Blackhawks ramp up practice ahead of Western Conference Final


Blackhawks ramp up practice ahead of Western Conference Final

The typically short Blackhawks practices were longer – and by longer we still mean only about 45-50 minutes, because coach Joel Quenneville has never been a lengthy practice guy.

Still, there were scrimmages and there were battle drills along the boards, things usually reserved for when the Blackhawks are going through a losing streak or Quenneville’s trying to stoke their fire. But now, they’re needed for a team looking to stay sharp.

With the long layoff between their second-round wrap-up and the Western Conference Final, which begin Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks, the Blackhawks are doing everything they can to do the impossible: simulate a game with practices.

[MORE HAWKS: Full schedule of Blackhawks-Ducks Western Conference Final]

“It’s one of those things you can’t do,” Andrew Shaw said. “A game is totally different, pace is always faster, more physical. [Do a] couple battle drills, some quick scrimmages to get the pace going, keep the legs fresh.”

Nevertheless, you do what you have to do when you have this much time to kill between games. When the Blackhawks finally face the Ducks on Sunday, they will have had nine days between games. The Blackhawks took several days off in this time but the past few days they amped up the practices to prepare for the next round.

“I thought the last two days we had great practices; much better pacing, good energy,” Quenneville said. “There’s a lot of days in between but that’s the way it is. We’re trying to get ourselves where we’re competing at a different level here.”

So you mix up practices and throw in a few drills you normally don’t do. Even though they haven’t had a postseason break like this in the past the Blackhawks know what to do this time of year: stay sharp but don’t get overzealous out there.

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“You want to have a good mix of competitive drills but you also want to be safe out there and make sure you’re not injuring your teammates or yourself,” Patrick Sharp said. “This time of year we’re all professionals, we know what it takes to get ourselves ready to play. Our coach has done a good job of preparing us but at the same time we’re pros and hopefully we’ll be ready to go.”

You can’t do much about the schedule. Between the Eastern Conference’s second round lasting longer than the West’s – the Ducks eliminated the Calgary Flames in five games – and other arena obligations, the Blackhawks and Ducks just have to deal with the extended break. Hockey will resume again for them soon enough. The Blackhawks did their best to stay sharp for when it does.

“We like those type of practices, especially having so many,” Shaw said. “We’re anxious to play and know we’ll come out here and give everything we’ve got for 40 minutes and stay fresh mentally and physically.” 

SportingNews Top 50 NHL Prospects lists Boqvist at 10 and Kirby Dach at 13

USA Today

SportingNews Top 50 NHL Prospects lists Boqvist at 10 and Kirby Dach at 13

NHL draft analyst Steve Kournianos released his list for Top 50 players in NHL pipelines for the upcoming 2019-20 season. To the delight of Blackhawks fans everywhere, Adam Boqvist and Kirby Dach were ranked at number 10 and 13 respectively.

Kournianos described 19-year-old defender Boqvist as a dominant rookie with 40 assists and 20 goals during his tenure with the London Knights. Fans speculate whether the Blackhawks will keep Boqvist on his junior squad for another year or pull him up to play with the American Hockey League Rockford Ice Hogs.

Kournianos said Dach was one of Team Canada’s top players at the World Junior Summer Showcase. The 18-year-old center is sure to be one of Canada’s main forwards during World Juniors and Dach has the flexibility to play anywhere in the Blackhawks lineup. Dach’s entry-level contract allows him up to nine NHL games this season, giving him the chance to return to the AHL or NHL after his junior season in the Western Hockey League is finished.

Both Boqvist and Dach are key player for the future of this team and it will interesting to watch the Hawks develop these younger players.

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: An inside look at the Blackhawks Hockey Ops department with Senior VP Al MacIsaac

USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: An inside look at the Blackhawks Hockey Ops department with Senior VP Al MacIsaac

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle catches up with Senior VP of Hockey Operations, Al MacIsaac. They discuss the process the Blackhawks took in transforming the roster this off-season. MacIsaac is entering his 20th year with the Blackhawks and talks about the organizational changes over the last two decades. He also weighs in on the role analytics plays in evaluating current or potential Blackhawks and he explains why the team made a commitment to make its new practice facility the “gold standard” of the NHL.

0:45 – MacIsaac on changes within the Blackhawks organization in the last 20 years

4:00 – How the Blackhawks have added great depth this summer

5:25 – A good problem to have with two good goaltenders

6:23 – How the hockey ops meeting went at the end of last season

8:45 – How much the Blackhawks use and rely on analytics

10:27 – The importance of the Blackhawks strength and conditioning programs

12:24 – The planning behind Fifth Third Arena’s development

14:40 – The dynamic between hockey ops and business ops

16:37 – Agreements and disagreements within the hockey ops group

18:32 – MacIsaac’s longtime relationship with Mark Bernard

20:27 – Looking ahead to training camp and the regular season

22:42 – Tough decisions will need to be made when the season starts

Listen here or in the embedded player below. 

Blackhawks Talk Podcast