Blackhawks updates: Kane ready, Vermette sitting in Game 1


Blackhawks updates: Kane ready, Vermette sitting in Game 1

Patrick Kane has done the skating, taken the shots and absorbed a few hits. Now to see if there’s any rust or if he’s good to go from the start.

Kane is back and Antoine Vermette is definitely a healthy scratch when the Blackhawks face the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of their first-round series tonight at Bridgestone Arena.

The Blackhawks right wing, who missed the last seven weeks with a fractured left clavicle, said he’s not too worried about taking the punishment the Predators are likely to dole out. Coach Joel Quenneville said Kane will be fine. He also doubts Kane will be very rusty.

[Preview: Blackhawks begin playoff run on CSN]

“Watching him skate the last little while, he’s got a jump to his stride,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He’s excited about getting back for sure. Your top guys, you have to make sure over the course of a season you’re managing and taking away some minutes if you can. Him being fresh as a daisy over this stretch, I think that can help him. I don’t think it’ll take him too long to get up to speed.”

General manager Stan Bowman also figured Kane would get going quickly.

“I think he’ll get over that in a short amount of time,” Bowman said of potential rust. “In terms of taking a hit, he referenced it yesterday, he’s been dealing with people trying to hit him since he was eight years old. That’s nothing new. He’s pretty adept at rolling off pressure. A lot of it is just not putting yourself in position [to be hit]. He’s pretty smart that way. He’s always been a player targeted by other teams and he manages to get through it, so I think he’ll be fine.”

Predators center Mike Ribeiro talked about the task of trying to stop Kane.

“It’s a team concept on this side. That’s how you stop him, really, as a team,” he said. “When you play against the best in the world, you try to focus a little better against him and really take time and space.”

Michal Rozsival looks to be in tonight against the Predators. Kimmo Timonen, who missed the final three regular-season games with an upper-bodyinjury, is also expected to play.

And as expected from the last two days’ lines, Antoine Vermette is not playing tonight. Quenneville said the veteran understood when the two talked earlier today.

“It’s one of those situations, performance based, we made our decision based on the last part of the year. He was understanding of the situation,” Queneville said. “We know the depth’s going to be important as we go forward. At the same time, with his experience, I commend him for having the right attitude in a tough situation today. But our depth is something that can help pay dividends as you get deeper in the playoffs. We anticipate using him at any moment.”

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Nevertheless it’s a surprise, not only because the center was acquired the stretch run, but also with the Blackhawks giving up a first-round pick and a defensive prospect for him. But Bowman also said not to take what happens in Game 1 as an edict for how the entire series/postseason will play out.

“We’re about to start Game 1 of hopefully a long playoff run. There’s a lot of focus, maybe too much focus, on Game 1 and the lineups,” Bowman said. “A lot of things change over the course of a playoff run, whether it’s certain players play or injuries or matchups or situations. It’s really too early to get too detailed on that. Antoine’s got a great approach, he’s excited to help whenever called upon and do his best.”

How Blackhawks are trying to stay positive despite postseason-high 12 iron shots 

How Blackhawks are trying to stay positive despite postseason-high 12 iron shots 

Goal posts apparently aren't kind to the city of Chicago in the playoffs. (Nobody needs a reminder of the double-doink).

So if you hear a ringing sound, you’re not alone. 

The Blackhawks are six games into their postseason run and have hit 12 iron shots so far — 10 off the post, two off the crossbar. Twelve! That’s an average of two per game and a pace of 164 across an 82-game season. For reference, they hit the iron 58 times — 48 off the post, 10 off the crossbar — in 70 games during the regular season.

No team has hit more iron than the Blackhawks (12) since the NHL's 24-team Return to Play tournament started and it's not even close. The next highest? Toronto at six. An incredible gap.

