Blackhawks

Duncan Keith’s return should boost Blackhawks

Duncan Keith’s return should boost Blackhawks

ST. LOUIS – Duncan Keith watched as the Blackhawks almost came away with the road victory without him.
 
The Blackhawks defenseman was wrapping up his six-game suspension, which included that first postseason game against the St. Louis Blues. Despite missing Keith’s minutes, Keith’s work on the power play and penalty kill, the Blackhawks still got to overtime before losing 1-0.
 
“You want to be out there helping the guys to try and win the hockey game. That in itself is frustrating especially it being as big a game as it was,” Keith said. “But I’m excited to get back and play again and try to do everything I can to help get a win.”
 
The Blackhawks were close to getting that first road playoff victory on Wednesday night. Heading into Friday they’re looking for a split, something they weren’t able to get against the Blues two postseasons ago. Getting Keith back certainly helps that possibility.
 
“It’s huge. Not much has to be said there,” Jonathan Toews said. “We know what Duncs means to our team: power play, penalty kill, all situations we could’ve used him in [Wednesday night]. But he’ll make all those parts of our game better the next one. We can all step it up and feed off that energy he’ll bring.”
 
Coach Joel Quenneville said he will probably pair Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson together again. Hjalmarsson has played with Trevor van Riemsdyk during Keith’s suspension. The Blackhawks’ defense was strong without Keith in Game 1, holding the Blues to just 18 shots through regulation and nine-plus minutes of overtime. Young guys such as van Riemsdyk and Erik Gustafsson gained more minutes and/or more responsibilities.
 
But at this time of year the experience is critical, so the onus was still on veterans Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook. 
 
“Playing 30 minutes, speaking for myself, I’ve done it a lot of times in the playoffs and in big games. I like playing those kinds of minutes and being counted on. But having Duncan back to alleviate that pressure in some areas, whether it’s penalty killing or power play or even strength, he’s such a big part of our team,” Seabrook said. “Getting him back, the way he’s able to eat minutes and still be productive, is big.”
 
Keith knows the Blues will try to throw him off his game. The Blues went with their usual method of attack in Game 1 – hit the Blackhawks as often as possible, and they were credited with 41 hits. With Keith, they may even try to get him to lose his cool. Quenneville said he’s talked with Keith about keeping his composure – “the leash is a little tighter than it’s been. He has to be smarter in that area,” Quenneville said. And Keith knows he can’t let the opposition push his buttons.
 
“Guys have taken runs at me. You deal with it. [Patrick Kane] deals with it very well. Not the biggest guy, but try to find a way to get through that, do what you have to do and play your game. Don’t focus on those type of things. Focus is on the game, competing,” Keith said. “When it comes to the suspension, that’s something I can be in control of and need to do and be smart about that.”
 
The Blackhawks had everything but the finish on Wednesday night. Keith will be back on Friday, playing big minutes, helping on the power play and on the penalty kill. Keith had the Blackhawks’ first game-winning goal of the 2015 Cup run. He had the final game-winning goal, too. Could Keith’s return be the difference in Game 2? The Blackhawks hope it will be.
 
“You want to try to get one on the road. If we would’ve won [Wednesday] we would’ve tried to get two but now we have to look to get the split. Duncs getting back in the lineup and the things we did well we can build off and should give us energy with him returning,” Quenneville said. “Let’s look to get even.”
 
BRIEFLY

  • Andrew Ladd’s wife, Brandy, gave birth to their third child, a boy named Walker Gordon. Quenneville said Ladd is expected to be in the lineup for Game 2 on Friday night.
     
  • The Blackhawks agreed to terms on a three-year contract with defenseman Carl Dahlstrom. The deal for Dahlstrom, who has played in three games with the Rockford IceHogs this season, begins at the start of the 2016-17 season.

