Blackhawks

Blackhawks need to make Predators' Pekka Rinne’s job tougher

Blackhawks need to make Predators' Pekka Rinne’s job tougher

Get tips, get deflections, get bodies to the net, get traffic, take away the goalies' eyes. It's the usual checklist for any team that wants to be successful, especially in the postseason. You want to score goals, get to the net.

But in Game 1, the Blackhawks didn't check enough of those off against Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne.

"He definitely saw a lot of the shots. We didn't make it too hard on him. He had a shutout, but it probably wasn't the hardest shutout he had in his life," Ryan Hartman said. "I just think we need to get more pucks to the net."

The Blackhawks were implementing that a lot at Friday's practice, working on those tips, deflections and redirects. Now to use it in Game 2 on Saturday night, when the Blackhawks will look to tie their first-round series against the Predators.

Hartman, who's been good at that all season, was taking turns at the top-line left-wing spot with John Hayden. As of now, it looks like Hartman's most likely there, with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik on Saturday. It should be a seamless transition; given he's been there before. The plan is clear, too.

"If I am playing there play hard, be hard to play against. We need more bodies at the net, so I'll be net-front," he said.

Team-wise the Blackhawks have to get back to that. Rinne was good on Thursday, no doubt. The Predators were, too, in terms of keeping the Blackhawks from causing too much of a ruckus in front of their net minder. The Blackhawks are just going to have to fight through it.

"They make it tough to get there and that's part of getting to that hard area. It takes will. It's easier said than done. But they all know if they want to score goals, that's where the rewards are," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Goalies are too good, too big and if they see the puck they're going to stop it. We have to get there in order to make it tough on them, at least try to get second opportunities. So we have to be tougher, harder to play against, certainly in that area."

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The Blackhawks’ early shots, especially, were from the perimeter. They got closer as the game went on but it wasn’t consistent. Rinne credited his teammates for making his job a little easier on Thursday.

“We did a really good job of making it hard for them to get in front of the net. Our D was playing physical, doing a good job of keeping them outside. I was able to see most of the shots,” he said. “But anytime you don’t score goals, the next day they want to put more bodies in front of the net, so we gotta expect that [in Game 2].”

Game 1 wasn't the Blackhawks' greatest outing but it's not the first time they've dealt with a 1-0 deficit – or worse. They had no problem with what they gave up, which wasn't much. It's what they didn't do on the other side that needs to change.

"I can't stress enough: get in front of his eyes, make it harder for him to see pucks," Hartman said. "Hopefully we put one in the net tomorrow."

Getting to know four newly-signed Blackhawks

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AP

Getting to know four newly-signed Blackhawks

The Blackhawks announced Monday that they have officially agreed to terms with forward Dominik Kahun, defensemen Lucas Carlsson and Darren Raddysh and goaltender Kevin Lankinen on entry-level contracts.

Kahun ($925,000 cap hit), Lankinen ($925,000) and Raddysh ($730,000) each signed two-year deals that run through the 2019-20 season while Carlsson's is a three-year deal that runs through the 2020-21 campaign and carries a cap hit of $792,500.

So who are these guys? Let's meet them:

Carlsson

Drafted in the fourth round (No. 110 overall) by the Blackhawks in 2016, Carlsson set a career-high with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 44 games this season with Brynäs IF of the Swedish Hockey League. He was tied for fourth among all blue liners with seven goals.

Carlsson, 20, doesn't have major upside, but he's a reliable, well-rounded defenseman and that's what drew the attention of Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley.

“When he’s on the ice, he makes things happen," Kelley told Scott Powers of The Athletic last summer. "I think what impressed the Sweden under-20 coach was Lucas’ ability to challenge in all three zones. He’s an active defensively. Offensively, he challenges. He keeps plays alive.”

