Blackhawks

Blackhawks storm back to drop Maple Leafs, end three-game skid

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Blackhawks storm back to drop Maple Leafs, end three-game skid

Ray Emery got the call from his coach as the Blackhawks walked off the bench for the first intermission. Corey Crawford was out, he was in.

And over the next two periods, Emery answered that call.

Emery stopped 23 of 24 shots in relief, Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist and Marian Hossa scored twice as the Blackhawks rallied to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4 on Wednesday night. The Blackhawks snapped a three-game losing streak and moved back into sixth place with 17 games remaining.

Andrew Shaw, recalled on Monday, scored his sixth of the season. Nick Leddy, who had two assists, took a hit late in the third but coach Joel Quenneville said he was fine.

It looked like the Blackhawks would be down 3-1 to end the first period, but Marcus Kruger scored with 29.5 seconds remaining to cut it to 3-2. The Blackhawks looked at that goal as one of the turning points.

I think it was the goal at the end of the first (that turned the tide), to be honest with you, said Kane, who was stellar on a line with Hossa and Andrew Brunette. You always stress the first minute of periods and the last minute of periods to try to not give up a goal or try and score a goal. It was a huge play, got us back to within one.

Emery took it from there. He was solid throughout and strong in the third period, when the Leafs fired 17 shots at him.

At the end of the day Ray did an outstanding job, Quenneville said. You look back over the year, you get some goalie wins. He was instrumental in us winning tonight.

Emery said it was a tough first for us, and as a guy whos coming off the bench you just want to play solid and give the guys a chance to take games. We played really well defensively the rest of the game and got some goals.

Kane was the catalyst on the other end, tying the game at 3-3 at the time and then later feeding Hossa for his 25th.

I think hes had some games where hes been doing stuff but the puck hasnt gone in. If the goalie makes a save, everybody forgets he had a nice chance and created something for himself, said Duncan Keith, who had an assist, blocked four shots and finished a plus-2. Hes been battling and its nice to see him get rewarded tonight.

Newly acquired defenseman Johnny Oduya got off to a rough start, being on the ice for the Leafs first three goals. But Quenneville switched the pairs, putting Keith and Brent Seabrook together and Oduya with Nick Leddy, and it proved beneficial.

I thought Johnny, the last 40 minutes was excellent, Quenenville said. He did a great job, great gap and had a good stick. I like his patience on the ice. Once we split up the pairs and tried another one, he adapted.

Adapting to the situation; the Blackhawks had to do plenty of that on Wednesday night but they found a way. It wont get easier, but the Blackhawks were reminded that, when necessary, the fight is there.

Were trying to get some wins here, get some points and finish out the season strong. But for sure, were desperate, Kane said. Our goal is to make the playoffs. Once we get in we know we can do some damage.

Recapping breakout OHL season for Blackhawks top prospect Adam Boqvist

Recapping breakout OHL season for Blackhawks top prospect Adam Boqvist

The London Knights set high expectations for themselves going into the 2018-19 OHL campaign. They always do. Their roster is usually loaded with top NHL prospects and this season was no different.

After finishing No. 1 in the Western Conference with 99 points, the Knights looked poised to go on a deep run. They got off to a roaring start in the playoffs by sweeping the Windsor Spitfires (4-0) and kicked off the second round by winning three straight against the Guelph Storm. But then, for the first time all season, the Knights lost four in a row to squander a 3-0 series lead and were eliminated just like that. It was a disappointing finish for a team with Memorial Cup aspirations.

One of the bright spots of the postseason was Blackhawks prospect Adam Boqvist. He was tied for first among all skaters with 10 goals through two rounds; no other defenseman had more than six. And he finished with 13 points in 11 games for a points-per-game average of 1.18.

To summarize his season: Boqvist scored one goal in his first 15 games. From that point on, he finished with 29 goals and 60 points in 50 games, including playoffs. He became an offensive driving force.

It's unclear what his future holds, but with Evan Bouchard expected to turn pro and secure a full-time roster spot on the Edmonton Oilers next season, returning to London would put Boqvist in a position where he could be the No. 1 defenseman in all situations.

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Blackhawks 2018-19 season grades: Front office

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AP

Blackhawks 2018-19 season grades: Front office

If we're evaluating Stan Bowman's moves as a whole, we have to go back to July 1 when the 2018-19 season really started.

On that day, the Blackhawks announced three signings: Chris Kunitz (one year, $1 million), Brandon Manning (two years, $2.25 million cap hit) and Cam Ward (one year, $3 million). Not exactly splashy additions after missing the playoffs for the first time in 10 years — although, to be fair, it wasn't a great market to throw money around.

Eleven days later, the Blackhawks traded Marian Hossa and his $5.275 million cap hit to the Arizona Coyotes in a seven-player deal that included top-nine winger Vinnie Hinostroza. Bowman acknowledged after the trade that he tried exploring every possible avenue before surrendering that the financial flexibility became more valuable.

But the trade might've put the team in a better position going into free agency had it been executed before July 1. Because of all that, Bowman's grade isn't looking great so far.

Then we get into the actual regular season.

The biggest move Bowman made was the coaching change on Nov. 6 in going from future Hall of Famer Joel Quenneville to Jeremy Colliton, which was a controversial decision in and of itself, especially the timing of it.

“There’s no perfect way to do things," Bowman admitted. "I think we made the best of it at the time. It’s one of those things where you’ve just gotta get through it. I think he’s gonna benefit from not only having a training camp next year but also we had this whole long stretch of a season. ... We’ve got a lot more things we want to get to, and I think we did a good job of — it’s a good start, but I’m sure Jeremy will tell you that we want to be way better next year and we’re gonna push our players to be better. We’re gonna try to do things differently. It’s not just taking this exact same program and we’ll start that. We want to do different things as well and enhance our team. I think there’s reason for hope there.”

Where did Bowman start to earn high marks? The roster tinkering, beginning in late November.

Perhaps recognizing that Nick Schmaltz wasn't progressing the way the team would have liked in a contract season, Bowman dealt him for a potential future second-line center in Dylan Strome and replenished the top-nine forward they lost in Hinostroza with Brendan Perlini, who showed flashes down the stretch. That's turned out to be a win-win for both sides.

The trade that was very clearly one-sided is the one Bowman pulled off with Peter Chiarelli, who was later relieved of his GM duties with the Edmonton Oilers.

Not only did Bowman acquire rugged winger Drake Caggiula, who became such a valuable part of the Blackhawks' second-half turnaround because he was a perfect complement for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on the top line, but he unloaded the contract of Manning without having to retain salary or giving up an important piece of the roster. It essentially gave the Blackhawks an extra $2.25 million to work with this summer, which shouldn't go unnoticed when you look at how deep the 2019 free agent class is.

Bowman essentially undid the mistake he made and put the Blackhawks in an even better position going into this offseason by adding a useful player on top of it. So he certainly upped his overall grade.

Now it's time to spend the money he cleared in getting rid of the contracts of Hossa and Manning, and continue building around the current core.

"We're not going to bring the same group back," Bowman said. "That's clear. We don't do that really any year. There's changes to every team, even a team that ends up winning the Cup this year will have some different players. We're going to have some new players next year. What we're going to do is try to improve in the areas where our team needs some help and the way that looks isn't completely clear right now, but we have time over the next couple months to dive in and look at our team in greater detail and figure out how we're going to make that happen.

"There's obviously free agent signings, there's trades, there's growth from within. Those are the ways that your team improves from year to year and we're going to do that. So we're going to have some new players here next year for sure but we have a lot of players that are going to be back and I think a lot of the key guys who had good seasons they're coming back for sure, so we don't need across the board changes but we do need some new players."

Front office: B-

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