Blackhawks 'don't want to go back to Nashville' for a Game 7


Blackhawks 'don't want to go back to Nashville' for a Game 7

The Blackhawks weren’t entering the weekend with any major concerns.

Sure, it would have been nice to close out the Nashville Predators in Game 5 on Thursday night but they still have a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven, first-round series. And they get another chance at the United Center.

“We have a great opportunity here. It’s home ice and everyone’s back to play in front of the home crowd and have a big chance to score on a great note,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said on Friday. “We don’t want to go back to Nashville.”

[MORE: Blackhawks sticking with Scott Darling as starter for Game 6]

That last sentence is key. The Blackhawks certainly don’t want to go back to Nashville, where the Predators have won the last two games, outscoring the Blackhawks 11-4 in the process. If this series goes to a Game 7, you’d have to wonder how much of an advantage the Predators would have entering it.

So it’s simple: finish this off at home, where you’ve already won Games 3 and 4. If the Blackhawks get to the second round they’ll face either the St. Louis Blues or Minnesota Wild, who are locked in a 2-2 series heading into Game 5 on Friday night. A couple of days’ worth of rest wouldn’t be so bad facing either squad.

“I think the days off do wonders every round,” Kris Versteeg said. “It takes a physical toll on you, the amount of periods we played in the series, going into triple and double overtime. So closing it out on Saturday would be huge for us, especially from a health standpoint.”

For Game 6, a few things have to change. The Blackhawks need to limit the great chances the Predators have been getting. Nashville has shown that, if given rebounds, turnovers and other gaffes, it’ll score off them. Again, this is not new territory for the Blackhawks, as far as knowing how to win at this juncture.

[NBC SHOP: Get the latest Blackhawks gear here]

“Yeah, experience goes a long way for certain kinds of games where, [if] a few bounces don’t go our way, we don’t lose composure. We focus on the next shift,” Bryan Bickell said. “For the guys who have been on this team and have played a lot of playoff games and played big games in their careers, it’s nice to have us fall on experience and leadership we have to help carry this team.”

Thursday’s outcome wasn’t a total shock. The Predators were going to do everything they could to extend their postseason and took advantage of every chance the Blackhawks gave them to do that.

“Tomorrow is the day to have a solid 60 minutes and try to end the series,” Hjalmarsson said. “We know Nashville is going to bring everything they have. They did last game and we weren’t happy with the way we played. Hopefully we bring 60 solid minutes and bring a big win.”

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery was identified as the victim in an early morning drowning on Sunday at the Hamilton Harbour, Hamilton Police confirmed. He was 35.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, Emery and his friends jumped in the water around 6:30 a.m., but Emery never resurfaced. His body was recovered later in the afternoon.

Emery played in the NHL for 11 seasons, two of which came with the Blackhawks from 2011-13, where he served as a backup goaltender to Corey Crawford.

In 2013, he teammated up with Crawford to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) with the fewest goals against in a single season, before going on to capture his first Stanley Cup. During that season, Emery went 17-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts.

The Blackhawks issued this statement following the confirmation:

The Chicago Blackhawks organization was deeply saddened to hear of Ray Emery’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.

The hockey community took to Twitter to offer their condolences when news began to spread:

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

When the Blackhawks drafted Jonathan Toews third overall in 2006 and Patrick Kane with the No. 1 pick the following year, it was a sign that the dark skies were clearing in Chicago. Things really started to change when Rocky Wirtz took over as chairman following the death of his father Bill in September of 2007, and one of the first decisions he made was to televise all 82 games.

The fans were coming back.

For only the second time in 11 years, the Blackhawks finished above .500 in 2007-08 but missed the playoffs by three points, a season in which Kane won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie.

The following year Joel Quenneville took over as head coach after only three games to provide some coaching experience behind the bench for a young team on the rise. It resulted in a 104-point season and ended in a Conference Finals berth at the hands of the arch-rival Detroit Red Wings in five games.

The Blackhawks were ready to make that step into championship contenders. They just needed someone to put them over the edge.

Enter Marian Hossa.

On July 1 of 2009, he committed to the Blackhawks for 12 years worth $62.8 million. He bought into the long-term vision and wanted to be a part of something special for many years to come.

Was he ever.

In his first game as a member of the Blackhawks, Hossa scored two goals in a 7-2 road victory against San Jose after missing the first month and a half of the season with a shoulder injury. It was at that moment where you saw what kind of powerhouse the Blackhawks could be and would become with a full lineup and future Hall of Fame winger added to a mixture of franchise-changing players scratching the surface.

Fast forward to Game 5 of the 2010 quarterfinals. You know how it goes. Series is tied 2-2. The Blackhawks trail 4-3 late in the third period. Extra attacker is on. How many times have we seen this? The Blackhawks were surely going to find a way to tie it up ... and then Hossa is sent to the box with 1:03 to play in regulation. A five-minute major boarding penalty.


Not so fast. 

Patrick Kane went on to score arguably the biggest goal in Blackhawks history, a shorthanded one that evened it up with 13.6 seconds to go. United Center is up for grabs. But there are still four minutes left to kill off on the penalty once overtime starts, which Hossa once called "the longest four minutes of my life." 

In a span of nine seconds following the penalty kill, Hossa jumped on the ice from the box, darted straight for the net and buried home what was the second-biggest goal in franchise history to put the Blackhawks up 3-2 in the series. Two nights later Hossa assisted on three goals and the Blackhawks eliminated the Nashville Predators in their barn.

The rest is history.

Who knows if the Blackhawks rally to win that series if they don't tie it up or win it in overtime. Who knows if they break through the next year. Who knows if that core group even remains together. The course of the franchise could've changed that night.

Instead, Hossa was handed the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career on June 9, 2010 from Jonathan Toews, who couldn't give it to him fast enough after he came up on the losing end in consecutive appearances with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings in 2008 and 2009.

Hossa would add two more titles to his résumé with the Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015, which almost certainly locked up his legacy as one of the all-time greats and his eventual next stop: The Hockey Hall of Fame. The wait was worth it.

"I was hoping to get one coming to Chicago and now I’ve got three," Hossa said following the 2015 Stanley Cup win. "What a feeling." 

The Blackhawks don't win three Stanley Cups without Hossa, who will go down as arguably the greatest free-agent signing in Chicago sports history.

On behalf of the city of Chicago: Thank you, 81.