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery was identified as the victim in an early morning drowning on Sunday at the Hamilton Harbour, Hamilton Police confirmed. He was 35.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, Emery and his friends jumped in the water around 6:30 a.m., but Emery never resurfaced. His body was recovered later in the afternoon.

Emery played in the NHL for 11 seasons, two of which came with the Blackhawks from 2011-13, where he served as a backup goaltender to Corey Crawford.

In 2013, he teammated up with Crawford to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) with the fewest goals against in a single season, before going on to capture his first Stanley Cup. During that season, Emery went 17-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts.

The Blackhawks issued this statement following the confirmation:

The Chicago Blackhawks organization was deeply saddened to hear of Ray Emery’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.

The hockey community took to Twitter to offer their condolences when news began to spread:

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

When the Blackhawks drafted Jonathan Toews third overall in 2006 and Patrick Kane with the No. 1 pick the following year, it was a sign that the dark skies were clearing in Chicago. Things really started to change when Rocky Wirtz took over as chairman following the death of his father Bill in September of 2007, and one of the first decisions he made was to televise all 82 games.

The fans were coming back.

For only the second time in 11 years, the Blackhawks finished above .500 in 2007-08 but missed the playoffs by three points, a season in which Kane won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie.

The following year Joel Quenneville took over as head coach after only three games to provide some coaching experience behind the bench for a young team on the rise. It resulted in a 104-point season and ended in a Conference Finals berth at the hands of the arch-rival Detroit Red Wings in five games.

The Blackhawks were ready to make that step into championship contenders. They just needed someone to put them over the edge.

Enter Marian Hossa.

On July 1 of 2009, he committed to the Blackhawks for 12 years worth $62.8 million. He bought into the long-term vision and wanted to be a part of something special for many years to come.

Was he ever.

In his first game as a member of the Blackhawks, Hossa scored two goals in a 7-2 road victory against San Jose after missing the first month and a half of the season with a shoulder injury. It was at that moment where you saw what kind of powerhouse the Blackhawks could be and would become with a full lineup and future Hall of Fame winger added to a mixture of franchise-changing players scratching the surface.

Fast forward to Game 5 of the 2010 quarterfinals. You know how it goes. Series is tied 2-2. The Blackhawks trail 4-3 late in the third period. Extra attacker is on. How many times have we seen this? The Blackhawks were surely going to find a way to tie it up ... and then Hossa is sent to the box with 1:03 to play in regulation. A five-minute major boarding penalty.

Dagger...

Not so fast. 

Patrick Kane went on to score arguably the biggest goal in Blackhawks history, a shorthanded one that evened it up with 13.6 seconds to go. United Center is up for grabs. But there are still four minutes left to kill off on the penalty once overtime starts, which Hossa once called "the longest four minutes of my life." 

In a span of nine seconds following the penalty kill, Hossa jumped on the ice from the box, darted straight for the net and buried home what was the second-biggest goal in franchise history to put the Blackhawks up 3-2 in the series. Two nights later Hossa assisted on three goals and the Blackhawks eliminated the Nashville Predators in their barn.

The rest is history.

Who knows if the Blackhawks rally to win that series if they don't tie it up or win it in overtime. Who knows if they break through the next year. Who knows if that core group even remains together. The course of the franchise could've changed that night.

Instead, Hossa was handed the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career on June 9, 2010 from Jonathan Toews, who couldn't give it to him fast enough after he came up on the losing end in consecutive appearances with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings in 2008 and 2009.

Hossa would add two more titles to his résumé with the Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015, which almost certainly locked up his legacy as one of the all-time greats and his eventual next stop: The Hockey Hall of Fame. The wait was worth it.

"I was hoping to get one coming to Chicago and now I’ve got three," Hossa said following the 2015 Stanley Cup win. "What a feeling." 

The Blackhawks don't win three Stanley Cups without Hossa, who will go down as arguably the greatest free-agent signing in Chicago sports history.

On behalf of the city of Chicago: Thank you, 81.