Blackhawks: Baun, McNeill ready to take advantage of opportunity


Blackhawks: Baun, McNeill ready to take advantage of opportunity

The Blackhawks changes, be it those that have already happened or those that could still occur, have been watched by many.

Other NHL teams, including those they’ve traded with, have been watching. The media has been watching. And prospects in the system have certainly been watching.

Being a Blackhawks prospect hasn’t been easy these last few years: the Blackhawks have been deep and, outside of the summer of 2010, haven’t had massive roster changes. Well this summer has meant big changes again, be it trades (Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp, and possibly others before summer’s end) or free agents going elsewhere (Brad Richards, Antoine Vermette and possibly Johnny Oduya).

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Bigger opportunities are going to be there come autumn, and several Blackhawks prospects have noticed.

“There’s definitely opportunity. I know that and you guys know that. So you definitely want to work hard,” forward Kyle Baun said. “I think there are spots available that are up for grabs, and with multiple players and there’s competition there. There’s motivation to know that they’re going to take a serious look at me and a few other guys.”

Two who are looking to take advantage of the opportunity, Baun and Mark McNeill, are at the Blackhawks’ prospect camp this week. But there are others. Phillip Danault and Ryan Hartman each played some last season and the two also spent the postseason with the Blackhawks as their Black Aces. Coach Joel Quenneville called Danault, who played twice in November, “tenacious.” Hartman, whose NHL debut in February began with a memorable hit on New Jersey’s Dainius Zubrus, also made a good impression.

The competition will be fierce but prospects are ready for it, even if some didn’t want to talk too much about it.

“I'm just going to say it's an opportunity, you know?” McNeill said. “I'm really excited about it. It's gonna take a lot of hard work, but I've got to be ready to go when camp comes around.”

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Baun, who played three games with the Blackhawks, also garnered notice in a short amount of time; in the team’s exit interviews last month, Quenneville talked of Baun’s potential this season.

“He talked to me briefly,” Baun said. “[He] said he liked what I brought and expected me to have a big summer and to come ready for trainingcamp, were basically his words.”

Blackhawks prospects heading to training camp should always be ready for it. But they may be even that much more prepared for this one. There are big opportunities this season, big chances to make the team that haven’t been there in the recent past.

“At the end of the day it comes down to me trying to be the best player I can. That’s all I can really do,” Baun said. “At the end of the day, if I’m good enough I’m going to be there, if not I guess I won’t be there. All I can really do is work on my own game and not pay too, too much attention to [the changes], although it is interesting to follow.”

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning


Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Blackhawks on wrong side of history 

Earlier this year the Blackhawks made history by appearing in five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team in NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB history has ever done.

But Sunday they found themselves on the wrong side of it after allowing 33 shots on goal in the second period alone. It tied a franchise high for most given up in a single period — March 4, 1941 vs. Boston — and is the most an NHL team has allowed since 1997-98 when shots by period became an official stat.

"It's pretty rare to be seeing that much work in a period," said Cam Ward, who had a season-high 49 saves. "But oh man, I don't even know what to say to be honest. It's tough. We know that we need to be better especially in our home building, too. And play with some pride and passion. Unfortunately, it seemed like it was lacking at times tonight. The old cliche you lose as a team and overall as a team we weren't good enough tonight."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was a tough, tough period in all aspects. I don’t think we touched the puck at all and that was the part that was disturbing, against a good hockey team."

2. Alexandre Fortin is on the board

After thinking he scored his first career NHL goal in Columbus only to realize his shot went off Marcus Kruger's shin-pad, Fortin made up for it one night later and knows there wasn't any question about this one.

The 21-year-old undrafted forward, playing in his his fifth career game, sprung loose for a breakaway early in the first period and received a terrific stretch pass by Jan Rutta from his own goal line to Fortin, who slid it underneath Louis Domingue for his first in the big leagues. It's his second straight game appearing on the scoresheet after recording an assist against the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"It's fun," Fortin said. "I think it would be a little bit more fun to get your first goal [while getting] two points for your team, but I think we ... just have to [turn the page to the] next chapter and just play and be ready for next game."

3. Brandon Saad's most noticeable game?

There weren't many positives to take away from this game, but Saad was certainly one of them. He had arguably his best game of the season, recording seven shot attempts (three on goal) with two of them hitting the post (one while the Blackhawks were shorthanded).

He was on the ice for 11 shot attempts for and five against at 5-on-5, which was by far the best on his team.

"He started OK and got way better," Quenneville said of Saad. "Had the puck way more, took it to the net a couple of times, shorthanded."

4. Special teams still a work in progress

The Blackhawks entered Sunday with the 29th-ranked power play and 25th-ranked penalty kill, and are still working to get out from the bottom of the league in both departments. In an effort to change up their fortunes with the man advantage, the Blackhawks split up their two units for more balance.

They had four power-play opportunities against Tampa Bay and cashed in on one of them, but it didn't matter as it was too little, too late in the third period — although they did become the first team to score a power-play goal against the Lightning this season (29 chances).

"Whether we're looking for balance or we're just looking for one to get hot, I think our power play has been ordinary so far," Quenneville said before the game. "We need it to be more of a threat."

Four more minor penalties were committed by the Blackhawks, giving them eight in the past two games. That's one way they can shore up the penalty kill, by cutting back on taking them.

Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period


Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period

Well, things could be going better for the Blackhawks during Sunday's game against the Lightning.

In the second period Sunday, the Blackhawks surrendered 33 shots on goal, tying a franchise record for most in a single period. The previous instance occurred March 4, 1941 against the Boston Bruins, a game that the Blackhawks lost 3-2.

While the Blackhawks tied a franchise record for shots on goal allowed, they actually set an NHL record at the same time. The NHL did not begin recording shots on goal as an "official" statistic until the 1997-98 season.

Consequentially, Sunday's 33 shots on goal allowed in the second period is the "official" record, even though the Blackhawks accomplished the "feat" nearly 80 years ago. Confusing, huh? 

Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, they also surrendered three goals and scored zero in addition to the plethora of shots on goal allowed. They recorded just six shots on goal in the second period themselves, trailing 4-1 by the time the third period started.