Blackhawks

Blackhawks routed by Capitals as winning streak ends at four games

Blackhawks routed by Capitals as winning streak ends at four games

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Jay Beagle can't explain his offensive success against the Chicago Blackhawks.

It's much easier to see why his Washington Capitals are rolling against everybody.

Beagle scored twice to solidify his status as a Blackhawks killer and Washington blew out Chicago 6-0 on Friday night to win its eighth consecutive game. In a showdown of the NHL's hottest teams, the Capitals looked the part and the Blackhawks fell flat, ending their winning streak at four.

During their eight-game run to vault to the top of the league standings, the Capitals have snapped five opposing winning streaks of three or more.

"We're playing good hockey right now and we're starting to get confident in our game, in our structure," said Beagle, who has eight goals this season and is just two shy of tying his career high. "Getting these wins against great teams can only build that confidence, and we just got to keep going moving forward."

Beagle's inexplicable, self-admitted "weird" showing of six goals in eight career games against the Blackhawks notwithstanding, this winning streak has been built on contributions from almost every player. Three different lines were in on the scoring Friday as all six goals came at even strength.

But the biggest piece of the streak is goaltender Braden Holtby, who looks to be back in Vezina Trophy form. Holtby stopped all 24 shots he faced against the Blackhawks and is 9-2-2 with a 1.34 goals-against average, .950 save percentage and five shutouts in his past 14 games.

Holtby and the Capitals haven't allowed an even-strength goal in five games dating to when he was pulled against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 3.

"I worked on a few things that I wanted to get better at, but we've been playing pretty well through that stretch, too," said Holtby, who leads the league with six shutouts. "There's still things to work on, but our game and my game are going in the right direction."

Chicago's game was going in the right direction but took a nosedive Friday. A would-be goal from Vinnie Hinostroza was called back for goaltender interference and Corey Crawford was pulled after allowing five goals on 30 shots. There were no positives to be found.

Coach Joel Quenneville called it a failure "across the board."

"It was a big game to start with and we didn't meet the challenge," Quenneville said. "Let's forget about this one because there's nothing good about it."

It's all good right now for the Capitals, who had four short-handed shots to the Blackhawks' two on the power play. In reaching 61 points, they passed the Columbus Blue Jackets - who played later at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night - for first in the Metropolitan Division, the Eastern Conference and the NHL.

Coach Barry Trotz has eased the minutes burden on Alex Ovechkin and his top players and been rewarded with scoring depth. He was pleased that "all four lines were pulling on the rope" against Chicago, just the latest in a line of top teams Washington has beaten.

Just in 2017, the Capitals have ended the Maple Leafs' winning streak at five, the Blue Jackets' at 16, the Montreal Canadiens' at three, the Pittsburgh Penguins' at five and then the Blackhawks' at four. Now they have their own winning streak, which center Nicklas Backstrom said "doesn't matter."

"Obviously you know it's eight in a row, but you're playing every other day so you just try to reset and get back to work," Backstrom said. "We've just got to play good next game."

Corey Crawford Keeps 2018-19 Mask Design

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USA Today

Corey Crawford Keeps 2018-19 Mask Design

Corey Crawford is a man who knows what he likes. Hockey By Design on Twitter shared a photo of Crawford’s mask for the 2019-20 season and it looks like he will be rocking the same airbrush mask he did last season. The design, by Stephane Bergeron of Griff Airbrush, features the Blackhawks logos and feathers backed a by a sleek black mask. What can we say, Crawford keeps it classic.

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Blackhawks mailbag: Could more trades be coming before 2019-20 season opener?

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AP

Blackhawks mailbag: Could more trades be coming before 2019-20 season opener?

Charlie Roumeliotis answers your Blackhawks and hockey-related questions. Be sure to chime in using the hashtag #HawksMailbag on Twitter for a chance to have your question answered in the next edition. 

Is there any chance we see the Hawks make a trade before the season starts?

The Blackhawks had as active a summer as any team, revamping their roster and filling out their depth through trades and free agency. And because of that, it's going to be an extremely competitive training camp.

While the organization acknowledged that it's important to be 26, 27 players deep throughout the course of an 82-game season, the Blackhawks have a handful of players fighting for the same spot or two: Drake Caggiula, Dominik Kubalik, Alex Nylander, Brendan Perlini, Dylan Sikura and Anton Wedin. Heck, even Kirby Dach.

