Blackhawks

Andrew Desjardins comes up big for Blackhawks in Game 3

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Andrew Desjardins comes up big for Blackhawks in Game 3

Andrew Desjardins normally wouldn’t shoot this much, or so he says.

“It’s kind of weird. I’m usually not like that,” said Desjardins, who had four shots on goal, one of which found its way through Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne. “But that was my mindset coming in. Any time I get around the net, just shoot it.”

The mindset worked, as Desjardins scored Sunday’s first goal for the Blackhawks, who went on to beat the Predators 4-2 in Game 3 of their first-round series. Desjardins, who was in the lineup after being a healthy scratch the first two games, gave the fourth line a scoring threat, even if he’s not typically that type of player.

[MORE: Five Things from Hawks-Preds Game 3: Darling stays hot]

For Desjardins, it was just about taking advantage of the situation.

“I was just kind of waiting, ready,” Desjardins said. “We’ve been working hard and I was just ready to go. I was fortunate to get into the game today.”

Desjardins, who the Blackhawks acquired from the San Jose Sharks for Ben Smith at the trade deadline, has played well on the fourth line in previous games. He gave that line a spark when Joakim Nordstrom was suspended and later injured in the regular season. He gave them a scoring punch on Sunday.

“I liked his game,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “The depth of our playoff rounds is a great asset to have organizationally and Desi played real strong down the stretch in different positions, on different lines as well. He made a couple nice plays tonight offensively.”

Marian Hossa said Desjardins added a jolt.

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“It was a really important first goal,” Hossa said. “He just jumped in in Game 3 and I think he had a really strong game for us. Definitely, guys like that give us more energy and he’s a guy who can play a physical game and that kind of brings energy.”

Desjardins gave the Blackhawks their first lead during a game thisseries, even if it was brief. His second-chance shot off his own rebound got by Rinne late in the first period.

“I didn’t even see it go in until [Marcus Kruger] celebrated there. I didn’t have a good view of it,” he said. “I was fortunate to get it five-hole. I think he’d take that one back if he could.”

Will Desjardins stay in the lineup for Game 4? Given what he did on Sunday, he should. The veteran center-turned-wing took advantage of his opportunity and got the Blackhawks on the board early. He’s earned another chance.

Why fixing penalty kill is crucial for Blackhawks in 2019-20

Why fixing penalty kill is crucial for Blackhawks in 2019-20

Just how important is special teams in the NHL?

Of the 16 teams that qualified for the postseason, 14 clubs had at least one special teams unit that was ranked in the top half of the league and 12 teams had at least one unit ranked in the top 10.

The Blackhawks finished the season with the 15th-ranked power play and 31st-ranked penalty kill. The Blackhawks' 72.7 percent kill rate is the lowest the league has seen in 30 years.

“The penalty kill is something that clearly has to be better," GM Stan Bowman said. "That was a big disappointment this year, no question about that. So we have to devote some resources to that. Some of it might be players, if we get some players that have that kind of experience or have a history. Part of it is tactically can we find ways to be better. We have a lot of time now to study it and put a lot of our focus on that.”

Jeremy Colliton did not rule out getting external help to improve the PK.

“We’re going to look at everything, for sure," he said. "We’re going to look at obviously tactically and we’re going to look at the personnel and how we’re using guys and try to put them in the best situation we can. And maybe that’s new, different guys who weren’t getting the opportunity. Or maybe that’s someone from outside.”

The Blackhawks did manage to fix their power play issues this past season. When Colliton became head coach on Nov. 6, the Blackhawks power play was near the bottom of the league. By December, the man advantage was dead last, cashing in on fewer than 12 percent of their power plays.

Colliton made Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Erik Gustafsson his top power play unit and from Dec. 20 till the end of February they were the league's best unit, converting on 35.2 percent of their power plays.  

Gustafsson’s addition to the power play was a major factor in the unit's improvement.

"A big part of our power play progression and transformation from being at the bottom to being in the top group," Bowman said of Gustafsson. "I was really pleased with that and we're going to need him next year for sure.”

If the Blackhawks penalty kill can make strides like the power play did, Colliton’s crew will likely be playing at this time next season.

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Recapping breakout OHL season for Blackhawks top prospect Adam Boqvist

Recapping breakout OHL season for Blackhawks top prospect Adam Boqvist

The London Knights set high expectations for themselves going into the 2018-19 OHL campaign. They always do. Their roster is usually loaded with top NHL prospects and this season was no different.

After finishing No. 1 in the Western Conference with 99 points, the Knights looked poised to go on a deep run. They got off to a roaring start in the playoffs by sweeping the Windsor Spitfires (4-0) and kicked off the second round by winning three straight against the Guelph Storm. But then, for the first time all season, the Knights lost four in a row to squander a 3-0 series lead and were eliminated just like that. It was a disappointing finish for a team with Memorial Cup aspirations.

One of the bright spots of the postseason was Blackhawks prospect Adam Boqvist. He was tied for first among all skaters with 10 goals through two rounds; no other defenseman had more than six. And he finished with 13 points in 11 games for a points-per-game average of 1.18.

To summarize his season: Boqvist scored one goal in his first 15 games. From that point on, he finished with 29 goals and 60 points in 50 games, including playoffs. He became an offensive driving force.

It's unclear what his future holds, but with Evan Bouchard expected to turn pro and secure a full-time roster spot on the Edmonton Oilers next season, returning to London would put Boqvist in a position where he could be the No. 1 defenseman in all situations.

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