Blackhawks

Blackhawks' depth being tested in playoffs

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Blackhawks' depth being tested in playoffs

Thursday, April 14, 2011Posted: 8:25 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

VANCOUVER, British Columbia Depth. The Chicago Blackhawks used to have plenty of it. This year, what little theyve got has been tested time after time.

And now its getting tested again.

With Game 2 coming tomorrow against the Vancouver Canucks, the Blackhawks could be down another forward. Tomas Kopecky suffered an undisclosed injury in the first period on Wednesday night and is doubtful to play tomorrow. Dave Bolland is out with his concussion.

I think as weve gone along you always get tested. You take some looks at other guys. Thats what its all about, coach Joel Quenneville said. Its someone stepping up and taking advantage of it to help the team in a positive way.

No, injuries are nothing new to any hockey team. The Blackhawks have gotten through theirs well at times despite missing Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa for most of December, Chicago was able to play above .500 hockey. But finding players to step up in key roles throughout hasnt always been easy.

Contrast their situation with that of the Canucks, who enjoyed the depth this season that the Blackhawks used to have. Vancouver had quite a few injuries among their defense corps this season. But they tapped into their farm system, which yielded strong results. Henrik Sedin called the transition seamless, as the Canucks just kept rolling through their injury issues.

Guys stepped up and played a lot of minutes. Now theyre in the press box, Sedin said. On a lot of other teams they would be playing.

This season, the Blackhawks have relied heavily on their top players to get them through injury woes. Thats fine for a while, but eventually they start to wear down. Now youve got the Vancouver Canucks recognizing that as they brought a big, physical presence in Game 1.

Over the course of a series, it wears them down, Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. We have four lines and six D rolling over right now. We have fresh legs throwing bodies out there.

And the Blackhawks are taking more abuse than theyre giving. As Quenneville said, the Hawks physical game was below average; the scoresheet showed the Canucks outhitting them 47-21 in Game 1. A lot of those hits seemed to come early when the Canucks were determined to make their presence felt. Literally.

There are no excuses on that part, defenseman Brian Campbell said on possible depth issues. You roll the next person in and go. Nobodys going to feel sorry for us and thats not going to win us a playoff series. Good teams learn how to get past that to win.

True, but the responsibilities have to be spread throughout more. The Blackhawks, down Bolland for all of Game 1 and Kopecky through most of it, leaned heavily on their best players. Patrick Kane played nearly 24 minutes, Jonathan Toews logged more than 23 and a not-100-percent Patrick Sharp played nearly 21. The Blackhawks need more from others and they havent gotten it at a sustained rate like they did last season.

The Blackhawks did their best to patch lineups through depth problems this season. A tight salary cap limiting their Rockford call-ups didnt help.

Injuries happen to every team, every season. The Canucks depth kept their top players from getting worn out. The Hawks may not be as fortunate.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

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.”