Blackhawks

Dennis Rasmussen makes immediate impact in Blackhawks debut

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Dennis Rasmussen makes immediate impact in Blackhawks debut

Dennis Rasmussen recorded a team-low 8 minutes and 33 seconds of ice time during his NHL debut in a 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, but he only needed his third shift to make an impact.

At the 10:45 mark of the first period, Andrew Shaw directed a shot on net, where Rasmussen planted himself in an effort to screen Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne. Not only did he obstruct Rinne's view, but the shot was deflected by the 25-year-old rookie, who celebrated his first NHL goal (on his first shot) like anybody would.

"I yelled as loud as I could," Rasmussen said.

He had 21,432 fans at the United Center that joined him.

[MORE: WATCH: Blackhawks' Dennis Rasmussen scores first NHL goal in first NHL game]

It's not that Rasmussen scored in his debut that may have mattered most to the Blackhawks; it's how he did it. A tip-in while battling for position in front of the net, something coach Joel Quenneville has stressed his team should do more of and an area the Blackhawks additionally worked on in practice Monday.

"That's how you score in our league," Quenneville said of Rasmussen's unorthodox goal. "Pretty goals are hard to come by. Traffic, turn the puck over, get it back to the point, second opportunity or screen, tip, deflection and go off that. Lines like that, that’s the recipe for success. Bring energy, get on the body, turn pucks over and scoring a big goal like that certainly helps us in a lot of ways."

Rasmussen took a cross-check to the back after scoring the goal, but that's the price you pay when you go to the front of the net and it paid off this time.

Is that the type of goal he envisioned for the first of his career?

"I think I visualized a couple things," Rasmussen said. "This game I just tried to play a simple game and try to get into it right away and to get the goal, that's of course, I'm really happy about it.

“I felt good right away and the guys really helped me to feel on the team and to feel comfortable and talked to me a lot, especially (Bryan) Bickell and (Andrew) Shaw, so I really felt comfortable, even from the start, and after a goal of course the nerves got away a little bit too."

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Rasmussen became the second Blackhawks player this season to register a goal in his NHL debut, with Artemi Panarin being the first on opening night.

A goal on his first shot in his first career game is something Rasmussen will certainly never forget. But to cap off a memorable day, his parents and brother were in attendance for it after flying in from Sweden.

"It's the biggest day of my life so far," Rasmussen said. "It's easy to say that."

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

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AP

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

The Blackhawks have said all along that they don't plan on carrying three goaltenders, but wanted to do so during the three games in four days stretch just in case, with Corey Crawford coming back from a 10-month layoff because of a concussion.

After being encouraged by how Crawford has responded to his return, the Blackhawks placed goaltender Anton Forsberg on waivers Monday morning. Teams have 24 hours to put in a claim for the 25-year-old goaltender and would have to keep him on their NHL roster for 10 games and/or 30 days before he's eligible to go through the waiver process again.

His chances of getting claimed by any of the other 30 teams essentially depends on which teams believe Forsberg would be an immediate upgrade over their current backup — or starter, for that matter — or whether there's an injury to one of the team's two goaltenders that requires a placeholder, like we saw the Carolina Hurricanes do by claiming Curtis McElhinney from the Toronto Maple Leafs after Scott Darling's injury in the preseason.

If Forsberg goes unclaimed, the Blackhawks can assign him to the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs. With Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen sharing the goaltending duties in Rockford, it's possible Lankinen gets sent to the Indy Fuel in the East Coast Hockey League to get consistent starts under his belt.

A third option, one that isn't very common but we've seen in the past as recently as last October with Maple Leafs goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, is that Forsberg can be loaned to any AHL team while still being a part of the Blackhawks organization. This would allow the Blackhawks to keep Delia and Lankinen in Rockford while Forsberg gets his starts in the AHL, too.

Or, the Blackhawks could simply trade Forsberg to another NHL team that could stash him in the AHL, as long as he clears waivers. They did it last season with Chris DiDomenico, who cleared waivers as a member of the Ottawa Senators but was then traded to Chicago for Ville Pokka days later. Had DiDomenico been claimed by the Blackhawks, he would have had to stay on the NHL roster as noted above.

Forsberg was 10-16-4 with a 2.97 goals against average and .908 save percentage in 35 appearances last season but has not appeared in a game yet this year. He was acquired as part of the Brandon Saad package for Artemi Panarin in June 2017.

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

The Blackhawks were able to get away with their defensive lapses in the past solely because of Corey Crawford. When he went down with a concussion last December, those issues were magnified because he wasn't there to mask the flaws.

But it's reached the point where they can't rely on their goaltender to bail them out on a nightly basis, which is becoming another trend. Cam Ward allowed six goals to Tampa Bay on Sunday night, but made 49 saves — including 30 in the second period alone. He did everything he could to keep his team withing some sort of reaching distance and without his timely stops, the scoreboard could've looked much worse for the Blackhawks.

Something's got to change. 

When the Blackhawks talk about tightening things up defensively, they're not just putting it all on the defensemen. All five guys on the ice need to do their part and they're not doing it right now.

"I think we're trying to do too much and running around trying to do each other's job," Jonathan Toews said. "Sometimes we just need to simply and finish our checks and support each other."

No team has given up more even-strength high-danger chances through eight games than the Blackhawks at 110. That's 15.77 per 60 minutes. For reference, the New York Islanders finished worst in the league in that category last season and their number was at 12.96.

It didn't help that the Blackhawks spent nearly the entire second period in their own end on Sunday.

"We just couldn’t get it out of our zone, couldn’t get our stick on it, didn’t see pressure, didn’t feel pressure when we had it, were stripped," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Hence, we didn’t advance it. Kept looking like we were going up the ice and there were going to be some odd-man situations and then we’re the ones who were facing it."

That's one way to eliminate those high quality scoring chances, is getting the puck out of their own zone effectively or else it opens the door for Grade-A opportunities because of self-inflicted wounds. And it usually happens at the end of shifts when guys are tired, which often leads to goals.

"We have to learn how to play without the puck better and learn how to keep it," Quenneville said. "Whether it was our execution going up the ice, first pass poor and then we couldn’t change. A lot of things that happened yesterday were there tonight."

The Blackhawks weren't using three games in four nights as an excuse because Tampa Bay was in the same situation. It was an even playing field in that respect.

It's all about execution from everyone involved, forwards and defensemen. And the Blackhawks feel they're correctable issues.

"Of course," Toews said. "We've had some good periods this season so far. The first three, four, five games, everyone was excited and you guys are all talking to us much differently than you are right now. It's just getting back to playing that smart defensive game and playing with effort and letting our offense do the work. We know what's got to improve. It's right there in front of us."