Blackhawks

Boden: Blackhawks know their potential

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Boden: Blackhawks know their potential

Ken Hitchcock and the Blues had been, deservingly, receiving league-wide praise for how the teams performed the past month since he took over behind the bench. Hes the Point-B-to-Point-C Cup-winning coach brought in to mold a young, talented group of Blues into realizing their potential. So far, hes been doing just that. And quickly. Without being totally healthy.

But Saturday night, Hitchcock could only praise the team that cooled off his up-and-comers.

They (the Blackhawks) treated it like a playoff game, Hitchcock told reporters. Because that was as hard and competitive a game as weve had since Ive been here. They really came to play.

While St. Louis is still discovering its potential, the Blackhawks know theirs. And so do fans. The core, and all the pieces around it, should still be in the Stanley Cup discussion deep into next May. This was confirmed in their fast start, but it was a pace no team can realistically keep up for six months. Every game they dont look that way brings another dose of panic outside the locker room, wondering why they cant copy their best games, night in and night out.

Theres no perfect team in this league thats as competitive as its ever been. The Blackhawks are still among the best, but figuring out what itll take to get as close to that as possible. Theyve swallowed some medicine the past three weeks by underestimating opponents, and not being as ready for the puck-drop as guys in the other sweaters. The times they do, they can only hope it doesnt make them even more uncomfortable when its time to count points the first weekend of April.

But Saturday in St. Louis was Exhibit A of what this teams capable of doing. Joel Quenneville will keep tinkering. Stan Bowman will be tweaking when he senses he needs more than what he has in place. Itll happen sooner if he senses there are more efforts like last Tuesdays than the one he saw Saturday night. It could be a hungry kid from Rockford wholl add some energy, or a veteran or two, now that the GM enjoys some salary cap flexibility. And hell probably know a lot more based on how his team responds to the heavy home schedule these next six weeks. Monday could be a nice barometer about how long their memory is, since that same Phoenix team they looked so bad against pays a return visit, just six days later.

Ripple Effects in Pebble Beach
Elliotte Friedman of the CBC shared an interesting nugget Saturday night about NHL Realignment options thatll be discussed, perhaps proposed, at the Board of Governors meetings that begin Monday in Pebble Beach. I like the idea, but its unbalanced and probably wont stand a chance of surviving.

In it, the Blackhawks get to keep all their big rivals in an eight-team division thatll also include Detroit, St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus, Minnesota, Winnipeg, and Dallas. The other eight-team division includes all the other teams in the Mountain and Pacific time zones. But the top four in each division would advance to the playoffs, and with the two other Eastern time zone divisions containing just seven teams each, you can hear the yelling now from those fifth-place finishers in the eight-team divisions. What if the Blackhawks wound up fifth in that division in the future? On top of that, the only way to balance it geographically would be the same scenario thats being discussed now sending Detroit, Nashville or Columbus to the East. And that still leaves unbalanced divisions. Itll be interesting to see if they reach a final decision on it as soon as this week, with the most likely scenario being Detroit to the East, Winnipeg to the West. And probably no one except those two teams real happy.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Reaction to Artem Anisimov trade and development camp standouts

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Reaction to Artem Anisimov trade and development camp standouts

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis react to the trade of Artem Anisimov to the Senators for Zack Smith. The guys discuss the role Smith could have with the Hawks and the areas where he has an edge over Anisimov.

They also discuss the first couple days of Development Camp and how this year’s top two draft picks — Kirby Dach and Alex Vlasic — have looked so far. Plus, a breakdown of the other top blue-liners and how Adam Boqvist, Nicolas Beaudin and Chad Krys have progressed and why they agree with Ian Mitchell’s decision to return to Denver for his junior year.

0:35 – Initial reaction to Anisimov/Smith trade

2:02 – Smith adds faceoff and penalty kill abilities

3:38 – Candidates for bottom-six center spots

4:57 – Edge a common theme among new Blackhawks

6:08 – Alex Nylander’s presence at Development Camp

8:20 – Kirby Dach has an open door to a roster spot

10:38 – Alex Vlasic holding his own against Dach

11:46 – Adam Boqvist wants to play in the NHL now

13:23 – Were Blackhawks recent moves scripted before NHL Draft?

15:28 – Ian Mitchell’s decision to return to college

18:57 – Young defenseman make decisions tough down the road

20:21 – Keeping an eye on Philipp Kurashev at camp

21:20 – Is Stan Bowman done making moves?

22:34 – Salary cap outlook with DeBrincat/Strome extensions coming

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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2019 Blackhawks development camp: Day 2 thoughts and takeaways

2019 Blackhawks development camp: Day 2 thoughts and takeaways

Here are several thoughts and takeaways from Day 2 of Blackhawks development camp at Fifth Third Arena:

1. Why Alex Nylander wanted to be at camp

The Blackhawks invited 37 prospects to development camp. Only one of them has NHL experience and that's Nylander, who was a late addition after he was acquired from Buffalo for Henri Jokiharju.

Nylander has been one of the standouts so far, and rightfully so. He's supremely gifted and is ahead of the curve in comparison to some of the other prospects attending. But he's behind on his own development curve, and the Blackhawks wanted to see him on the ice this week because he's going to be one of the players in the mix for an everyday roster spot when training camp rolls around.

While it may have been unexpected to see Nylander's name on the prospect camp list because it feels like he's been around forever, he was all for getting a headstart despite not participating in the Sabres' development camp the week after the NHL Draft.

"I mean, I just got traded here," Nylander said. "I wanted to meet everybody and get on the ice. It’s been a couple of months since I was on the ice, so I thought it was a great opportunity for me to come here, show what I’ve done in training through the summer and I can get even better toward training camp. I just didn’t need to go to Buffalo’s camp."

2. Ripple effects of Artem Anisimov trade

The Blackhawks made a trade in the middle of camp on Tuesday, with Anisimov going to Ottawa in exchange for power forward Zack Smith. It's a move that cleared $1.3 million in cap space for the Blackhawks, but also opened the door for somebody to snatch up that third-line center role.

Kirby Dach, anyone?

GM Stan Bowman mentioned Ryan Carpenter, David Kampf, Andrew Shaw and Zack Smith as guys who have experience playing center but didn't single anyone out as a potential leading candidate to fill Anisimov's shoes in the third-line center role. One of those four figures to secure the fourth-line center position, which will likely be Carpenter or Kampf — perhaps we could see situational faceoffs between them with Carpenter a right-handed shot and Kampf a lefty.

It truly does feel like the third-line center position is up for grabs, and the Blackhawks don't seem to mind it that way. Bowman said Dach could very well be part of the group, and it's difficult not to wonder whether the No. 3 overall pick has a fair chance of making it.

"We have quite a few potential options there to play in the middle," Bowman said. "It’s hard to map out some lines and who is going to be in what spot but I think we have different looks that we can throw at the other team. Part of training camp is going to be to find out where does everybody fit and which combinations work best."

Other notes:

— Chris Kunitz has been sitting with the Blackhawks front office contingent observing camp. He hasn't announced what his future holds, but if he's ready to call it quits on his playing career, it wouldn't be surprising to see the organization bring him on in some capacity.

— Alexis Gravel made his camp debut on Tuesday. He did not participate in on-ice sessions on Monday because he wasn't medically cleared to do so.

— Tim Soderlund was listed on the prospect camp roster but has been absent for the first two days because of visa issues. It's unclear whether that will get resolved before camp wraps up on Friday.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.