Blackhawks extend point streak to 11 games with win over Canadiens

Blackhawks extend point streak to 11 games with win over Canadiens

The night started with the Blackhawks welcoming back Andrew Shaw to Chicago. It ended with the Blackhawks gaining one more big victory before bidding Chicago goodbye for a few weeks.

Patrick Kane’s dazzling goal proved to be the game-winner and Corey Crawford stopped 21 of 23 shots, including some critical ones at the end, as the Blackhawks held off the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 on Sunday night. The Blackhawks ran their unbeaten streak to 11 games (9-0-2) and were happy with their all-around game.

“I think with everything on the line, we’ve gotten better,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “These four or five games were probably the best as far as generating and not having to defend as much.”

Gustav Forsling scored his first career NHL goal and Marian Hossa scored his fourth in as many games. Chicago product Al Montoya had a strong game for Montreal, stopping 32 of 35 shots.

If there was any team that was hotter than the Blackhawks right now it was the Canadiens, who were 13-1-1 entering this contest. That included a convincing 5-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings the previous night in Montreal. But outside of a few messy minutes to start the second period, during which the Canadiens got goals from Shea Weber (power play) and Andrei Markov, the Blackhawks were the better team on Sunday.

Hossa was in front of the net to score off Nick Schmaltz’s shot from the blue line for a 2-2 game 11:29 into the second period. Just five minutes later came Kane’s eye-popping goal, one on which he got around Jeff Petry and, while falling, scored his sixth of the season.

“I just tried to make a play, got tripped up, at that point you’re just throwing the net hoping something happens,” Kane said. “I got lucky there. Nice to see it go in.”

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The Blackhawks probably could’ve gotten more if not for Montoya, who stopped several Grade-A opportunities. Crawford was doing the same at the end, his biggest stop coming against Alex Galchenyuk with about 20 seconds remaining in regulation. He also stopped Shaw, who led all players with six shots on goal, at critical times.

“We’re progressing in a good way, a lot of quality chances tonight and timely saves at the right time by Crow,” Quenneville said. “Good, almost like a penalty kill at the end. Good two points.”

The Blackhawks have sometimes looked to the Circus Trip to get the cohesiveness they may lack in the first month or so of the season. Right now, they’re rounding into form before they even pack their bags.

“We talked about it: be strong toward the end because we’re coming up on two weeks on the road,” Hossa said. “We did a lot of good things tonight.”

Could the Blackhawks be players for Toronto's William Nylander?

Could the Blackhawks be players for Toronto's William Nylander?

The ongoing negotiation saga between William Nylander and the Maple Leafs could force Toronto into a trade of their young star. But could the Blackhawks be the right trade partner?

TSN’s Craig Button certainly thinks so.  

On TSN’s Leafs Lunch radio show, Button proposed a trade of Brandon Saad to Toronto for Nylander.

On paper, this seems like a no-brainer for the Hawks - and also a proposal that would make the Leafs immediately hang up. However, Button notes a few reasons why it makes sense for both sides.

First off, Saad could be the power left winger Toronto has been looking for to pair on a line with young star Auston Matthews once he returns from injury. Second, the $6M cap hit that Saad holds will likely save the Maple Leafs a couple million, with Nylander’s camp reportedly looking for a number north of $8M. Third, Nylander and the Leafs have a December 1st deadline to agree on a contract or he’ll be forced to sit out the remainder of the 2018-19 season. 

As Button points out, the closer the two sides get to this deadline, the more pressure that will mount on the Leafs’ front office to get some sort of return for Nylander if they believe this season is their best shot to win a Stanley Cup.

All this sounds great for the Blackhawks, right? Not so fast.

First off, it seems far more likely that the Leafs will be looking to acquire a top-4 defenseman for Nylander in the event of a one-for-one trade. That is something the Blackhawks do not have to give up (and could probably use themselves). Second, Saad only has two years remaining on his deal and is 26, while Nylander is still only 22 and coming off consecutive 61-point seasons.

Saad’s career high is 53 points – done twice – and he’s coming off his worst season since 2012, registering just 35 points last year. 

