Blackhawks

Blackhawks: van Riemsdyk's 'whirlwind' season ends on high note

tvr-blackhawks-6-19-15.png

Blackhawks: van Riemsdyk's 'whirlwind' season ends on high note

Trevor van Riemsdyk had the same broad smile on his face at the Blackhawks’ exit interviews as he had in training camp back in September.

The 23-year-old defenseman went through the highs and lows of his first professional season, from making the team and earning coach Joel Quenneville’s trust to suffering two devastating injuries, first to his knee and then to his wrist. Yet there he was, playing in the Blackhawks’ last Stanley Cup Final games. Now van Riemsdyk will have his day with the Cup and then spend the summer training to see what he can bring to the Blackhawks in his second year.

[MORE: For champion Blackhawks, it was all about the journey]

Van Riemsdyk got to be part of the Blackhawks’ third Cup of the past six seasons on Monday and took in everything from the Wrigley Field visit to the Soldier Field rally. It was a happy ending for a player who had to keep his chin up through most of his injury-riddled season.

“Hanging with the family, the team, getting to go to Wrigley with the Cup, there was a lot of fun,” van Riemsdyk said. “It’s definitely been a whirlwind.”

Van Riemsdyk was a surprise out of last season’s training camp. This year, he won’t be. The Blackhawks got a glimpse of what he could do before he was hurt, and Quenneville liked what he saw. As long as all goes well, van Riemsdyk should have a great opportunity this fall.

“Yeah, that’s the goal, to have a good summer, to get all these injuries and stuff taken care of 100 percent and come back even stronger than I was at the start of this year,” he said. “It’ll be a fun training camp to come and show them what I can do and go from there.”

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your 2015 Stanley Cup champs gear right here]

Will van Riemsdyk have an even bigger opportunity this fall? He was slotted in the 5-6 spots last year, and his presence made the loss of Nick Leddy easier to take. The Blackhawks’ defensive depth, however, could be a lot different in a few months. The Blackhawks probably won’t be able to re-sign Johnny Oduya. Who knows if Michal Rozsival, another free agent, re-signs.

Van Riemsdyk isn’t reading too much into a roster that is undecided. He broke through in a season he wasn’t expected to be on the radar. He’ll take advantage of whatever comes his way next fall.

“It’s exciting to look at that and see how some things may fall,” van Riemsdyk said. “You never know, but it’s definitely exciting to know your role may be expanded. But it’s up to me to show them I can handle that and deserve more responsibility.”

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

usatsi_9256612.jpg
USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”