"It's always tough hitting the post," said Drake Caggiula, who's hit one crossbar this postseason. "You’re close to scoring a goal but that’s hockey. It’s all about bounces. Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don’t, you've just got to stick with it. It's just something where you've got to keep shooting the puck and trust that you're going to get your chances and make sure that you try and capitalize. But hitting the post is never a fun feeling unless it's going in the net. We've just got to make sure it doesn’t discourage us."

Here's a list of where each team sits when it comes to iron shots, through Thursday's games:

  • 12: Blackhawks
  • 6: Toronto
  • 5: Boston
  • 4: Calgary, Colorado, Columbus, Montreal, N.Y. Rangers, Vegas
  • 3: Florida, N.Y. Islanders, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh
  • 2: Carolina, Dallas, Edmonton, Nashville, Tampa Bay, Washington, Winnipeg
  • 1: Vancouver
  • 0: Arizona, Minnesota, St. Louis

The Blackhawks hit five posts in Game 3 against the Edmonton Oilers, but it was easier to swallow because it came in a win. It wasn't so easy in a Game 2 overtime loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday.

Patrick Kane, who leads all skaters this postseason with three shots off the post, hit another one with 43 seconds left in the first period on Thursday when the Blackhawks were trailing 2-0. He beat Robin Lehner five-hole, but the puck rang off the pipe and bounced out. 

You could see the frustration in his face:

The Blackhawks did, however, get a nice break on Dominik Kubalik's power-play goal that tied the game at 2-2. His shot went off the inside of the post and in.

But the one that kept Chicago awake is the crossbar shot in overtime. 

Just 1:53 into extra time, Dylan Strome fired a 35-foot wrist shot from the right faceoff circle and rang it off the bottom part of the crossbar. He lifted his hands in the air thinking it was a goal. It was centimeters away from going bar down but bounced out instead.

The Blackhawks are certainly getting their chances. It's challenging to stick with it when the puck luck isn't going your way, but you have to earn your bounces and the Blackhawks must keep pushing through. That's the message.

"We've had our chances," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Sometimes it's like that. The key is, how long can we stick with it? How long can we be persistent when we face adversity? We've faced some adversity here over the first couple games. Do we have the character to overcome it? It's an opportunity for our guys.

"You play all year to be in these games, so now we're here and we've faced some adversity. So what? Just keep playing and believe in what we're doing and believe in the guys in the room and we're going to give them a run."

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Former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner remains unbeaten with Vegas Golden Knights

Former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner remains unbeaten with Vegas Golden Knights

On Thursday in Game 2, the Blackhawks tested Robin Lehner more than they did in Game 1 of the first round Stanley Cup Playoff series, when he only had to save 19 of 20 shots.

The Hawks were able to put 25 pucks on the Golden Knights' net, with three getting past Lehner to take the game to overtime where Vegas would triumph to take a 2-0 series lead.

"It was a little bit of a weird game," Lehner said following his Game 2 win. "There was not that much to do and I thought they had some good chances. I thought that Chicago played really well. Everyone keeps saying they're (the) underdog, but you look at their team: the experience, the skill... it's Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane out there. It's a lot of skill and they're world class players, so when they get opportunities it's hard. I got to look at the tape, I think I can be a little bit better, but a win's a win."

Related: Former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner's birthday cake is ureal

With the victory, Lehner remains unbeaten in the 2020 postseason (4-0) and unbeaten as a Golden Knight. 

The 29-year-old netminder went 3-0-0 with 1.67 goals-against average and .940 save percentage with the Knights during the regular season ahead of the NHL Pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 12. 

Related: Robin Lehner opens up on getting traded by Blackhawks

Lehner was traded from Chicago to Vegas ahead of Feb. 24's trade deadline. He was 16-10-5 as a Hawk this season with a 3.01 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage prior to the move.

Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, a three-time Stanley Cup champ with the Pittsburgh Penguins, may have lost the starter job to Lehner, at least for now. Fleury was only in net for one Golden Knights' round-robin game, with Lehner starting the rest of the postseason contests so far.

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