August is always the dead period around the NHL. But come September, it wouldn't be surprising to see some movement around the league when teams figure out what they have on the ice. Training camp and preseason games are a time for GMs to evaluate who may be getting squeezed out, whether there's a breakout prospect emerging and it's also when the pressure point of having to be compliant with the cap.

The Blackhawks could be one of those teams looking to make a tweak or two before Opening Night, but don't expect anything significant.

Do you think Nylander makes the team this year or does he spend another season in the AHL? If he does makes the team, who do you see him fitting on a line with?

Alex Nylander is going to be given a fair shot to make the Blackhawks out of training camp, and it would be a disappointment if he didn’t. He was taken No. 8 overall in 2016 and simply hasn’t taken that next step in his development yet.

Perhaps the situation in Buffalo played a role in that, but it will truly be up to Nylander whether he does unlock his true potential in Chicago. There isn’t a reason for him not to. It’s a much healthier situation and the spotlight isn’t on him.

If Nylander does make the team, expect him to play with offensively-gifted players — guys who can help bring out the best in his abilities and think the game at the same level. But playing with those types of players also means you're drawing top competition on a nightly basis, so he will have to earn it.

Do you think all the additions this summer may be a strategic move to help prepare the Hawks for the expansion draft? (Keeping the prospects off the team till midseason or something so they remain draft protected/ineligible?)

Good question. The summer of 2020 is going to be a fascinating one for the Blackhawks because that's when teams are going to start making some moves ahead of the 2021 expansion draft. And as of right now, the Blackhawks are going to expose a really good player, whether they pick the seven forwards and three defensemen option or the eight skater one.

Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews all have no-movement clauses, so they must be protected (unless the player approves of being exposed, which is highly unlikely). Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome are two others who must be protected, so that's six right there. Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw are two others who are eligible. Same with Calvin de Haan, Olli Maatta and Connor Murphy. And if Erik Gustafsson signs an extension, he must be protected also.

Again, the list is deep. But to answer your original question, the primary focus this summer was to fill needs across the roster (physicality and defensive-minded players) and doing so through trades was the best possible option because they were able to get guys with term and a reasonable cap hit. Free agency is where the overpayment happens. The goalie situation for the Blackhawks is one to watch ahead of the 2021 expansion draft. 

As far as prospects go, Adam Boqvist and Kirby Dach will not be eligible for the expansion draft no matter how many games they play in this season and next because the draft happens before the 2021-22 calendar season. So that will not play a role in the organization's decision regarding when they play in the NHL.

What are your expectations for the goaltending tandem in Rockford? Delia appears to be the current starter, but Lankinen was really impressive this summer for Finland. Small-ish sample size, but he was phenomenal. Do you think it will end up being an even split at some point?

Collin Delia may have signed a three-year extension with the Blackhawks, but that doesn’t mean the organization doesn’t want to give Kevin Lankinen a strong look also. Delia has earned the right to be the starter, but the split between he and Lankinen will likely be closer to 50-50 if both goalies are performing.

Lankinen was sensational between the pipes for Finland at the 2019 IIHF World Championship, helping lead his country to a gold medal. But Delia is also taking significant steps in his development and doing so at a rapid pace. It should be a healthy competition in Rockford.

With so much prospect talk focused on Dach, Boqvist, & Delia (and rightfully so) is there a dark horse prospect (I'm talking about that under the radar grinder) fans should keep their eyes on & where are they expected to be playing this year so we can follow?

Two prospects come to mind when discussing potential dark horses: MacKenzie Entwistle and Philipp Kurashev. Both of them will be playing in Rockford this season.

Entwistle and Kurashev took significant steps in their development this past season, with Entwistle playing a key role in the Guelph Storm winning the OHL championship and Kurashev leading the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championships in scoring with six goals in seven games.

Entwistle is a player who knows exactly what his role will be in the NHL and has already embraced it: a bottom-six forward, reliable penalty killer and a leader on and off the ice. And that’s something the Blackhawks value about him.

Kurashev is more offensively skilled and has some sneaky upside to be a potential breakout player as a fourth-round pick. Keep an eye on him.

Is it October yet?

This really has felt like a long summer, hasn’t it? We’re almost there, Zane. 

A few checkpoints are coming up on the schedule though that may help speed up the process: Traverse City prospects tournament from Sept. 6-11, training camp festival on Sept. 15 and the first preseason game on Sept. 16. We're getting closer.

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