If the Blackhawks were to try and pull off a trade for Nylander, they’d more than likely need to include another young piece with Saad. Toronto would likely ask for defenseman Henri Jokiharju, which might be too steep of a cost for the Blackhawks. The Hawks might have some prospects they’d be willing to move, but that may move the meter much for the Leafs, who are in win-now mode. 

While Nylander would seem to be a great fit for the Blackhawks, it is far less likely the Hawks and Leafs are a good fit for a trade. But as the December 1 deadline inches closer, the Leafs will have a major decision on their hands.

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The challenges of repeating and building a dynasty in NHL


The challenges of repeating and building a dynasty in NHL

The Blackhawks and Capitals have each experienced great success in the salary cap era. They have combined for four Presidents' Trophy's and four Stanley Cups, showing they've done it both in the regular season and postseason.

But in this day and age, it's hard to sustain it over a long period of time. The Blackhawks were the closest to accomplishing that from 2009-15 — a "modern day dynasty" — when they appeared in five Conference Finals and won three Stanley Cups, but were never able to repeat as champions, something the Capitals are trying to do this season.

"We probably learned about it more after our first Cup," Patrick Kane said ahead of Wednesday's showdown in Washington. "The next season we had an up and down season, snuck into the playoffs at the end [in 2010-11]. ... It's difficult, you're so excited about winning, it's a long journey, and then a few months later you're back in training camp and trying to do it all over again. It was pretty difficult for us the first time around."

Chris Kunitz, the only active NHL player with four Stanley Cups, was a part of back-to-back championships in Pittsburgh when the Penguins won it in 2016 and 2017. But it took them seven years between the first of their three Stanley Cups in the salary cap era to their second.

"In Pittsburgh over those nine years, we may have won three times but the roster got flipped a few times," Kunitz said. "A few coaches, a few GMs. People look at the number and say it was successful, but every time we were there they were trying to put a team on the ice to win a Stanley Cup, it wasn't just to get to the playoffs. Expectations were high, and those years you didn't win were disappointments.

"There's a certain echelon of teams where that's their expectation and that's their goal. And if you don't do that, it doesn't matter if you had an individual successful season, if you didn't finish it in the end it wasn't looked upon very kindly and there were changes to be made."

The Blackhawks, Kings and Penguins are the only three teams to win multiple Stanley Cups since a salary cap was institued in 2005-06. Right now, however, the Kings and Penguins sit in the basement of the Western and Eastern Conference while the Blackhawks are on the outside of the playoff picture and recently parted ways with the second winningest coach of all-time in Joel Quenneville.

"Teams put runs together and the salary cap has a huge thing to do with that," Kunitz said. "When you win, you're successful, your players are usually playing their best hockey and deserve to get raises. It's tough to get everybody to stay together. Hopefully when the salary cap keeps going up it works in the players' favor to keep those teams together, but that's something management or ownership has to deal with, is picking the right players to keep and right players to move on and hopefully not changing that chemistry too much.

"From LA to Chicago to Pittsburgh, teams have been able to do it and sustain it and there's teams that have been close and always on the verge. It's something that you try to set your gameplan up and hopefully you have a certain window to have that success."

Even a team like the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are perceived to be the next franchise set up to have success over a long period of time, aren't guaranteed anything considering the Blackhawks took advantage of winning Stanley Cups with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on their entry-level contracts and bridge deals. The Tampa Bay Lightning are still trying to break through, and they're loaded with superstars on team-friendly contracts.

For better or worse, we may be seeing the end of the dynasty eras in hockey, as long as the salary cap is around.

"You don't really see the so-called dynasty too much more in the NHL, that's probably geared more towards other sports," Kane said. "But I think it's good. There's a lot of parity in the league, any team can beat anyone on any given night, so it's a fun league to play in. A little bit different than when I first came into the league where, I don't want to say you had easy matchups, but going into some games, you knew that you were better than the other team. Now teams are so even, especially with the salary cap. It's a great league, it's fun to play in, and like I said, anyone can beat anyone."

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