Blackhawks

Blackhawks-Wild: Who has the edge?

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Blackhawks-Wild: Who has the edge?

It’s just about time. Yes, folks, we’ve had a prolonged wait between first and second rounds but finally — finally! — the Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild will begin Round 2 on Friday night at the United Center.

So that means it is who-has-the-edge story time. As stated in the past, you won’t find a series prediction here. Instead, we break down categories and see who has the edge, at least entering the series.

So while you wait these last few hours before puck drop, let’s look at some edges.

Forwards

Zach Parise had a great first round vs. the Blues, leading the Wild with seven points. Nino Niederreiter was crucial, too, scoring three first-round goals. All in all, the Wild got solid contributions from several forwards. The same goes for the Blackhawks, whose best players were just that against the Predators. Jonathan Toews leads all Blackhawks with eight points, including three goals. Patrick Sharp, who had a forgettable regular season, also had three goals. Patrick Kane had seven points, including two goals, after being sidelined seven weeks. This category would likely be even, but we’re throwing in the Bryan Bickell-against-the-Wild factor. EDGE: Blackhawks.

[MORE: Teravainen expected to return to Blackhawks lineup vs. Wild]

Defensemen

Each team has its Clydesdales: Duncan Keith logged an average of 32 minutes a game in Round 1 (double- and triple-overtime games certainly added to that ice time) while Ryan Suter played just over 26 minutes a game (no overtimes in the Wild’s series vs. St. Louis). Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon had good first rounds: each had three points and finished with plus-5 and plus-3 ratings, respectively. The Blackhawks gave up a lot vs. the Predators, be it shots and goals, and even though it’s a team-defense issue the defensemen bear some brunt in that. On the other side, though, they came up just as big: Keith had the winning goals in Games 1 and 6 and Brent Seabrook had it in Game 4. EDGE: Blackhawks

Goaltenders

Devan Dubnyk is among the Vezina Trophy finalists for a reason. The Wild turned their season around in mid-January, when it acquired Dubnyk, and he’s a big reason for that resurgence. Does he remain tough to beat or do the Blackhawks expose a chink in his armor? Corey Crawford will start the second round back in the Blackhawks’ net, but which Crawford will we see: end-of-regular-season Crawford or start-of-postseason Crawford? We’ll find out soon enough but right now the Wild, after two postseasons of uncertainty atthis position, is steadier there to start this round. EDGE: Wild.

Power play

The Wild had a solid power play in the first round, and it’s currently tops among postseason teams (33.3 percent). It was also more potent on the road (three power-play goals on seven chances) than at home (one goal on five opportunities). The Blackhawks started off well on it in Game 1 (two power-play goals) and came through again in Game 6 (Toews’ goal). It didn’t score in Games 2-5 but had chances and, with Kane’s return, was better with possession time. The edge in this one is minimal, but… EDGE: Wild.

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Penalty kill

This was the Blackhawks’ strength in previous seasons but the Predators picked it apart in the first round, scoring six power-play goals. It also didn’t help that the Blackhawks couldn’t stay out of the box; they were shorthanded 22 times vs. Nashville. Minnesota was 9-for-11 on its penalty kill. The Blackhawks frustrated the Wild with their kill the past two postseasons but that was then. They could tighten it up in the second round but right now, it’s a question mark. EDGE: Wild.

Intangible

In this round, it’s adversity. Both teams have handled it beautifully. The Wild got past their December/early January malaise to become a formidable postseason squad. Obviously they can handle pressure. The Blackhawks have dealt with this plenty themselves, be it that series against Detroit two springs ago or coming back from two sizeable deficits to win Games 1 and 6 against the Predators in the first round. Since the Blackhawks have been here, done this longer, and with pretty much the same group… EDGE: Blackhawks.

Blackhawks mailbag: Why did the Blackhawks give up on Henri Jokiharju so fast?

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks mailbag: Why did the Blackhawks give up on Henri Jokiharju so fast?

Every Friday this offseason, Charlie Roumeliotis will look to answer 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. 

Why did we gave up on Henri so fast?

The question isn’t why did the Blackhawks give up on Henri Jokiharju so fast? It’s why did they sell him without receiving an immediate impact-type player in return, whether that came in the form of a package or not?

The Blackhawks were always going to use their surplus of defensemen prospects as trade ammo to patch up a need elsewhere. Alex Nylander could turn into a fine player, but he’s far from a sure thing. It seems like, for whatever reason, he’s struggling to take the next step and the Blackhawks find themselves hoping that he can turn into the player he was supposed to become when he was taken No. 8 overall in 2016.

With moving out Jokiharu does that mean someone like Boqvist or Beaudin is more likely to be ready to step in possibly sometime this season?

The Jokiharju trade certainly opens the door for one of those prospects to emerge from the pack, and we could see a glimpse of them as soon as this season.

After four years in the QMJHL, Beaudin will turn pro and start the season in Rockford if he doesn’t make the Blackhawks out of training camp. And according to our friend Scott Powers of The Athletic, it’s looking more like Boqvist might turn pro also after one year in the OHL.

If that’s the case, both of those prospects will be readily available for a call-up at any point. Beaudin is likely still a year away. Boqvist is the interesting one because he turned heads at training camp last season and gave the Blackhawks something to think about when they were trimming their 23-man roster.

If Boqvist excels in the AHL and the Blackhawks have a spot for him, the former No. 8 overall pick in 2018 is only a phone call away from a call-up and that could be tempting if an offensive jolt from the backend is needed.

