Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Devils


Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Devils

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the New Jersey Devils Sunday on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Brian Boyle.

The city of Chicago and the entire hockey community has rallied around Blackhawks TV analyst Eddie Olczyk as he continues to battle through colon cancer, and what's made it inspiring is Edzo's will to keep making several appearances on the broadcast in between his treatments. New Jersey is going through something similar with Brian Boyle, who was diagnosed with leukemia in September.

And he didn't stay down for long, either.

Boyle made his season debut earlier this month against Vancouver, then scored his first goal of the season on Thursday against Edmonton. It was an emotional moment, and we're all behind both of them.

2. Can second line build off last night?

Nick Schmaltz, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane combined for only one point in Saturday's 4-3 overtime win against Carolina, but they were arguably the best line of the night for the Blackhawks.

It was the first time Schmaltz played wing this season, despite spending a majority of last season there. He and Kane compliment each other well, as does Anisimov, who's that big-bodied center and can provide net front presence. 

Let's see if that line can stick for now.

3. Red Tilson Trophy​ winner meets Hobey Baker Award winner.

Battle royale!

Last season, both Alex DeBrincat and Will Butcher helped spearhead their respective teams to the top of their leagues and finished their junior and college careers by taking home some individual hardware as well.

DeBrincat put up video-game numbers in the Ontario Hockey League, where he compiled 65 goals and 62 assists for 127 points in 63 games to win the Red Tilson Trophy as the league's top player. 

Butcher captained Denver University to its first NCAA championship since 2005 after scoring seven goals and 30 assists in 43 games, and became the first defenseman to win the Hobey Baker Award as college's top player since Matt Gilroy in 2009.

The 19-year-old DeBrincat has five goals and five assists in 17 games, including six points in as many games, for the Blackhawks this season while the 22-year-old Butcher has 13 assists in 16 games for the Devils. 

2020 NHL Draft: How Rangers getting No. 1 pick affects Blackhawks

2020 NHL Draft: How Rangers getting No. 1 pick affects Blackhawks

On Monday night, during Phase 2 of the NHL Draft lottery, the New York Rangers won the No. 1 overall pick for the 2020 NHL Draft.

Originally, the top pick went to a placeholder team during Phase 1 of the lottery in June. Eight of the teams eliminated during the Stanley Cup Qualifiers  Rangers, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets — would each have a 12.5% chance of walking away with the No. 1 pick.

New York grabbing the top pick affects the Hawks in a few ways. 

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First, Hawks fans can relax and enjoy the playoffs with their team in it as the Oilers didn't win the pick. Meaning, if the Oilers had won it, it would have belonged to the Hawks if the Oilers eliminated them in the qualifying round and not the other way around.

Second, the Blackhawks could now get the No. 16 or 17 overall pick if they lose to the Golden Knights in Round One of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, depending on the results of the Montreal Canadiens-Philadelphia Flyers series.  

The No. 1 pick of this year's draft is expected to be forward Alexis Lafrenière, who registered 35 goals and 77 assists for a league-leading 112 points in 52 games this season with the Rimouski Océanic of the QMJHL, where he also served as the team captain. 

So former Blackhawks winger Artemi Panarin — a Hart Trophy finalist this year with the Rangers — could have a young, skilled forward helping him generate even more offense for New York as early as next season.

Related: Why former Blackhawk Artemi Panarin should win the Hart Trophy

The 2020 NHL Draft is scheduled for Oct. 9 and 10. It was originally scheduled for June 26-27 in Montreal but postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which paused the NHL on March 12.

Robin Lehner starting Game 1 for Vegas Golden Knights against Blackhawks Tuesday

Robin Lehner starting Game 1 for Vegas Golden Knights against Blackhawks Tuesday

Ahead of the start of Round One of the Stanley Cup Playoffs' matchup between the Vegas Golden Knights and Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday, Golden Knights coach Pete DeBoer announced former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner will get the start in net for Vegas in Game 1 against his former team. 

The 2019 Vezina Trophy finalist was traded from Chicago to Vegas ahead of Feb. 24's trade deadline. He was 16-10-5 as a Hawk during the 2019-20 regular season with a 3.01 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage prior to the move.

Related: Former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner unveils new pads

Lehner was in net for the Knights' overtime win against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday in a round-robin contest to help Vegas grab the No. 1 seed in the West for Round One, pitting them against the Blackhawks, who were the No. 12 seed in the qualifying round and were reseeded to be No. 8 for Round One.

Following Saturday's game, Lehner was asked about facing the Blackhawks and his former goalie partner Corey Crawford and if playing with the Hawks earlier this season carries an advantage.

Related: Former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner's birthday cake is unreal

"I don't know. All I know is it's going to be fun playing them," Lehner said. "They're a very good hockey team and I have a lot of respect for them, the whole organization... but I think I really like it here (with Vegas), we're a great hockey team."

The 29-year-old netminder got off to a hot start with Vegas ahead of the NHL pause on March 12 going 3-0-0 with 1.67 goals-against average and .940 save percentage.

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