Blackhawks

Blackhawks better, but no 'W' all that matters

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Blackhawks better, but no 'W' all that matters

Moral victories are nice, but the longer a team has to settle for them, the less they mean.

The Blackhawks remained stuck at one point in their last nine games and theyve pretty much used up all their mulligans in the Western Conference playoff standings. No, they wont be out of it by the time they take the ice against the NHLs best team Thursday at Madison Square Garden. But who would have thought at the start of this trip that by the time they return to the United Center Sunday morning, they just might be?

The penalty kill held the leagues second-ranked power play off the board in three chances. The compete level and overall defensive coverage was more consistent. They rallied twice from one-goal deficits in a tough arena to tie.

But none of that mattered when Dylan Olsen couldnt get a puck out of the Hawks zone with about six minutes left. Nashville worked it around to Ryan Ellis, who wound up from the point for the second time in the game and the rubber wound up behind Ray Emery. The first time, it was tipped-in by Nick Spaling for a 2-1 Preds lead. This time, it glanced off Duncan Keiths stick, but Emery still had a clear look and maybe time to adjust the deflection.

The moral victory is that Emery was otherwise very good. The fact that a big save eluded him meant the Hawks would go without a victory again when they couldnt rally back a third time. The Patrick Sharp-Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane line that Joel Quenneville put together was very good. The reality is it didnt get on the scoresheet despite heavy offensive pressure and accounting for 10 of the teams 32 shots.

The Hawks played hard and with urgency. When they skated off, their situation became more urgent.

In five of the seven games so far on this trip, the Hawks have found themselves tied in the third period. In another, they entered the third down just one goal. Theyve been close, but been unable to finish. It wound up being another night that didnt quiet those wondering if they are finished.

As they head to New York, that Giants analogy they used a week ago after the G-men won the Super Bowl despite sporting a 7-7 record late in the season could inspire a trip to Tom Coughlins office. The longer the wait becomes to draw that comparison, no matter the effort, the harder it is to believe it could happen the same way without the results.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”