Blackhawks need to keep intensity at Xcel Energy Center


Blackhawks need to keep intensity at Xcel Energy Center

The Blackhawks had the right amount of confidence and caution as they headed to Minnesota on Monday afternoon.

Last spring, the Blackhawks took a 2-0 second-round series lead into Xcel Energy Center, only to return to Chicago tied 2-2. The Blackhawks enter Game 3 this year much as they did the last one, with another 2-0 series lead. But the Wild know how to win in its home building, so the Blackhawks will have to bring their best if they want to win on Tuesday night.

The Blackhawks take to the road knowing their first road game of playoff series aren’t usually so good. Outside of their double-overtime, Game 1 victory against the Nashville Predators in the first round, the Blackhawks hadn’t won their first road game of a postseason series since 2010 (vs. the San Jose Sharks).

[MORE: For Blackhawks, patience has to keep paying off]

“We’ve had success at home. But we’ve always felt our toughest game to have success in is that third game, the first in their building most of the time,” Joel Quenneville said. “We know they’re ready, excited; don’t give them a chance to get back in the series. It puts them in a situation where they have to win. But I feel we play better when we feel we have to win the game.”

As much as the Blackhawks want to win Game 3, they don’t have to win Game 3 as much as their opponent does. So how, when you’re up 2-0 in a series, do you fix your mind to think you’re down to bring the right amount of desperation?

“I just think you’re playing to win every game,” Quenneville said. “You go into a game, you have to play the right way. We have to play better than the last game, and [Sunday night] we thought was our best game of the playoffs. We always feel we have to progress. These guys, you don’t have to convince them. We know we have to elevate it in their building.”

The Wild said their confidence hasn’t been shaken despite the 0-2 series deficit. Again, the Wild evened this series last year with two strong games at Xcel. It also came back from a 0-2, first-round deficit against the Colorado Avalanche last season, winning that series in seven thanks to Game 3 and 4 victories at home. So you can understand why it’s not wavering.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the playoff run, Blackhawks fans!]

“Being at home is a huge boost. We’ve got our fans, we’ve got a little momentum there for that, and we just need to come out with a good start and relax and really just enjoy the moment,” Jordan Leopold told the Minnesota media on Monday. “It’s all about being positive and being composed and being relaxed and not gripping our sticks too tight and not worrying about what the outcome is but just worrying about every shift.”

The Blackhawks took care of the first two games at the United Center. Now they have to do the same in a tough building. They never thought this would be a cakewalk, and given their opponent’s work at Xcel, they’re proceeding with caution mixed in with that confidence.

“I think we were saying before the series [that], in a way, a lot of people look at us as the team that’s expected to win this series. We’re not thinking that way at all. We’re thinking we need to work for every chance, every bounce we’re going to get,” Jonathan Toews said. “We’ve shown that so far and we know that there’s still a long ways to go, a lot of work left to do and a lot of room for improvement as far as our game goes. We like where we’re at right now, but we know that this series is long way from being over.”

All eyes on Blackhawks defensemen as prospect camp opens


All eyes on Blackhawks defensemen as prospect camp opens

The second wave of Blackhawks defensemen is on the way. That's exactly where all the attention was when prospect camp opened up Monday at MB Ice Arena.

Nicolas Beaudin. Adam Boqvist. Henri Jokiharju. Ian Mitchell. Call it the Big Four. Where are they all at in their development? When will they be ready to make an NHL impact? Who's the most pro ready? 

Lots of questions. Those will slowly start to get answered and it begins now.

While there may not necessarily be an open competition among the group right away, there's certainly a desire to make a strong first impression in front of the upper brass that included Stan Bowman, John McDonough and Joel Quenneville watching on Day 1.

"Every NHL team has a lot of good defensemen prospects, so I mean obviously when you want to go out there you want to showcase yourself as best as you can," Mitchell said. "Obviously you want to be the best defenseman here so that's my goal going into this, I want to prove to everyone that I'm a good defenseman, I deserve to play at the next level. Obviously there's lots of good players here, but you're trying to all succeed."

Said Beaudin: "There's a lot of competition. There's a lot of good, young defensemen. I think you just need to be different when you play when you show what you can do."

Said Boqvist: "I'm trying to be better every day. Of course I will play in the NHL one day and win Stanley Cups, so that's my mindset."

The theme? Focus on your own game, take what you learn out of this week and apply those tools in your game when advancing your development next season. The rest will take care of itself.

Mitchell will go back to Denver for his sophomore campaign to continue his development. Beaudin is expected to return to the QMJHL with the Drummondville Voltigeurs. Boqvist signed with the OHL's London Knights, where he will look to get accustomed to the North American style of play.

For Jokiharju, the goal is different. This is his second development camp. He signed an entry-level contract in June. Making the big club is a real goal and a legitimate possibility for a Blackhawks team looking for young, impact defensemen immediately.

"I think if Henri has a really good summer of training, comes into camp, I certainly thinks he gets a good look," Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley told NBC Sports Chicago last month.

Jokiharju showed poise and confidence with and without the puck during drills, like someone who knows this is only the first step towards that ultimate goal.

"Yeah," Jokiharju responded when asked if the expectation is to make it to the NHL this season. "You want to set the bar high, you don't want to set the bar too low. I want to dream big and that's the dream."

That's the dream for everyone. When that happens, it's up to them. This week is a chance to set an early tone.

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: