Blackhawks

Blackhawks: So far, so good...

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Blackhawks: So far, so good...

Its tough to get excited after just two games into the Blackhawks season. While some are already thinking Stanley Cup Finals in the middle of the summer, Im holding judgment until the team at least gets through the first 12 games, 10 of those on the road.

But its hard not to be optimistic after seeing the damage theyve done while on the road out west.

People were worried about the Blackhawks handling the energy the Kings would feed off of after the raising the 2012 Stanley Cup banner. In the end, fans had nothing to worry about as history repeated itself. Defending cup champs have now won just three times in the last 10 years the day they raise the banner.

Joel Quenneville and the Hawks jumped out to a 4-0 lead and never looked back. A convincing win - a win on the road against the defending champs - to start the shortened 48-game season.

Just over 24 hours later, I kept hearing the word revenge being thrown around when the Blackhawks and Coyotes were set to face-off. Did the Coyotes eliminate the Blackhawks last season? Yes. Was there bad blood between the two teams? Yes. Did Raffi Torres turn Marian Hossas offseason upside down after having to recover from a concussion? Yes.

But if you believe the Blackhawks were thinking revenge when taking the ice, I think you were wrong. There is no time to think revenge when EVERY point means something this season.

Even after the Coyotes jumped out to an early lead, I had a feeling that wouldnt be the only goal scored in the game. In fact, there were nine more scored, fortunately six were by the Blackhawks.

And it wasnt just the Blackhawks scoring goals Sunday night, it was how they were scoring them.

Great vision on a power play, a wicked wrister top shelf, a give-and-go that worked to perfection and fighting through a check to set up a point-blank shot. Those converted scoring chances were no flukes.

Added optimism is whos scoring the goals. In a shortened season, the big boys need to show up early and often. Aside from Hossas four goals and one assist, the other top forwards on the team (Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland) have scored at least one goal and added one assist. Will this scoring keep up? You would hope so, but when games start coming every other day, it may be hard to find the scoring touch every night. But its a good sign that at least the guys who are supposed to be finding the back of the net, are doing so to set the pace for the rest of the club.

When Hossa compared this team to the 2010 squad after the win in Phoenix, there was no one laughing about the comment.

And when Joel Quenneville was asked about what Hossa said, he didnt back down from saying that the current team is capable of playing against anyone, because the roster is so deep.

You have to be happy as a Blackhawks fan. Eleven goals scored in two games, on the road, against the two teams that were in the conference finals last season.

Now, they get to walk the red carpet before opening up the United Center Tuesday night. But the 2-0 start wont mean a thing if they dont come out ready to play against St. Louis, a rival that won the division last year.

Buckle up Blackhawk fans. Youre in for a wild ride, one that will hopefully last long enough to be tailgating in the United Center parking lot before Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals.

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.