Blackhawks expecting the Wild's best in Game 4


Blackhawks expecting the Wild's best in Game 4

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Backs against the wall, in a must-win situation and facing the most desperate situation.

Insert whatever cliché you’d like: the Minnesota Wild is experiencing it right now. The Blackhawks could sweep them out of the postseason, so it’s the Wild’s (potential) last stand.

[MORE - Wild ready to 'attack' Blackhawks' game plan]

Will this be it or will the Wild force a Game 5? The Blackhawks know they’ll have to bring their best effort – a la Game 2, if you will – to finish this off tonight.

“Obviously this will be the toughest one,” Bryan Bickell said. “Their backs are to the wall and they have nothing to lose. They’ll give it all every shift to get one [victory]. We expect a high-pace game again. Last game we kind of handled the storm early, stuck to our systems. We got a couple good bounces on the power play to get that goal and just held them off from there.”

With the Wild facing elimination, it’s not a big surprise that it made some lineup changes. Star Tribune reporter Michael Russo chronicles them here – hey, it’s easier to have the Wild guru explain it to you. Coach Mike Yeo joked that he went to scientific lengths to come up with the new combinations.

“Dice, BINGO balls,” he told the media. “Obviously you’ve got to make some changes.”

Additionally, Nate Prosser will make his postseason debut tonight. He comes in on defense, replacing Jordan Leopold. Prosser, who hails from nearby Elk River, Minn., is excited to get back into the lineup after sitting the last month. Oh, and it’s also his 29th birthday today.

“It’s at an all-time high. How can you beat this?” Prosser said of the anticipation tonight brings. “At home, in front of my family and friends at the Xcel playing against the Blackhawks. You can’t beat that, you can’t even write that up. On top of that, it’s my birthday today so it all kind of boiled into one today. I’m really excited for tonight and just want to bring my game.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans]

The Blackhawks didn’t expect to be up 3-0 in this series. They’ve done it with a combination of timely goals, stronger defense and goaltending. It would be easy for them to look ahead to the Western Conference Finals, where they seem destined to go for the third consecutive season. But they’ve gotten to this point looking no further than the next game, and they’re not changing now.

“They went on an amazing run to get to the playoffs. We know what they’re capable of doing and they have a structured team game as well,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Every game has been tight, close. We expect that same tonight and we want to make sure we even raise our level of play.”

NHL Draft Profile: D Adam Boqvist

NHL Draft Profile: D Adam Boqvist

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Adam Boqvist

Position: Defenseman
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 168 pounds
Shoots: Right

Scouting report:

"Boqvist is a finesse defenseman who is very skilled, possesses excellent vision and tons of talent. He is fun to watch and full of surprises on the ice. He often plays bigger than his size and skated in his first games with Sweden's Senior National Team in April."

NHL player comparable: Erik Karlsson

Fit for Blackhawks:

The Blackhawks would love to have Karlsson, who is probably being traded out of Ottawa this summer. Every team would love to have him. But that's not realistic for Chicago. So what if they drafted his potential mini me?

Boqvist is electric with the puck and has drawn comparisons to the Swedish defenseman as a best-case scenario.

There are two concerns, though. One is that he may need some time to develop at just 17 years old and his defense a work in progress. The second is that he's sustained head injuries over the course of his young career, which adds a little bit of risk to the equation.

If he can stay healthy and his development isn't rushed, there's major upside here. But are the Blackhawks willing to be patient? We're not so sure.

Should the Blackhawks explore bringing back Artemi Panarin?


Should the Blackhawks explore bringing back Artemi Panarin?

Here's an interesting development as we approach the NHL Draft: Artemi Panarin has informed the Blue Jackets that he's not ready to consider an extension "at this time" and because of that, Columbus is testing the market for the Russian winger, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.

Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen responded to the report shortly after in a statement released by the team:

"Artemi is an elite National Hockey League player. Our position has been that we want him to be a Blue Jacket for many years and that has not changed. He has a year left on his contract, so there is plenty of time to work towards that end. Should anything change moving forward, we will address it at that time and any decision we make will be in the best interest of our club.”

Ironically, Panarin was traded to Columbus on the afternoon of last year's draft as part of a blockbuster package that sent Brandon Saad back to Chicago. It shook up the hockey world, and has the potential to do so again.

Panarin is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2019, but is free to sign an extension with Columbus on July 1. Clearly, that doesn't seem to be in the cards right now and it's why the Blue Jackets have to put out feelers. They can't risk losing him for nothing.

On the flip side, Panarin has every right to test the open market. He has one year left on his contract that carries a $6 million cap hit. He's due for a hefty raise, will be 27 years old next summer — the prime of his hockey career — and will certainly be looking for a long-term deal after accepting a bridge contract with the Blackhawks.

Speaking of whom, should his former team explore bringing him back to Chicago now that he's on the market?

Every general manager should and will do their due diligence and call for an asking price, Stan Bowman included. Those conversations might start with Alex DeBrincat or Nick Schmaltz, and if that's the case, you say thanks but no thanks and move on. 

The Blackhawks have the Nos. 8 and 27 picks in this year's draft as possible ammunition, but the Blue Jackets are ready to take that next step. They were up 2-0 in their first-round series before losing four straight to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. It's unlikely they'd be looking to center a potential deal around draft picks. 

The only way you even consider it from the Blackhawks perspective is if Panarin is guaranteed to sign a long-term extension at a price you're comfortable with, but that's one of the main reasons why they traded him in the first place. 

To cap it all off, trading for Panarin wouldn't even address the Blackhawks' biggest need and that's a Top 4 defenseman. Those don't grow on trees. The Blackhawks will have the cap space to sign a player like James van Riemsdyk to patch up their top 6. You can't say the same for the free-agent blue line group.

So while it may certainly be fun for Blackhawks fans to come up with possible trade scenarios to get Panarin back in an Indianhead sweater, it just doesn't make great sense for a variety of reasons.