Blackhawks

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman: 'We have to go out there and earn it'

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman: 'We have to go out there and earn it'

General manager Stan Bowman talked in late January of the Blackhawks' season at that point. It was pretty good, but he figured it was only a matter of time before veterans and youth gelled and it led to bigger and better things. 

Well, here we are, with the Blackhawks earning the No. 1 seed in the West and home ice through the western portion of the playoffs. The work Bowman and the Blackhawks have done up to this point has worked.

Now to see how it comes together in the postseason.

Bowman talked to the media on Thursday morning prior to the Blackhawks hosting the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of their first-round series. Bowman said he was as optimistic about this team as he has previous ones.

"We've put ourselves in a good position but none of that really matters at this point. We've got to get out there and earn it, starting tonight," Bowman said. "I like the way our team looks. I think that we've shown we can play really good hockey when we play together as a team. And you have to get out there and do it."

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The biggest question entering this season was how the Blackhawks' rookies would adapt, and how long it would take. When Bowman talked in January, they were playing pretty well. They became even bigger players in the Blackhawks' success after that. Still, the stage is that much bigger now, and the inexperience factor at this one could loom large. But Bowman thinks the rookies can handle it.

"They are technically still rookies. But they've played, most of them have played all year in the NHL. They have not been through a playoff run here in Chicago but they've all been through big runs. Nick Schmaltz won the national championship last year. He was part of a team that did something special in pressure moments. It's not like these guys have never played in pressure situations, so you have to give them a chance to do that," Bowman said. "You have to be an NHL playoff rookie at some point and I think they'll get through it fine."

These Blackhawks are a mix of veterans who have been here a few times and rookies who haven't. Through most of the season, however, the number of NHL years accrued usually didn't matter: everyone on the team contributed at some point. Bowman believes it can continue in the playoffs but the task gets that much tougher.

"We don't take anything for granted," Bowman said. "We had a very good regular season. I'm proud of what we accomplished. But now we start over. And everyone starts with a clean slate."
 

Four takeaways: Kirby Dach holds his own in NHL debut but Blackhawks fall to Capitals

Four takeaways: Kirby Dach holds his own in NHL debut but Blackhawks fall to Capitals

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Blackhawks left wanting more

The Blackhawks were easily the better team at even strength against one of the deepest teams in the NHL. They led in total shot attempts (84-49), shots on goal (44-30), even-strength scoring chances (36-20) and even-strength high-danger chances (16-9), according to Natural Stat Trick, but couldn't pull out a win.

The Blackhawks put up 44 shots on goal against a Capitals team that allowed the second-fewest shots per game (27.8) going into the matchup. They deserved a better fate.

"I think we dictated most of the play tonight and we weren't rewarded for it, but that's the way hockey works sometimes," Drake Caggiula said. "You don't always get the bounces, you don't always get the results you're looking for, even if you play the prototypical game or the perfect game. We didn't get rewarded tonight but this is something we can build off of heading into the next one."

2. Kirby Dach's NHL debut

After being sidelined for the first week of training camp and working his way back from a concussion, the Blackhawks' No. 3 overall pick finally made his much-anticipated NHL debut. And he held his own.

Dach centered the second line with Dylan Strome playing left wing and Patrick Kane in his usual spot at right wing. He had one shot attempt, one takeaway and went 1-for-5 at the faceoff circle in 13:41 of ice time. His only noticeable blemish was not picking up Alex Ovechkin in time before he rifled a shot past Corey Crawford.

"Obviously you want to win in your first game in and help the team that way, but I felt good out there," Dach said. "But at the same time, there's things I can clean up in my game to kind of help the team moving forward."

3. Special teams is the difference

The reason the Blackhawks lost this game was their lack of success on special teams. The Capitals went 1-for-1 on the power play and scored a shorthanded goal while the Blackhawks went 0-for-5 on the power play, which included a four-minute double minor in the second period.

It was unfortunate because the Capitals entered Sunday's matchup with a +11 goal differential and +44 shot differential in the second period and a -5 goal differential and -13 shot differential in the first and third periods combined, but the Blackhawks couldn't capitalize in the middle frame even thought they outshot them 15-9. Caggiula's goal was negated just 1:28 after by Nic Down.

"You can look at in the second there, we had a lot of momentum, give up a shorthanded goal, so we gotta be better in that department," Kane said. "We also gotta be better on the power play. Comes down to things like that, but good team and I thought we had a pretty good effort overall tonight."

4. Third line stands out again

The third line of David Kampf, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad continues to be the driving force on offense for the Blackhawks, especially when it comes to possession. They were on the ice for 22 shot attempts for and nine against, 14 scoring chances for and four against, six high-danger chances for and one against, and one goal for and zero against in 9:07 of 5-on-5 ice time. 

Kubalik led the charge with 14 shot attempts (10 on goal) and scored a greasy goal to pull the Blackhawks within one in the third period. Kane evened it up shortly after. 

"Turned the game for us," coach Jeremy Colliton said of Kubalik's goal. "I think we were playing well, but they just took it to another level. Not only did they score, but it was an explosive shift there. And it wasn't the only good shift they had, but it really gave us momentum. They've been good."

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Instant reaction: Special teams the difference in Blackhawks loss to Capitals

Instant reaction: Special teams the difference in Blackhawks loss to Capitals

FINAL SCORE:

Capitals 5, Blackhawks 3

Snap judgments:

— The Blackhawks won the even-strength battle, but special teams was the story of the game. The Capitals went 1-for-1 on the power play while the Blackhawks went 0-for-5 and gave up a shorthanded goal.

— Kirby Dach made his NHL debut and held his own, centering the second line alongside Patrick Kane and Dylan Strome. He had one shot attempt, one takeaway and one blocked shot in 13:41 of ice time. He also went 1-for-5 in the faceoff circle with his sole win coming on the opening draw of the game.

— The third line of David Kampf, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad was excellent. They controlled 70.9 percent of the 5-on-5 shot attempts and 77.8 percent of the 5-on-5 scoring chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. Kubalik had a game-high 10 shots on goal.

Three stars:

1. Capitals RW Tom Wilson — Game-winning goal, three shot attempts (two on goal), four blocked shots, three hits and two takeaways in 16:48 of ice time

2. Capitals G Braden Holtby — Stopped 41 of 44 shots for a save percentage of .932

3. Blackhawks RW Dominik Kubalik — One goal, 14 shot attempts (10 on goal), two hits and one takeaway in 14:15 of ice time

Must-see highlights:

— Caggiula finishes off pretty goal by fourth line

— Kubalik's second goal of the season

— Kane goes five-hole Holtby to tie it up

What's next:

The Blackhawks host the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday, Oct. 22 at 7:30 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.