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Ballantini: Blackhawks postseason All-Stars

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Ballantini: Blackhawks postseason All-Stars

Thursday, June 10, 20103:16 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Although Jonathan Toews was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the most valuable player of the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, the choice wasnt completely cut and dry. Numerous Chicago Blackhawks had dominant enough postseason stretches to make them worthy of the honor.

Heres a position-by-position snapshot of the top Hawks over the course of four postseason rounds and 22 games.

Jonathan Toews, Center
Toews was the Blackhawks best two-way player throughout the playoffs -- and on a team featuring Marian Hossa, thats saying something.

Dustin Byfuglien, Left Wing
Big Buff started and ended the playoffs on relatively flat notes, but his middle -- dominating efforts vs. the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks, where he gathered four of his NHL-best five game-winning goals -- is enough to earn him placement as Chicagos top left wing of the playoffs. Byfuglien did yeoman work as an emergency replacement defenseman during the Nashville Predators quarterfinals and shifted almost seamlessly back to offense when blueliner Brian Campbell rushed back from a broken collarbone to play in Game 4. Elevated to the top line alongside Toews and Patrick Kane in yet another of coach Joel Quennevilles masterstrokes on the fly, Big Buff established himself as a premier offensive force with his unique combination of size, quickness and overall nastiness -- and raised expectations for his star potential in the NHL.

Patrick Kane, Right Wing
To be sure, Kaner didnt have an exquisite playoff run, although he notched a team third-best 10 goals and second-best 18 assists and 28 points. The 21-year-old started quick vs. the Preds and potted one of the most memorable goals in Blackhawks history to extend Game 5 of the Nashville quarters into overtime after his club came just 14 seconds from must-win Games 6 and 7. How, might you ask, did Kane chase that extraordinary shorthander, after struggling on and off in the three subsequent series? By doing what franchise superscorers do -- sensing his team was in need and finding a way, against all odds and overcoming more than 20 minutes of personally draining ice time vs. a weighty opponent to strap Chicago to his back and win the Stanley Cup with a wicked wrister that fooled everyone in the house. Except Crazy 88.

Duncan Keith, Defenseman
Keith wins a lifetime hero pass from Blackhawks fans for his courageous comeback vs. San Jose to help seal a Stanley Cup berth, losing seven teeth from a vicious shot to the face and enduring to return to the game and preserve the Chicago lead. Of course, he also wins a lifetime pass for inking an extension that will keep him in town until hes 40, literally playing all of his days as a Blackhawk. Keith also quarterbacked both Canadas Olympic gold-medal winning defense and that of the Cup-conquering Blackhawks. Oh, and hes the frontrunner for the Norris Trophy as well. Another amazing year for a Hawks young star.

Brent Sopel, Defenseman
Sopel did more with less in these playoffs than anyone on the ice. Not blessed with speed or quickness, scoring talent that has diminished over time and ice time that often befits a third pairing, the Iron Giant stood tall. Half of his 54 postseason blocks (tying him for the team lead with Niklas Hjalmarsson) came in the first playoff series, at a time when Sopels tenacity was truly needed, as Nashville arguably presented the Blackhawks with their staunchest playoff opposition of all.

Antti Niemi, Goalie
No netminder in a throwback scoring series like this Finals is going to be heralded as the second coming, but there were stretches in this postseason where Niemi was nearly that, including two shutouts vs. Nashville that helped set the Blackhawks on course for the Cup (he was the first Blackhawks goalie to record two shutouts in one playoff series since Tony Esposito in 1973 -- heady company indeed). Overall, the rookie -- repeat, rookie -- compiled a .910 save percentage and 2.63 goals-against average in the course of the playoffs. His 16 wins and 1,322 minutes both set Blackhawks postseason records.

Brett Ballantini isCSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnikon Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawksinformation.

Snake-bitten Blackhawks light the lamp Saturday

Snake-bitten Blackhawks light the lamp Saturday

Three unlikely heroes emerged in Calgary on Saturday night to help the Blackhawks find some footing near the end of their five-game road trip (currently 1-3-0) that wraps up Sunday in Winnipeg.

Blackhawks rookie center Kirby Dach hadn't scored a goal in six games; Alex DeBrincat had one marker in his last nine after finishing last season with 41; Alex Nylander had one goal in his past 17 contests.

The trio bounced back against the Flames to help the Hawks to an 8-4 victory.

Nylander scored twice, and DeBrincat and Dach each had a goal.

"It’s a learning process for us that [haven't] been through this," Nylander said after the game. "And we are lucky that we have these vets that are on our team that can help us and see that something like this in the season happens."

Related: Blackhawks' offense explodes in Calgary

Of all the Hawks who have gone cold this season, the most surprising was DeBrincat, who posted 41 goals last season and 28 as a rookie the year prior.

"I've been fighting with the puck a little bit too much," he said. "Even today, I didn't really play that well, but finally got rewarded."

Six points out of a playoff spot, having the three forwards off the schneid could be a big factor in the Hawks putting a streak together to keep their playoff hopes alive.

"Those guys, they have the ability to chip in for us offensively and if they can do that it's going to make a big difference for us," Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said of the three. "Ultimately, it comes down to their work ethic away from the puck."

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews felt Dach, DeBrincat and Nylander gave the Hawks a much-needed lift on Saturday.

"For guys like that and the way they think, the way they play the game, their skillset, scoring goals gives you a ton of energy, it gives you a lift," Toews said. "It's nice to see them get a few and see a few pucks go in.

"I think even if you're just on the ice, you have nothing to do with the play, just to be around goals is infectious. So it's nice to see those guys make those plays as a result of their hard work and it's an incentive to keep doing the same thing."

Hopefully the goal infection spreads for the Hawks. Despite being six points out of the playoffs, Chicago has three games in hand on the Arizona Coyotes, who occupy the second wild card spot in the Western Conference.

With 24 games remaining, scoring contributions will have to come from across the board for the Blackhawks to go on a successful run to secure a playoff spot.

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Andrew Ladd joins Blackhawks All-Decade Team

Andrew Ladd joins Blackhawks All-Decade Team

The Blackhawks got a big lift out of skilled and scrappy forward Andrew Ladd during his first three seasons with the Blackhawks. 

Ladd was selected at No. 4 overall in the 2004 NHL Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Maple Ridge, British Columbia native won a Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006 before coming to Chicago in a trade for Tuomo Ruutu on Feb. 26, 2008. 

In four seasons with the Blackhawks, Ladd displayed strength on both sides of the puck, recording 111 points and a +/- rating of +29 in 203 games.

In 19 games during the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, Ladd had six points (three goals, three assists) and a +/- rating of +4.

Related: Versteeg joins Blackhawks All-Decade Team

After the Hawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, Ladd was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers for Ivan Vishnevskiy and a 2011 second-round draft pick in a salary cap move. 

Ladd was traded back to Chicago with Matt Fraser and Jay Harrison for Marko Dano and two draft picks on Feb. 25, 2016. He had 12 points (eight goals, four assists) in 19 games in his final season with the Hawks. 

Following the 2015-16 season, he became a free agent and signed a seven-year contract with the New York Islanders.

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