Blackhawks

Upsetting the hockey gods? Dylan Sikura feels close to breaking through for first NHL goal

Upsetting the hockey gods? Dylan Sikura feels close to breaking through for first NHL goal

Dylan Sikura has appeared in 30 career NHL games. He's been on the ice for 124 scoring chances, according to naturalstattrick.com. Forty-nine of those have been from high-danger areas. He has 50 shots on goal himself. But he's still looking for his first goal.

What did he do to upset the hockey gods?

"I don't know, it's a little bit of a struggle right now," a smiling Sikura told NBC Sports Chicago. "But individually and as a team the last four or five games we've been pretty good. Hope the goals will come, but any way I can contribute or help out ... I'm feeling good, feel like I'm doing some good things out there and helping the team win, and ultimately that's the end goal for us. We want to be in that playoff spot, we want to make a push here, so if it's contributing away from the scoresheet, then that's what I'll have to do and that's how I'll do it then. Hopefully I get one before it's too late."

On Wednesday in Toronto, Sikura had one of his best games in a Blackhawks sweater. He had a primary assist, career-high five shots on goal, was on the ice for 14 shots on goal for and only five against at even strength and had a plus-2 rating. He followed that up on Saturday in Montreal with an even better game, even though the scoresheet didn't reflect it.

For the second straight game, Sikura led the Blackhawks in possession numbers, had six shot attempts (four on goal, one hit the crossbar and the other was blocked) and was on the ice for a team-high 13 scoring chances and six high-danger chances at even strength. That's a formula that will work in the long term and, if he can carry over performances like that, it will only be a matter of time before he breaks through.

"The way he’s playing, yeah, he will," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I’m sure it’s frustrating for him not to score, but he’s being impactful every game, he’s helping the guys he’s on the ice with have positive shifts and he’s making some plays. It just hasn’t gone in for him. If he continues to play the way he has, he’s going to be really valuable for us."

Jonathan Toews has been Sikura's linemate for several games now, and acknowledged that he's been doing the right things on the ice. The Blackhawks captain even gave Sikura a hug mid-game on Saturday after the latter rang one off the crossbar in the second period. 

"He's making plays, he's confident with the puck, I think that's No. 1," Toews said. "He knows he's getting chances every night. What else can you do? Sometimes they don't go in and it's one of those things he's going to have to work for his first one and it'll be all downhill from there."

The hockey gods have a way of evening things out over time. Sometimes the goals come when you're not playing you're best, and sometimes they don't go in when they should be. There's a decent chance that when Sikura finally scores his first, the floodgates could open. That's the nature of the sport.

"All throughout your life you go through spurts where you don't score or you're scoring goals that shouldn't be going in," Sikura said. "But I think over time hopefully this is something we can laugh about maybe two or three years down the road. For now obviously it's tough, but hopefully I get that first one and the hockey gods turn on my side and I can get a couple more."

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Where could the NHL potentially finish the 2019-20 season?

Where could the NHL potentially finish the 2019-20 season?

Sunday night, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported the NHL and NHLPA have begun tossing around ideas for where the league could finish potential regular season or playoff games, if the COVID-19 pause were lifted.

The NHL pause went into effect on March 12 due to concerns with the coronavirus pandemic.

Friedman reported one location discussed was North Dakota. 

"Several sites would be necessary, but Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, N.D., makes sense," he wrote. "Host of the 2005 World Junior Championships, the 2016 World Under-18s and the NCAA’s Fighting Hawks, it is an impressive facility that is definitely more suitable than many other available non-NHL options in the United States."

The NHL and NHLPA are expected to discuss other locations this week per Friedman. 

"The league and players must agree on any return-to-play scenarios," he added. "The players are very concerned about the potential of 35 per cent escrow on future paycheques, and whether or not the NHL will consider allowing that to be paid over multiple years. (CBA discussions are believed to be taking place.)"

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

How COVID-19 crisis could impact Blackhawks, 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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