Blackhawks

What Blackhawks are getting in Drake Caggiula

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USA TODAY

What Blackhawks are getting in Drake Caggiula

Drake Caggiula wasn't expecting to be traded. He was playing video games with friends when he got a text from his agent that something might be going down.

"It definitely caught me off guard," said Caggiula, who was acquired by the Blackhawks on Dec. 30 for Brandon Manning and prospect Robin Norell. "It happened pretty quick and unexpectedly, but happy to be here and definitely excited about the opportunity."

Visa issues delayed his start date with the Blackhawks, but Caggiula finally got a chance to practice on Saturday with his new team and meet the guys for the first time. He skated with a junior team in Edmonton for the last week to keep his legs loose while he waited for the green light to come to Chicago.

And he's looking forward to this new opportunity after a roller coaster first half of the season with the Oilers.

"It was a little bit of a tough stretch there in Edmonton the last couple of weeks," Caggiula admitted. "I wasn't getting a lot of minutes coming off a hand injury. But that's not an excuse. It doesn't matter if you're playing five minutes or 25 minutes, you have to make sure you're playing your game. I wasn't disappointed in my game, but there are definitely areas I want to improve in and that's a little bit more of the consistency in the offensive sides of things — just being able to hold onto pucks and try and create more offensively."

Caggiula's best season came last year when he scored 13 goals and compiled 20 points in 67 games. He was linemates with former Blackhawks forward Nick Schmaltz at North Dakota, where he also played with Luke Johnson, both of whom he talked to after the trade.

Caggiula isn't going to light up the scoresheet, but he has the ability to produce on offense while also bringing a physical element to the game.

"High energy, fast-paced, gritty with a little bit of skill," Caggiula said when asked to describe his game. "I'm not the biggest guy out there, but I'm going to try and compete with the guys there that are bigger. I'm not intimidated by size or anything like that. I'm going to play a physical game, a hard game. 

"I look at guys like [Brad] Marchand and Brendan Gallagher, and those are guys I try to model my game after. Not necessarily the same style, but a little bit similarities and hopefully I bring that here."

In his first practice, Caggiula skated on the fourth line with Chris Kunitz and Marcus Kruger. It appears the Blackhawks will ease him into the lineup. After all, this is his third head coach already this season and adjusting to another new system might take some time. 

"I like that he's got a real high compete level and gritty, and will get in the dirty areas," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "He's got a little bit of skill too, can play different forward positions, so that's exciting. That'll add a little depth and competition to our forward group. We'll see what he can do."

But if there's one thing that was evident, it's Caggiula's excitement level about playing for an Original Six franchise, donning the iconic Indianhead sweater and establishing his role with the team.

"It's Chicago Blackhawks," Caggiula said. "It's one of the best organizations in the league. It's been around for a long time. They have a history of winning here. You get to wear that awesome logo on your chest, I was able to wear that at North Dakota and that kind of brings me back to that roots. It's a great organization and they deal with their players very well and have a tradition of winning here, so it's definitely a special organization. I'm happy to be a part of it."

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Hawks Talk Podcast: What will it take for Blackhawks to make playoffs?

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: What will it take for Blackhawks to make playoffs?

What will it take for the Chicago Blackhawks to earn a playoff spot with 10 games remaining? Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd and Charlie Roumeliotis discuss where the Blackhawks stand after a rough 3-2 loss in overtime to the Vancouver Canucks.

With Corey Crawford at the top of his game again, should the Blackhawks try to ride him into the playoffs? How have Jeremy Colliton’s line changes impacted Patrick Kane’s game? Plus, breakouts from Eric Gustafsson and Brendan Perlini have been huge for the Blackhawks during their recent streak of six straight games with a point. 

0:45 - Missed opportunity for Blackhawks against Canucks

2:45 – Hawks changing up lines has slowed down Patrick Kane

5:45 – Should the Blackhawks ride Corey Crawford while he’s hot?

8:00 – Hawks will need 13-15 points in final 10 games to get playoff spot

10:30 – Brendan Perlini has finally figured it out for Hawks

12:35 – Eric Gustafsson’s breakout year has been vital to Hawks success

15:35 – Dylan Sikura still hasn’t scored, but he’s been all over the ice

18:50 – Prediction time…will the Hawks make the playoffs?

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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Four takeaways: Blackhawks manufacture point against Canucks despite inconsistent effort

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USA TODAY

Four takeaways: Blackhawks manufacture point against Canucks despite inconsistent effort

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks at the United Center on Monday:

1. Manufacturing a point

The Blackhawks had a good opportunity on the table. After Arizona lost, they could've pulled within three points of a wildcard spot with a game in hand if they pulled out a victory.

Instead, they settled for the one point, which was obviously important because it moved them within two games. But they weren't satisfied with their effort, especially against a Canucks team that was on the second of a back-to-back and started their 23-year-old rookie goaltender who had only five career NHL starts going into the game.

"We had a chance to jump on ‘em, try to wear them down early and take control of the game and just let them hang around," said Jonathan Toews, who's now three goals away from tying his career high of 34 set during the 2008-09 season. "We didn’t have the speed and pace we needed early on. Obviously it’s nice to get that point. But tough finish."

2. The pros and cons

There's good news and bad news regarding the effort the Blackhawks turned in.

The good news? The defense was solid, allowing only nine total high danger chances, according to naturalstattrick.com, after giving up 24 to Montreal and 18 to Toronto.

The bad news? The offense generated just six of their own and were held to two goals, which is below their season average of 3.35 per game. There weren't many high quality opportunities. But the Canucks took advantage of theirs and the Blackhawks didn't until late.

"We didn’t come out hard enough," Erik Gustafsson said. "We know they’re playing back to back and we talked about it before. We needed to come out much harder today. Just a bad 60 minutes. At least we got one point. But we need two now. It’s not fun."

3. Playing down to opponents?

The Blackhawks are fighting for their playoff lives. Every point matters, no matter who the opponent is. But lately they haven't been bringing their A-game against teams below them in the standings. They lost to Los Angeles, barely escaped Anaheim and were fortunate to pick up a point against the Canucks.

Is that a trend or just a blip?

"There's been nights where we've played down, for sure," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I don't know if that's a consistent thing, but obviously there's been some instances where we would've liked to play better against teams we're ahead of in the standings. But we also had a pretty good run there in January where we were beating teams that we needed to beat and that's why we're here. We didn't have it tonight, but we did manufacture a point and gotta just use the two days to reload here and get back at it."

4. Patrick Kane hits century mark

For the second time in his NHL career, Kane has hit the 100-point mark. It was only a matter of when, not if. And after going pointless in Montreal, he didn't have to wait too much longer to do it. 

With a primary assist on Toews' power-play goal in the first period, Kane became the third player in franchise history to record multiple 100-point seasons, joining Jeremy Roenick (three times) and Denis Savard (five). He also became the fifth American-born player to accomplish that feat.

Kane joins Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov and Edmonton's Connor McDavid as the first three players to reach 100 points this season. Kane's career high is 106, set during the 2015-16 campaign when he won the Art Ross and Hart Trophy. And with 10 games remaining, there's a good chance he breaks that, too.