Why Blackhawks' Phase 3 training camp has had an extra intensity

Why Blackhawks' Phase 3 training camp has had an extra intensity

From the minute the Blackhawks' summer camp started on Monday, it was straight to business.

Unlike the usual team training camp that starts in September in preparation for the start of a new season ahead, there's no time to get back in the swing of things with the NHL's 24-team playoffs approaching.

Come July 26th, the Hawks will be traveling to Edmonton for the postseason. Prior to the first contest of a best-of-five play-in series against the Oilers beginning on Aug. 1, the Hawks will be facing off against the St. Louis Blues, the NHL's defending Stanley Cup champions, on July 29th in an exhibition game.

Despite where the Hawks' players were spread out across the grid during the NHL pause, which began on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how good of shape they were able to get in for the league's Return To Play, they were put to work by Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton on Day 1 monday and that's still the case through Day 3.

"I think the coaches had somewhat of a game plan coming in, we expected they were going to be hard practices and they have been," Blackhawks forward Dylan Strome said after Day 2's session. "They’ve been up-tempo, we did some power play at the end today. We’re getting back into it, starting to feel good. 

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"Obviously it takes a while to get back with the full team and feeling great again, but we’re doing the right things to feel good about ourselves and about our game. I’m sure the practices are going to ramp it up even more; every team’s going through the same thing. There’s what, 11, 12 days left of practices and camp? We’re looking forward to it. it’s going to be a grind but it’s a good grind for the right reasons, so we’re looking forward to it."

Drills, scrimmages and sprints starting with Day 1 and not subsiding through Day 3, didn't allow for much, 'So what did you do during the pause' idle chatter amongst teammates. At the first session on Monday, the team sprinted laps for more than 15 minutes before the end of practice.

The duration of the sprints shortened a little bit for Days 2 and 3, but seemed more challenging as the Hawks were doing laps broken up into groups on Day 2 around certain parts of the ice in a pattern and down the middle of the ice on Day 3. 

Along with basic drills, scrimmages and conditioning, the Hawks have been working more on specific game situations like breaking out of the defensive zone and Colliton said the team will be prepping more specifically for their matchup with the Oilers as camp drags on as well.

And Strome was right, it was all part of a game plan. 

"Well, we don’t have much time and we’ve got to make use of every day we have," Colliton said after Day 1. "That’s the upside of having that Phase 2 was relatively long. Most of the guys have had a chance to be on (the ice) and get up to speed. It wasn’t the first time they’ve been on the ice. These guys have been training at a high level, even if it wasn’t perfect conditions. These guys are pros and they’re ready. 

"We’re trying to be as smart as we can with the loads. There wasn’t a lot of stops and starts. There was a lot of skating. We’re trying to get their skating legs back. I think we had a little bit of everything today. We had some habits, some pace, some contact, some battles and compete things. Some 5-on-5 play. They had a chance to scrimmage. We’re going to see a lot of that. 

"There’s only one exhibition game we think. Trying to get them (to) that game level, that game feeling as quick as we can. So we’re gonna scrimmage quite a bit here as we move through this camp. Again, we don’t have much time so we’ve got to make use of every day."

Podcast: Blackhawks drop Game 1 to the Vegas Golden Knights 4-1

Podcast: Blackhawks drop Game 1 to the Vegas Golden Knights 4-1

The Blackhawks lose Game 1 to the favorite Vegas Golden Knights and former Hawk Robin Lehner gets credited with the win. Host Pat Boyle is joined by NBCS Blackhawks analyst and 2013 Stanley Cup champ with the Hawks Jamal Mayers to break down Game 1 and talk how the Hawks can come back for Game 2 to tie the series.

(1:00) - Corey Crawford let in a few soft goals

(6:20) - What went wrong and what went right for the Hawks?

(10:32) - How do the Hawks get more offense?

(14:30) - How should the Hawks prepare for Game 2?

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Blackhawks embracing underdog role, but have hands full after Vegas wins Game 1

Blackhawks embracing underdog role, but have hands full after Vegas wins Game 1

During the dynasty era, the Blackhawks were perennial Stanley Cup contenders and often times the favorites to come out of the Western Conference. But this is new territory for them.

The Blackhawks are going into the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs as heavy underdogs, and they're embracing the fact nobody is giving them a real shot to win.

"It's a cool role to play," Patrick Kane said going into their first-round series against the Vegas Golden Knights. "It's exciting for our team when everyone's counting you out and no one's really giving you a chance."

Echoed Kirby Dach: "I'm looking forward to this series vs. Vegas and to really show everyone who the Hawks are, that we're here to win and not just be here."

The Blackhawks flexed their muscles in the qualifying round after beating the Edmonton Oilers in four games as the No. 12 seed. But they have their hands full against the Golden Knights, and we saw why in Game 1 on Wednesday night.

The Golden Knights beat the Blackhawks 4-1 and led in shot attempts (57-50), shots on goal (33-20) and even-strength high-danger chances (7-4), according to Natural Stat Trick. The 20 shots on goal tied a season-low for the Blackhawks, who were reminded how tight-checking of a team the Golden Knights can be.

"They're a very structured, simple team, play a heavy game," Calvin de Haan said. "You've got to tip your hat sometimes, they played well as a squad. ... It's frustrating, but at the same time, I thought we played well enough that we could've won that game."

The Golden Knights are a well-oiled machine, but they didn't exactly dominate the possesion game the way they usually do. That’s not to say they weren’t the better team — because they were — but the Golden Knights won because they simply didn't give up a lot and, most importantly, prevented the Blackhawks from ever taking control of the game even when they weren't at their best.

"We expect a tight series, we expect it to be a grind, we expect to face adversity," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We did that. And we were right there. But we're going to have to find a way to win some of these games, but we've got put ourselves in that position as well. We've just got to stick with it; they did that a little bit longer than us."

The Blackhawks aren't going to get down on themselves after only one game. They showed they could make this a competitive series if they stay patient and play a conservative game.

At the same time, the Blackhawks know they've got to go fight for it because the Golden Knights will make you earn everything you get.

"We have a great opportunity here," Duncan Keith said. "The first game is under our belts. At the end of the day, not many teams are giving us a chance to win. So I think part of it is just going out and having fun, especially for younger guys — everybody, really. Enjoy the challenge. It's a great challenge, but it's also a great opportunity for our group.

"We're right there. It's one game. I don't think we're happy with the game, but we know that we can be better and I think that's a good thing too. And we're going have to be better."

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