If the team's play has reached a level where they're doing the wrong things so consistently that an individual can't be punished with missing a shift, then you might as well throw center Kirby Dach and defenseman Adam Boqvist some more responsibility. 

Saturday we learned Dach, 18, would be sticking with the Hawks and not playing in the World Junior Championships and Sunday we learned the same about Boqvist, 19.

Dach, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, and Boqvist, selected No. 8 overall in the 2018 draft, have the highest ceilings of all the Hawks' youngsters and look to be the biggest pieces of the franchise's future moving forward. 

The Hawks made the decision to burn the first year of Dach's contract earlier this season. If Boqvist plays Sunday night, it'll be his 10th game with Chicago this year, meaning the first year of his contract will be burnt as well. Seeing as he's still with the club and not headed to World Juniors, it's likely to happen sooner rather than later.

As the team struggles, why not see what Dach, a big two-way center can do and give him the reps and situational experience to improve. Have him play 16-17 minutes a night instead of the 13:03 he logged in St. Louis Saturday. The rookie already has five goals and five assists with limited ice time, but what could he have playing with guys like Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews if he got more reps as a top-six forward. He could learn a lot from them as well. 

Since the D seems to struggle shift to shift as it is, why not let Boqvist, a puck-moving defenseman with a great shot, hold onto it more and let it rip? 

Defenseman Dennis Gilbert, who's only played in 10 games for Chicago the past two seasons, logged 19:03 of ice time in St. Louis to Boqvist's 14:56. Boqvist needs to be out there more. He needs to spend time quarterbacking every power play as he's expected to do for years to come in a Hawks sweater.

Let the kids play. Up their ice time, give them more minutes and let them see tough matchups. At this point, I can't imagine it can hurt the Hawks more than they're already hurting. Building Dach and Boqvist's skillset, comfort and confidence now is building a better future for the Blackhawks. 

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How COVID-19 crisis could impact Blackhawks and NHL's salary cap

How COVID-19 crisis could impact Blackhawks and NHL's salary cap

On March 4, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told general managers that the projected salary cap for the 2020-21 season is expected to be in the range of $84 million and $88.2 million. That's roughly a $2.5 million to $6.7 million increase after it went up only $2 million last season.

But eight days later, the NHL put its season on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it's unclear if or when hockey will even resume at this point. Because of the uncertainty and the risk of the league potentially losing $1 billion in hockey-related revenue, there's legitimate concern about what the ceiling could look like after we get through this and not just for next season.

Could the NHL's salary cap stay the same? Might it even go down to help ease the escrow pain for players? Anything is possible, but it would require both the NHL and NHLPA to come to an agreement on what that artificial number could look like.

If the salary cap remains flat, the Blackhawks would be one of the many teams that would find themselves in an extremely tough position. And they better start preparing for that scenario.

As of right now, the Blackhawks' projected cap hit for next season is $74.1 million, according to Cap Friendly. That number factors in the three players on long-term injured reserve (Calvin de Haan, Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw) but also includes the current players on the roster, which comes out to 26 total, so cuts obviously must be made to get down to the maximum of 23.

But what that number doesn't include is the potential performance bonus overages and the fact the Blackhawks don't have a goaltender signed beyond this season other than Collin Delia, which doesn't leave much room for free-agent signings elsewhere. Heck, taking care of their own guys is going to be a major challenge.

The Blackhawks have nine pending restricted free agents, which most notably includes Drake Caggiula, Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome. Corey Crawford is their highest-profile unrestricted free agent. Those are four key pieces the Blackhawks must try to squeeze in under the cap if the priority is to bring all of them back, and — loosely projecting — gives them around $9-10 million to do so.

You have to wonder if it makes more sense for everyone involved to agree on one-year deals and revisit things the following year after more clarity is provided on the NHL's financial situation, especially with Seattle preparing for league entry and the U.S. television deal set to expire after the 2021-22 season.

For now, the Blackhawks and the rest of the NHL are waiting to see what the next steps are. But the financial ramifications will be significant, and it's something every team must now navigate through. 

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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.

2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 2 win over Sharks

2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 2 win over Sharks

In honor of the 10-year anniversary of the 2010 Stanley Cup team, NBC Sports Chicago is re-airing each of the Blackhawks' 16 postseason wins from the run that ended a 49-year championship drought. You can join the conversation using #HawksRewind on social media.

After stealing Game 1 in San Jose, the Blackhawks took care of business in Game 2 by beating the Sharks 4-2 to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Final. Here are three things we noticed in the win:

1. Building a cushion

You knew the Sharks were going to come out hungry after losing Game 1 in their own building, and the Blackhawks certainly matched that intensity. 

After Andrew Ladd broke the scoreless tie at the 12:48 mark of the first period, Dustin Byfuglien and Jonathan Toews followed suit in the second to put the Blackhawks in front 3-0. It was crucial for the visiting team not to give the Sharks any momentum, and it wasn't until 31:08 into the game that the home team finally got on the board.

2. A make-up game on special teams?

The Blackhawks had zero power plays in Game 1, so they didn't get a chance of testing a Sharks team that had the fifth-ranked penalty kill percentage (85.0) in the regular season. But that changed in Game 2.

The Sharks racked up 22 total penalty minutes and committed six minor penalties, two of which came with 18 seconds left in the game that saw two Blackhawks get sent off as well. The Blackhawks committed only one minor penalty in the previous 59:42.

Both teams converted on the power play once, but the Blackhawks staying out of the box for the majority of the game certainly played a role in preventing the Sharks from getting within striking distance or taking control early.

3. Duncan Keith's strong performance

He didn't garner as much attention as others, but Keith was solid for the Blackhawks in Game 2. He recorded two assists, six shot attempts (three on goal), four blocked shots and led all skaters with 30:21 of ice time. No other skater logged more than 27:56.

Keith was pointless in his first five postseason games, but had nine points (one goal, eight assists) in his next nine.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

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.