Blackhawks

Corey Crawford, Blackhawks shut down Red Wings

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Corey Crawford, Blackhawks shut down Red Wings

The Blackhawks weren’t too thrilled with how they played through the middle minutes against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.

But they’ll take the start and finish.

Corey Crawford stopped 33 of 34 shots and Patrick Kane established a new season high in points as the Blackhawks beat the Red Wings 4-1 at the United Center. The Blackhawks remain in first place in the Central Division. The Dallas Stars beat the Ottawa Senators to equal the Blackhawks in points (87) but the Blackhawks have the regulation/overtime victory edge, 40-38.

Kane’s goal, which came 21 seconds into the game, gives him 89 points this season; that tops the previous career best of 88 he set during the 2009-10 season. His 38 goals are also a career high. Crawford’s 35th victory of the season is his new career best.

Artem Anisimov had a goal and an assist while Artemi Panarin had two assists for the Blackhawks. Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews each had goals. For the Blackhawks, it’s always about playing as close to a 60-minute game as possible. That didn’t happen on Sunday, but they got great goaltending and two power-play goals to pace them.

“Kind of comparable in Detroit: I thought we had a good start, they get back in the game with a good second period,” coach Joel Quenneville said of the Blackhawks’ 5-2 victory there last week. “Crow was good again and our special teams were like we saw in Detroit: very good.”

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Yes, the Blackhawks got good work out of their penalty kill and power play on Sunday, and they needed both of them. Keith and Anisimov had the power-play goals – Keith’s shot came from a distance while Anisimov redirected a Panarin shot. The power play was ranked third entering the game, a big difference from the last few seasons.

“It comes with confidence,” Toews said. “I think when you have a stretch where pucks are going in, it just adds to the rest of your power play, what you do with the puck, your breakouts, your entries, retrieving pucks especially off of initial shots that maybe don’t go in in their zone. I think it just trickles down when you’re scoring goals and you’re getting bounces.”

The Blackhawks’ kill nixed all three of the Red Wings’ power-play opportunities. A big part of that kill, as well as the entire second period, was Crawford. When the Blackhawks went quiet through the middle 20 minutes Crawford was stalwart, stopping all 13 shots he saw in the second. The Blackhawks had just three shots in that period.

“We didn’t get any shots any possession in their end at all,” Quenneville said of that second period. “We didn’t give up quality but Crow, I thought he moved the puck well on rebounds and dumps. He was very effective in a lot of ways.”

The Blackhawks have been looking for consistency in their game as they come down the stretch here. They didn’t get the desired amount of that on Sunday but they had exactly what they wanted at the start, and more of it at the finish.

“We want to get better every day and improve our team game and getting a four-line rotation where we’re keeping everyone in the game here. Tonight one group didn’t play as much as we’d like but going forward we’d like to see more balance in the ice time,” Quenneville said. “We want to finish as high as we can. That’s the motivation.”

Four takeaways: Standouts from Blackhawks first preseason win against Red Wings

Four takeaways: Standouts from Blackhawks first preseason win against Red Wings

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-1 preseason win over the Detroit Red Wings at the United Center on Wednesday:

1. Alex Nylander gets a shot on the top line

After having a goal and an assist in his preseason debut on Monday, Nylander was rewarded by the Blackhawks coaching staff by starting on the first line with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. And he certainly didn't look out of place.

The trio logged 14:28 of ice time together at 5-on-5 and generated 18 shots for and only five against, according to Natural Stat Trick. They also teamed up on Duncan Keith's eventual game-winning goal in the second period.

Nylander finished with a secondary assist, three shot attempts (two on goal) and one takeaway in 20:44 of action. He’s going to give the Blackhawks management something to think about.

"I thought he was good," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Again, we're looking for his play without the puck. We know he's going to do a lot with the puck. It's their first time playing together so there's always going to be some kinks you're working out as far as the plays they're making and what not but he had a great net drive on Dunc's goal. Those are the things that people don't notice but opens up ice.

"We want to open up ice for those skill guys he's playing with. I thought he had a couple really good tracks. He was forechecking, he was skating. That's what we're looking for and if he continues to do that then he can be effective at this level no matter who he's playing with."

2. Individual standouts

— Dominik Kubalik was given a top-six role again after his two-goal night in his preseason debut on Tuesday in Detroit. And he was noticeable. He recorded three shot attempts (one on goal) and had a game-high four takeaways in 14:29 of action.

— The Olli Maatta and Brent Seabrook pairing turned in a strong showing together. They were on the ice for 20 shot attempts for and seven against and eight scoring chances for and two against in 13:28 of 5-on-5 ice time.

— Brandon Hagel was named the second star of the game after scoring a goal and tying Keith with a game-high four shots on goal. He also logged 11:58 of ice time and won both of his faceoffs.

— Adam Boqvist showed why he was drafted No. 8 overall in 2018. He's flashy and has elite offensive skill, which you can see in the video below. He also earned some praise from his head coach for his defensive play, which is the part of his game that's going to be a constant work in progress.

3. Penalty kill still ironing out some kinks

The top priority for the Blackhawks this summer was to shore up their defensive issues, and that included the penalty kill. And even though we shouldn't put too much stock into overall team performance and results in the preseason, the Blackhawks have given up at least one power-play goal in each of their first three games.

Fortunately for the Blackhawks, these games and stats don't count, but it obviously would be nice to head into the regular season with some positive momentum. Once the Blackhawks start to finalize their 23-man roster we should get a pretty good idea of what the special teams units could look like on Opening Night and beyond, and more chemistry will develop among the everyday players.

4. Roster cuts looming

In the last four days, the Blackhawks hosted their team scrimmage at the United Center and followed that up with three consecutive preseason contests. That was a significant evaluation period for the coaching staff and management.

Colliton said the Blackhawks are expected to make their first wave of roster cuts between now and Saturday, which is when their next preseason tilt is. The 23-man roster should start to take shape in the coming few days.

"We’re going to start," he said. "I don’t know exactly the timeline and how many and which day, but I can tell you it won’t all be in one day. And we’ll sort of work up to the game Saturday and we’ll have a tighter group, and especially for next week."

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Five Blackhawks make top 100 prospect list

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USA TODAY

Five Blackhawks make top 100 prospect list

After missing the playoffs for two straight seasons, the Blackhawks are in a transition period coming off the team’s long run as a Stanley Cup contender. There is hope for a relatively quick return to contention with a number of highly-regarded prospects.

ESPN ranked the top 100 NHL prospects on Wednesday and the Blackhawks have five skaters on the list.

Leading the way for Blackhawks prospects is Kirby Dach, who was the third pick in this year’s draft. He is ranked No. 6 overall. The top two picks from that draft, Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, are the top two prospects in the rankings.

Adam Boqvist is the second Blackhawks prospect, coming in at No. 29 overall. The defenseman was the No. 8 overall pick in the 2018 draft.

Defensemen Ian Mitchell (No. 68) and Nicolas Beaudin (No. 82) and right winger Alexander Nylander (No. 88) round out Blackhawks prospects in the top 100. Mitchell opted to return to the University of Denver for his junior year. Beaudin was the Blackhawks’ second first-round pick in 2018, picked No. 27. Nylander was acquired in the offseason in exchange for young defenseman Henri Jokiharju.

With five prospects on the list the Blackhawks had more than most teams. The Los Angeles Kings had the most prospects on the list with seven while the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers each had six.

ESPN also ranked the Blackhawks pool of prospects as ninth-best in the NHL.

 

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