Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Konroyd's keys to a Game 2 win in Nashville

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Blackhawks: Konroyd's keys to a Game 2 win in Nashville

1. Better job at the dots.

Faceoffs are not only important in establishing puck possession, they are also the most basic form of a 1-on-1 battle. The Blackhawks lost a lot of these battles on Wednesday night in Nashville. Jonathan Toews and Marcus Krueger were a combined 17 of 49 in the faceoff department. Not good when you are a puck-possession team. Paul Gaustad and Matt Cullen really owned the dots for the Nashville Predators, so don’t take this area of your game for granted tonight because you won the last game. You need all five guys on the ice helping out on the draws.

2. Stay out of the penalty box.

The Hawks did a fantastic job of staying disciplined throughout the regular season. They were the second-least penalized team in the entire NHL, averaging just 2 ½ minor penalties per game. That wasn’t the case in Game 1 where they took six minor penalties, all of the hooking-holding-slashing kind.

 

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These are lazy penalties where your legs aren’t moving and you are reaching to slow a guy down. Nashville had 11 shots on net during their 10-plus minutes of power play time, yet they scored just one power play goal. Best way to kill a penalty is to not take one. Good power plays don’t have to score to generate momentum and crowd enthusiasm.

3. Keep the pressure on Rinne.

Pekka Rinne was pretty ordinary going down the stretch for Nashville, losing his last four starts. He didn’t look much better on Wednesday night. Yes, he closed the door during the third period and overtime, but even when he was making the stops, he looked awkward. Losing his crease is something we saw time and again, and top glove is always an option when he is going down. He now has a save percentage of .871 in his last five starts. Don’t let him off the mat now; shoot early and often in Game 2.

Blackhawks acquire Olli Maatta, send Dominik Kahun to Penguins

Blackhawks acquire Olli Maatta, send Dominik Kahun to Penguins

One of the Blackhawks’ priorities this summer is to add pieces that will help shore up the defensive part of their game after they gave up the second-most goals in the NHL last season. And they didn’t waste much time doing it.

Less than a week before the 2019 NHL Draft, the Blackhawks announced Saturday that they have acquired defenseman Olli Maatta from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for forward Dominik Kahun and a 2019 fifth-round pick.

Maatta is 24 years old, carries a left-handed shot and is a two-time Stanley Cup champion. But he battled injuries last season and fell out of favor in Pittsburgh, where he was a healthy scratch for three games in the first round of the playoffs.

The Blackhawks are hoping a fresh start could help Maatta find his game again, and do it in a place that may better utilize his skill-set. Where he could help is in the defensive part. 

According to The Point, Maatta ranked 9th among defensemen in blocked shots per game (2.05), 26th in defensive zone puck battles won (2.45), 40th in blocked defense zone passes (3.77) and 47th in outlet passes (8.95). 

Maatta, who was taken in the first round (No. 22 overall) in 2012, had 14 points (one goal, 13 assists) in 60 games last season. His best year came in 2017-18 when he tallied 29 points (seven goals, 22 assists) in 82 games. He has three years remaining on his deal that carries a $4.083 million cap hit.

It’s worth noting that when Maatta signing his extension with Pittsburgh on Feb. 26, 2016, the contract included a modified no-trade clause in his final two years, according to Cap Friendly. The Blackhawks will have the option to either honor that clause or nullify it.

The Blackhawks are expected to have some heavy competition among the forwards at training camp with the signings of Dominik Kubalik and Anton Wedin. That likely made Kahun expendable despite a rookie season in which he compiled 37 points (13 goals, 24 assists) in 82 games.

2019 NHL Draft Profile: RW Kaapo Kakko

2019 NHL Draft Profile: RW Kaapo Kakko

From June 10-20, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile one top prospect per day — 11 total — leading up to the 2019 NHL Draft as the Blackhawks prepare to pick third overall.

Kaapo Kakko

Position: Right wing
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 194 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report from The Draft Analyst's Steve Kournianos:

"Multi-tooled winger with size and coordination who incorporates his impressive puck skills with a desirable physical package that consistently exhausts opponents. Blessed with incredibly soft hands and tight-quarter quickness, Kakko is a reliable stickhandler who uses timing plays to either get open or create space for his linemates.”

NHL player comparable: Mikko Rantanen

Fit for Blackhawks:

Alright, let’s get this out of the way with: Kakko isn’t going to be on the board when the Blackhawks pick at No. 3. He’s expected to be taken second overall by the New York Rangers.

But, hypothetically, if he did slip, Kakko is probably one of two players in this draft class who could step onto an NHL roster today and make an immediate impact. He’s that good, and we saw it at the 2019 IIHF World Championship when he scored six goals to lead Finland to a gold medal. 

Kakko would give the Blackhawks a dynamic winger on the right side to go along with Patrick Kane, meaning they wouldn't have to worry about their top-six right wingers for many years to come. You shouldn't draft a winger this high unless he's as close to a sure-fire prospect as they come, and Kakko would qualify.

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