Does the arrival of Nylander hinder the potential chance of Dach making the roster out of camp?

The Blackhawks aren’t going to keep Kirby Dach off the roster because the math squeezes him out. If he does his part to force the management group into keeping him on the team, the Blackhawks will figure out how to shuffle the cards later.

But the Nylander acquisition does add to the competition up front in general and Dach figures to be part of that mix. The challenging part is that you have to think Dach is battling for a top-nine spot. The Blackhawks won't keep him on the roster all season because he's the 11th- or 12th-best forward. They'd want him playing decent minutes in the NHL, and if he's not doing that, they'll send him back to the WHL to do it.

The ‘Hawks currently have 10 forwards (excluding Perlini) locked into a roster spot. Kubalik & Sikura are expected to round out the forwards, but who else do you think has a strong chance to make the team? Nylander? Saarela? Wedin? Quenneville? Looks less likely for Dach.

Good question, and something we’ve been writing and talking about on the Blackhawks Talk Podcast for the past several weeks. The Blackhawks like having internal competition and continue to note that you need to be 14, 15, 16 forwards deep to be successful in today's NHL.

But the reality is, the extra forwards in this scenario should be taking steps forward in helping the team right now and not serving as 13th forwards. You have to think Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Sikura will be on the Opening Day roster, but that doesn't seem like a given as of right now. The fact that Nylander could play left wing or right wing helps his case. Anton Wedin is an intriguing candidate. John Quenneville will definitely get a look. Where does Brendan Perlini factor into the plans?

It's too early to tell because it still feels like there could be some more tweaks coming between now and training camp.

Who do you see taking the first line LW position and the second line RW position for the majority of the year?

In Tuesday's conference call explaining the Alex Nylander-Henri Jokiharju trade, GM Stan Bowman hinted that the Blackhawks are likely to start the season with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on the first line and Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome on the second. And the question is who’s going to play left wing on the first and right wing on the second.

Andrew Shaw sticks out as somebody who could get an immediate look. Brandon Saad finished the season on the third line and was effective in that role but maybe he gets another shot also. Of course, Drake Caggiula worked so well with Kane and Toews but he’s probably better suited in a bottom-six role.

If Nylander makes the team out of training camp, he could be the wildcard. He's the kind of player who should play in the top-six with other offensively-skilled players to maximize his talent but he hasn't earned that opportunity yet. Kubalik, however, has after his breakout season offensively in the Swiss league and at the international level. And like they did with Dominik Kahun last season, the Blackhawks could look to put him in the best possible position to succeed off the bat.

If we're projecting right now, I could see these combos as the first two lines to open camp: Kubalik-Toews-Kane and DeBrincat-Strome-Shaw. 

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Blackhawks announce star-studded attendees list for 12th annual fan convention

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AP

Blackhawks announce star-studded attendees list for 12th annual fan convention

The 12th annual Blackhawks Convention will take place from July 26-28 at the Hilton Chicago, and the team announced a star-studded attendees list on Thursday:

PLAYERS

  • Artem Anisimov
  • Drake Caggiula
  • Carl Dahlstrom
  • Alex DeBrincat
  • Calvin de Haan
  • David Kampf
  • Patrick Kane
  • Slater Koekkoek
  • Robin Lehner
  • Olli Maatta
  • Connor Murphy
  • Brendan Perlini
  • Brandon Saad
  • Brent Seabrook
  • Andrew Shaw
  • Dylan Strome
  • Jonathan Toews

 

ALUMNI

  • Murray Bannerman
  • Ed Belfour
  • Bryan Bickell
  • Dave Bolland
  • Brandon Bollig
  • Ted Bulley
  • Adam Burish
  • Brian Campbell
  • Chris Chelios
  • Eric Daze
  • Tony Esposito
  • Doug Gilmour
  • Stu Grimson
  • Bobby Hull
  • Dennis Hull
  • Steve Konroyd
  • Cliff Koroll
  • Steve Larmer
  • Jamal Mayers
  • Troy Murray
  • Bernie Nicholls
  • Eddie Olczyk
  • Jeremy Roenick
  • Phil Russell
  • Denis Savard
  • John Scott
  • Patrick Sharp
  • Pat Stapleton
  • Kris Versteeg — signed AHL contract with Rockford IceHogs

 

PROSPECTS

  • Nicolas Beaudin
  • Adam Boqvist
  • Kirby Dach
  • Collin Delia
  • Mackenzie Entwistle
  • Alexandre Fortin
  • Dennis Gilbert
  • Brandon Hagel
  • Mikael Hakkarainen
  • Reese Johnson
  • Chad Krys
  • Philipp Kurashev
  • John Quenneville
  • Aleksi Saarela
  • Tim Soderlund

 

COACHES

  • Sheldon Brookbank
  • Jeremy Colliton
  • Marc Crawford
  • Tomas Mitell
  • Jimmy Waite

 

BROADCASTERS

  • Chris Boden
  • Steve Konroyd (note: also included in alumni above)
  • Troy Murray (note: also included in alumni above)
  • Eddie Olczyk (note: also included in alumni above)
  • John Wiedeman

 

Among the notable players not attending: Erik Gustafsson and Duncan Keith, respectively. Newly-signed forward Ryan Carpenter and prospect Alex Nylander also will not be in attendance.

New additions Calvin de Haan, Robin Lehner, Olli Maatta and fan favorite Andrew Shaw will be in attendance, as will No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach.

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