Kahun

The 22-year-old forward spent the last four seasons with EHC München of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, Germany's top professional hockey league, where he established career highs in assists (29), points (41) and tied a personal best with 12 goals, leading Munchen to their third straight championship in 2018 after recording four goals and 10 assists in 17 playoff contests.

He raised eyebrows at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, where he compiled five points (two goals, three assists) in seven games and won 55.4 percent of his faceoffs (41 of 74), helping Germany capture a silver medal.

“He has made an enormous step this year, has become much more stable and mature," German national team coach Marco Sturm said after the Olympics. "I am sure that he would grab it in the NHL,” Sturm told the Hamburger Morgenpost.

Most recently, Kahun had a goal and two assists in seven games for Germany during the IIHF Men's World Championship. He's 5-foot-11, 176 pounds whose known to be a solid two-way player and can play center but may need some time to adjust to the smaller ice surface and NHL style of speed and physicality.

Lankinen 

Lankinen is 23 years old and coming off a season in which he was in the discussion for the Urpo Ylönen trophy, annually awarded to the top goaltender of the Finnish Elite League, after registering a league-best 1.33 goals against average and .946 save percentage in 15 games with HIFK.

He missed a large portion of the season because of an injury, but it didn't stop him from turning in a strong postseason, guiding his team to a bronze medal after posting a 1.99 GAA and .936 save percentage in 13 playoff games. The year before that, he led the league with seven shutouts in 42 games, backstopping his team to a silver medal.

This is a low-risk, medium-sized reward signing for the Blackhawks, who could use some more young goaltending depth in the pipeline, especially given how this season unfolded with the big club.

Raddysh

The Blackhawks signed Raddysh to a one-year AHL contract last June, and he turned it into an NHL one after a strong season with the Rockford IceHogs.

Raddysh, 22, accumulated 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) in 66 regular-season games with the IceHogs, and has appeared in each of the team's playoff games en route to the Western Conference Final.

Last season Raddysh was named the OHL's top defenseman after scoring 16 goals and 65 assists for 81 points in 62 games for the Erie Otters, where he was teammates with current Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat. He's the Otters' all-time leader in assists (143) and points (184) among defensemen.

Raddysh might be nothing more than a depth defenseman, but his development is worth monitoring because the offensive production is there and that's something the Blackhawks lacked this past season from their back end.

Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa: 'I will not play hockey anymore'

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AP

Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa: 'I will not play hockey anymore'

Days after putting his Gold Coast condo on the market, Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa revealed to a Slovakian newspaper that he is moving back to his hometown country and doesn't plan on returning to the NHL.

"I will not play hockey anymore," said Hossa, who missed the entire 2017-18 campaign due to a progressive skin disorder and the side effects of the medications involved to treat it. "I have a valid contract with Chicago for the next three years, but I have only one health and it does not allow me to return."

Because he has three years left on a deal that carries a $5.275 million cap hit, Hossa is not expected to sign his retirement papers until the contract is completed or else it would result in salary cap consequences.

The news is not surprising, but it officially allows the Blackhawks to move on without him in the fold roster-wise and toy around with some options this summer.

The first is stashing his contract on long-term injured reserve, as they did last season when they utilized the in-season preference.

The second, which Hossa wondered could happen, is finding a trade partner that would absorb the remainder of his contract, usually done by lower payroll teams aiming to reach the cap floor.

And it wouldn't be difficult trying to find a buyer, considering Hossa's actual salary is $1 million per year over the next three seasons. Hossa, of course, has a no movement clause but it's likely he would waive it given his status at this point.

The good news for Chicago is, the three-time Stanley Cup winner didn't rule out joining the Blackhawks organization in some capacity after his contract expires in 2020-21, whether it's in a front office role or as a team ambassador.

In 19 NHL seasons, Hossa accumulated 525 goals and 609 assists for 1,134 points in 1,309 regular-season games, and added 149 points (52 goals, 97 assists) in 205 postseason contests. He's one of 45 players in league history to net at least 500 goals in his career.