Blackhawks

Carcillo, Kane and the power play

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Carcillo, Kane and the power play

When the Blackhawks signed Daniel Carcillo last July 1st to cap off a day that also included free agent deals with Andrew Brunette, Jamal Mayers and Sean O'Donnell, they were fully aware of the wide range of what they were getting -- and getting themselves into -- as part of addressing their needs.

If you didn't know already, CarBomb-in-a-Can was right there for all to see since his return from a six-game injury absence in the four-and-a-half periods he played Friday and Monday.

There was the nice clean hit on Todd Bertuzzi that his teammates and Hawks fans absolutely loved, and Bertuzzi absolutely hated in that first period against the Red Wings. There was his second assist in as many games by creating a neutral zone turnover versus Edmonton, skating in and perfectly setting up Jonathan Toews for the game's first goal.

And there was his cat-and-mouse game with Tom Gilbert seven minutes into the second, sending the puck in, probably capable of winning a race to it, but playing the body full-speed below the goal line extended for a violent crash into the boards.

While Gilbert sat out Tuesday night's game in Buffalo with an apparent knee injury, the injury it looks like Carcillo sustained as Gilbert bounced back onto him might be longer-term, on top of the suspension he's sure to receive.

This high-speed game involving split-second decision-making about the consequences of contact has required an adjustment over the past year for players like Carcillo, Mayers, Ben Eager, Cal Clutterbuck, Raffi Torres, etc.

Some have learned more quickly than others, but a poor decision on a bang-bang play could only be a shift away.

You can see the potential in the signing of Carcillo with what he provided in the first four periods of his return. But between the injury and whatever discipline Brendan Shanahan and company hand down, who knows how soon we'll see Carcillo again as he recovers, serves and searches for the fine line in his style of play. And when he does come back, will the drastic swings in how he helps and hurts the team remain? It certainly won't be in what would've been his return to Philadelphia Thursday night.

Kane

Speaking of Philadelphia, it'll be the Hawks' first trip back to the scene of their greatest triumph over the past half-century.

Patrick Kane's Stanley Cup clincher turned him into the conquering hero, the toast of Chicago, and the life of the party. My bet is with Carcillo not around, Kane will hear the most grief from the City of Brotherly Haters when he takes the ice.

Here's also hoping it gets things going for him. Kane will admit to a certain extent that having just nine goals as 2012 begins is bothering him a bit. I have to think it's eating away at him more than he lets on.

With just two goals in his last 20 games, it's probably starting to reach snake-bitten levels. And while he leads the team and is among the league leaders in assists, "88" is probably wondering what his off-season conditioning commitment (before wrist surgery) and goals for a huge, Hart Trophy-worthy career year has gotten him.

He's been the good soldier, switching back and forth between center and wing, and says the most important thing is that the team is still among the best in the NHL without his hoped-for goal production. I -- and probably Kane himself -- can't believe he'll wind up with under 20 goals. He's way too gifted for that to happen, but we wait.

And yes, the good news is the team is where it is despite those numbers.

Power play unit

Kane was moved to the second power play unit at Tuesday's practice.

Back on the first unit was Andrew Brunette -- who has as many goals this season as Kane while averaging six-and-a-half fewer minutes of ice time. After scoring four power play goals the first month of the season, and with that unit in a 1-for-22 funk, the veteran with the soft hands and the "strong base" who doesn't mind camping out in front deserves the opportunity.

It's a big reason they made him one of those July 1st signings. Besides Kane, the second unit included the guy 16 years Brunette's junior to see if he can handle that position. Jimmy Hayes started his NHL career skating on a line with Brunette, and we're sure some secrets about playing that role to jump-start the PP will be shared to see if the kid can earn a longer stay with the big club than the Saads, Pirris, Morins and Smiths.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: What else can the Blackhawks do this summer?

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: What else can the Blackhawks do this summer?

On the latest edition of the Hawks Talk Podcast, Charlie Roumeliotis is joined by Scott Powers of The Athletic to discuss Stan Bowman's comments following the Marian Hossa trade and debate whether they're finished making moves this summer.

They also provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks' top prospects and which players have caught their attention as development camp winds down.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews: 'Our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs'

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews: 'Our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs'

Jonathan Toews watched a lot of playoff hockey this spring. 

"Quite a bit," he admitted Wednesday before making his Chicago Pro Hockey League debut at MB Ice Arena. "More than usual."

That's because the Blackhawks missed out on the postseason for the first time since his rookie year in 2007-08. It's obviously not a position he'd like himself or his team to be in, especially after experiencing three Stanley Cups in a six-year span.

But you have to find a way to take the positives out of it at this point and let it fuel you for the upcoming campaign.

"You always want to be there playing," Toews said. "But when you can maybe step away from the game a little bit and just kind of breathe and — at the same time, look back and realize you’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of success. Obviously there’s no satisfaction there, but you understand it’s not the worst thing to stop and smell the roses and appreciate what you’ve been able to experience, because I think failing to get to the playoffs makes you realize how difficult it really is and maybe it’s something you took for granted.

"But watching more hockey this spring, I think, is something that was really motivating and kind of inspiring and exciting to want to get back to that level again. You dream of playing in the NHL, but at the end of the day, you want to play playoff hockey. That’s what it’s all about."

There were plenty of things that went wrong for the Blackhawks last season and contributed to why they watched the playoffs from home, whether it's the Corey Crawford injury, the down season from Brandon Saad, or the inexperience on the blue line.

For Toews, who turned 30 in April, it's about regaining that old form that made him one of the top players in the NHL and hoping it can filter down the rest of the Blackhawks lineup.

"For me, it’s part of just recapturing that energy, that motivation, excitement and that mindset of a young player who takes nothing for granted, that you had in your younger days," he said. "But also carrying the experience with you and understanding the impact of what you say, what you do, how you carry yourself can impact your teammates, especially the young guys. For me, it comes down to knowing what to say at the right time. But letting my play be the thing that helps me lead by example. No better time than now to use that experience and that excitement trying to rebound off the season we had last year."

If there's any reason to have belief that the Blackhawks can turn it around quickly, look no further than the two teams that collided in the Stanley Cup Final: Vegas and Washington. 

The Golden Knights had the longest odds to win it all at the beginning of the season while the Capitals' championship window was perceived to be closed after they failed to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017 in the second round yet again with a loaded roster. But it's not about what's on paper.

"Watching that last series, you just knew it came down to who had the most, the deepest belief in themselves," Toews said. "I even had a hard time predicting who was going to win every series. It could’ve gone either way in a lot of situations. It’s not only motivating, seeing how fast that play was and to have missed out on playoff hockey this year and to have the drive to get back there, but knowing if you do sneak into the playoffs it doesn’t matter. You can go a long way.

"For us, thinking, 'OK, we're gonna back and win a Stanley Cup this year,' it sounds like a long shot. But as always, our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs and being ready to hit our stride when we get there."