Blackhawks

What Blackhawks fans should watch for in the Stanley Cup Playoffs

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USA TODAY

What Blackhawks fans should watch for in the Stanley Cup Playoffs

It's a weird time in Chicago.

Usually in April, the Blackhawks are gearing up for a lengthy postseason run. This year? They're already gone for the summer and will be watching from home for the first time since 2007-08.

But there are still plenty of reasons to watch the Stanley Cup Playoffs if you're a Blackhawks fan.

Here are five of them:

1. The Blackhawks and Penguins are tied for most Stanley Cups in the salary cap era with three. Can Pittsburgh three-peat to break the tie?

The Blackhawks became the first team in the salary cap era to win three Stanley Cups, doing so in 2010, 2013 and 2015. The Penguins became the first team in the salary cap era to win back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017, and matched the Blackhawks with three total after picking up their first in 2009.

It's a deadlock. Will Pittsburgh become the first team to win four and three-peat? 

2. With the Predators winning the Presidents' Trophy, will Chicago native Ryan Hartman go from a non-playoff team with the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup winner in Nashville?

The Blackhawks didn't want to trade Hartman at the deadline, but the Predators presented a package too juicy to pass up and were forced to pull the trigger. That's what happens in a season like the Blackhawks had, where almost everything is on the table.

It was difficult for Chicago to see one of their own be traded to a Central Division rival, but would anybody be really disappointed to see Hartman win his first Stanley Cup? Surely, it would be painful to see him do it in a Predators sweater but it would make for a nice story, going from a non-playoff team to an instant winner in a span of a few months.

3. Can Artemi Panarin help the Blue Jackets advance past the first round for the first time in franchise history?

The Blue Jackets were looking for an offensive playmaker this offseason to help get them over the hump, and that's exactly why they acquired the Bread Man from the Blackhawks.

Panarin set a franchise record for most points in a single season (82), which was also a new career high for him, and is the best forward on a team looking to move past the first round for the first time. And if they can do that, who knows how far they can go until the train stops.

4. Tommy Wingels fell two games shy of winning his first Stanley Cup in 2015-16 with the Sharks. Can he do it this time around with the Bruins?

Here's another Chicago native with a legitimate chance at getting his first Stanley Cup with a different team after starting the year with the Blackhawks. And you better believe he'll be playing with a chip on his shoulder.

Wingels fell two games short of winning it all with the Sharks in 2015-16 after losing to the Penguins in six games. 

Wingels will turn 30 years of age on Thursday when the Bruins host Game 1, and you never know how many opportunities you'll get once you reach the back half of your career. This is a prime chance for Wingels to make a mark and add a Stanley Cup to his resume.

5. Michal Kempny has appeared in one career playoff game. How will the former Blackhawks defenseman fare with the Capitals, who are searching for their first Stanley Cup in team history?

The Blackhawks were hoping Kempny could turn into an every-day player on the blue line this season, but he struggled to crack a  young, crowded group on a consistent basis.

He's getting that opportunity with the Capitals, where he's playing in a top-four role and has recently spent time with John Carlson on the first pairing.

The Capitals are still searching for their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Heck, they're just looking to get to the Conference Final. Kempny was brought in to help shore up their defensive depth and, in the larger picture as a team, ultimately change their playoff fate.

Check out the full playoff schedule on the networks of NBC here!

Blackhawks 'mutually agree to part ways' with assistant coach Don Granato

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks 'mutually agree to part ways' with assistant coach Don Granato

The Blackhawks announced Wednesday that they have mutually agreed to part ways with assistant coach Don Granato. He was hired on June 15, 2017 and spent two seasons with the team.

“We appreciate Don’s contributions to the Blackhawks organization while on the staff,” head coach Jeremy Colliton said in a statement. “We wish him well in the future as he pursues other opportunities.”

The move allows Colliton to handpick his second assistant coach with Sheldon Brookbank remaining on the staff. The responsibilities between Brookbank and Granato were shared this season, but that's likely to change going into next season to a more traditional structure of one assistant coach handling the forwards and power play and the other the defensemen and penalty kill.

One potential candidate to fill the vacant position could be Derek King, who was on Colliton's staff with the Rockford IceHogs and served as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season after Colliton got promoted to Chicago. King is viewed as a player's coach and is well-respected within the organization.

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Hawks Talk Podcast: Evaluating Blackhawks defensemen prospects with Mark Eaton

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AP

Hawks Talk Podcast: Evaluating Blackhawks defensemen prospects with Mark Eaton

On the latest edition of the Hawks Talk Podcast, Blackhawks director of player development Mark Eaton joins the show to evaluate the organization’s top defensemen prospects and where each of them is at in their developments. Which ones could make the NHL jump next season?

Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis offer their takeaways from the Eaton interview and outlook the Blackhawks blue line group as a whole.

1:00 – Eaton on Henri Jokiharju’s development

3:30 – Adam Boqvist’s growth in North America

6:50 – Evaluating Nicolas Beaudin’s progression

8:15 – Surprised about Ian Mitchell’s decision to return to college?

10:55 – Assessing Chad Krys in college and AHL

13:10 – Challenge between stressing defensive side of game but not taking away from who the player is

15:55 – Which defensemen prospects could be in NHL next season?

18:25 – The message Erik Gustafsson’s breakout season sends to prospects

21:15 – Takeaways from Eaton interview

31:25 – Reviewing Blackhawks defensemen contracts

33:35 – Thoughts on Gustav Forsling

35:20 – The challenge for Blackhawks defense this offseason

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

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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