Blackhawks

Takeaways and observations: Blackhawks fall to Maple Leafs in Game 2 at Traverse City

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Detroit Red Wings

Takeaways and observations: Blackhawks fall to Maple Leafs in Game 2 at Traverse City

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — After opening the 2019 Traverse City Prospect Tournament with a 5-4 overtime win against Detroit, the Blackhawks suffered their first loss in Game 2 when they were knocked off by the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3.

Here are three takeaways and some observations from the loss:

1. Tough afternoon for Hagel-Dach-McKay line

The first line of Brandon Hagel, Kirby Dach and Riley McKay was very effective in Game 1 against Detroit. Game 2 was a struggle, albeit on the second of a back-to-back. Hagel and McKay were on the ice for four of the six goals against while Dach was on the ice for three of them. They were also held off the scoresheet.

Dach, particularly, had a strong first period but the Maple Leafs targeted him in the final two periods and he grew visibly frustrated, which showed in the third period when he committed a roughing penalty for retaliation. He also had a hooking penalty minutes before that, which he didn't agree with.

This is all part of the growing process for Dach, who's certainly going to face a lot of this when he gets to the NHL, whether it's this season or next. But his playoffs with Saskatoon showed that he's more than capable of handling it. It's just going to be at a different level.

"He's a competitive guy," Rockford IceHogs coach Derek King said. "He wants to be the best guy on the ice all the time and when he gets frustrated like that, it takes away from his game a little bit. And that's the stuff he'll learn as he gets older. You can maybe get away with it in the OHL or the Western [Hockey] League or college and stuuf but at this level, that's not going to help your game. He's young and he'll mature and get out of that.

"It's hard. He's probably so used to, not dominating, but pretty much doing what he wants out there in junior. But here you're playing against your peers and guys that are just as good, if not better, and everybody's working towards the same goal of getting to the NHL. But he's a hell of a player, he just got a little off today."

2. Adam Boqvist in attack mode

"I don't think the puck [wanted] to be on my stick today."

Those are the words of Boqvist on Friday after Game 1. The puck was certainly finding him on Saturday. The official shots on goal total had him at five, but he seemingly had at least double that in overall shot attempts. His best chances came in the second period when he rang one off the post and nearly pulled off a drag move in the slot but got stripped that prevented a prime scoring chance.

Boqvist had a shoot-first mentality and he wasn't afraid to keep doing so even though the puck didn't go in for him. Most of his shots came on the power play.

3. Philipp Kurashev stands out

The Blackhawks have experimented with Kurashev in different situations throughout the first two games. He's in a top-six role and has appeared on both the power play and penalty kill units, and he was one of the few standouts in Game 2.

Kurashev registered a secondary assist on Sean Josling's goal to open the game and scored a pretty unassisted shorthanded goal in the third period for his first multi-point outing of the tournament. The two almost connected again late in the second period but Maple Leafs netminder Zachary Bouthillier made a great pad save.

Kurashev, Josling and Dylan McLaughlin were the only three Blackhawks forwards who finished with a positive rating (+1).

"Today I felt a lot more comfortable," Kurashev said. "Yesterday was tough. I just started right away to be involved and try to get some plays early and I was able to do that for the whole game."

Other observations:

— Tim Soderlund has been noticeable in the first two games. The 5-foot-9, 163-pound Swedish winger didn't participate at Blackhawks development camp in July because of visa issues, but it doesn't look like he's skipped a beat. He's easily one of the fastest skaters in this tournament and is super crafty. Soderlund also showed that he's got an underrated shot when he buried a power-play goal while off-balance for his first tally of the tournament.

— Chad Krys had a nice bounce-back effort on Saturday, minus the cross-checking penalty he committed late in the third period when the score was 5-3. He recorded a pair of assists and was one of two Blackhawks defensemen (Nicolas Beaudin) who finished with a positive rating (+1).

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With Connor Murphy set to return, Blackhawks reassign Adam Boqvist to Rockford

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USA TODAY

With Connor Murphy set to return, Blackhawks reassign Adam Boqvist to Rockford

The Blackhawks announced Thursday morning that they have reassigned top defenseman prospect Adam Boqvist to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

The 19-year-old Swedish defenseman appeared in six games for the Blackhawks and averaged 14:27 of ice time. He scored his first career NHL goal in his second appearance in a 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 2.

But with Connor Murphy (groin) eligible to come off long-term injured reserve on Saturday, the Blackhawks had to make a corresponding move to become cap compliant and Boqvist was the obvious candidate to be sent back down.

He’s still in the early stages of his development, but Boqvist certainly held his own at the NHL level during his brief stint. The Blackhawks want him to continue playing top pairing minutes and in all situations, and it would’ve been difficult for him to do that in Chicago with Murphy returning to the lineup.

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Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner tandem proving to be exactly what Blackhawks envisioned

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AP

Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner tandem proving to be exactly what Blackhawks envisioned

LAS VEGAS — The first day of NHL free agency is always exciting for hockey fans, particularly the first hour when most of the moves are announced at a rapid rate. Last offseason, the Blackhawks had a quiet few hours before dropping the hammer on the most surprising signing of the day, Robin Lehner, to a one-year deal.

“I think we have the best 1-2 punch in the league is the way I look at it right now,” GM Stan Bowman said on July 1. “I certainly feel really comfortable going into next season, whether Corey Crawford’s in net or Robin Lehner’s in net.”

So does the entire city of Chicago.

More than one month into the 2019-20 season, the goaltending tandem between Crawford and Lehner is exactly what the Blackhawks envisioned it would be. That’s what happens when you pair a Vezina Trophy finalist with a two-time Stanley Cup winner.

"We got two guys who are outstanding," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I think they're both going real well now and that's a huge advantage for us no matter who's in the net, we're getting a chance to win. It gives our guys a chance to come through offensively, so they've been big for us."

After starting the season 1-4-0 with a 3.67 goals-against average and .888 percentage, Crawford has been lights out since the calendar flipped to November. He’s 2-0-2 with a 2.72 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in his last four starts, which includes a 39-save performance in a 5-3 win over the Golden Knights on Wednesday.

Lehner has been one of the league’s best from the beginning. His .934 save percentage ranks second among goaltenders with at least six appearances and his goals saved above average at 5-on-5 ranks fourth-best, according to Natural Stat Trick. Crawford's goals saved above average of 4.21 puts him at ninth.

And this is despite the fact the Blackhawks are giving up the most shots on goal per game (37.1), second-most high danger chances per 60 minutes at even strength (13.1) and third-most scoring chances per 60 minutes at even strength (29.2).

While the dynamic may have been awkward at first, both goaltenders appear to be making the best of the circumstances and view it as healthy competition.

"I mean, he's doing a great job," Crawford said of Lehner. "Definitely keeping us in games or being a big factor in some wins. I think both of us are just trying to be at our best when we get the chance."

The challenging part of the situation is getting both guys a fair amount of starts. Crawford has been vocal about preferring to start regularly — “it’s a little bit easier when you keep playing games in a row” — and Lehner no doubt feels the same.

"They both want to play 60 games, 80 games maybe,” Colliton said. “That's part of the team. [Patrick Kane] wants to play 60 minutes. It's how it is. Ultimately, we want to make decisions that help the team win and part of that is keeping both guys fresh, keeping both guys playing at a high level and I think that's going to be a benefit for us as the season goes on."

It’s a good problem to have if you’re the Blackhawks, especially if Crawford and Lehner are at the top of their games at the same time like they are right now.

"It's great," Calvin de Haan said. "I think goaltending's the most important position. If you're not keeping the puck out of the net, you're not going to win a lot of games. But those guys are giving us a chance every night and it's really evident the past few weeks here."

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