Blackhawks

Five Things from Blackhawks-Ducks: Second- (or first-) line work

Five Things from Blackhawks-Ducks: Second- (or first-) line work

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Blackhawks had to reconfigure some lines with Jonathan Toews missing Friday’s game with an upper-body injury. But the loss of Toews goes way beyond who’s playing with who.

Still, this isn’t the first time the Blackhawks have had to pull together with a top player out, and it’s not the first time they’ve won with a top player out. Maybe it helped that they were in Anaheim, where they’ve done very well in this post-Thanksgiving matchup. But getting an early lead helped en route to their 3-2 victory over the Ducks on Friday.

But we’re stalling, aren’t we? Blame the tryptophan. Anyway, before we wrap up this Circus Trip tomorrow in Los Angeles, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory on Friday.

1. Second line becomes the top line. With Toews out, you knew the onus was going to fall on Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane. The trio looked better in this one – Anisimov figured their timing would be better in their second game together – and all three got on the score sheet (Kane a goal and assist, Anisimov goal and Panarin assist).

2. Secondary goal proves pivotal. The Blackhawks will take scoring from anyone but getting something from the third and fourth lines is always encouraged. Ryan Hartman provided that on Friday, scoring what would be the game-winning goal late in the second period. Give credit to Hartman, he played well on Friday, aggravating some of the Ducks – “I’ll say he has a little Shawzy [Andrew Shaw] in him,” coach Joel Quenneville said. He also has been producing, scoring his third goal on this road trip.

3. Bad faceoff day. Toews is, by far, the Blackhawks’ best faceoff man this season. So it was no great surprise that, in his absence, the Blackhawks were throttled at the dot. They won just 18 face-offs against the Ducks, who won 49. as Quenneville said, considering how many times they lost draws, he was happy with the Blackhawks not giving up a ton of quality opportunities until later.

[RELATED: Blackhawks hold off Ducks]

4. Corey Crawford rebounds. Crawford didn’t have his best stuff against Edmonton and gave up a bad one against San Jose. But he looked more like himself on Friday, stopping 34 of 36 shots. Crawford has found much success against the Ducks in his career; including Friday’s outing, he’s now 12-4-2 against them.

5. A great elixir. The Blackhawks needed to build off that game against the Sharks, which was actually a pretty good one. So nothing like this Black Friday game in Anaheim, which has been good to them for several seasons. Dating back to 2010, the Blackhawks have now won all five of these games against the Ducks.

Recapping breakout OHL season for Blackhawks top prospect Adam Boqvist

Recapping breakout OHL season for Blackhawks top prospect Adam Boqvist

The London Knights set high expectations for themselves going into the 2018-19 OHL campaign. They always do. Their roster is usually loaded with top NHL prospects and this season was no different.

After finishing No. 1 in the Western Conference with 99 points, the Knights looked poised to go on a deep run. They got off to a roaring start in the playoffs by sweeping the Windsor Spitfires (4-0) and kicked off the second round by winning three straight against the Guelph Storm. But then, for the first time all season, the Knights lost four in a row to squander a 3-0 series lead and were eliminated just like that. It was a disappointing finish for a team with Memorial Cup aspirations.

One of the bright spots of the postseason was Blackhawks prospect Adam Boqvist. He was tied for first among all skaters with 10 goals through two rounds; no other defenseman had more than six. And he finished with 13 points in 11 games for a points-per-game average of 1.18.

To summarize his season: Boqvist scored one goal in his first 15 games. From that point on, he finished with 29 goals and 60 points in 50 games, including playoffs. He became an offensive driving force.

It's unclear what his future holds, but with Evan Bouchard expected to turn pro and secure a full-time roster spot on the Edmonton Oilers next season, returning to London would put Boqvist in a position where he could be the No. 1 defenseman in all situations.

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Blackhawks 2018-19 season grades: Front office

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AP

Blackhawks 2018-19 season grades: Front office

If we're evaluating Stan Bowman's moves as a whole, we have to go back to July 1 when the 2018-19 season really started.

On that day, the Blackhawks announced three signings: Chris Kunitz (one year, $1 million), Brandon Manning (two years, $2.25 million cap hit) and Cam Ward (one year, $3 million). Not exactly splashy additions after missing the playoffs for the first time in 10 years — although, to be fair, it wasn't a great market to throw money around.

Eleven days later, the Blackhawks traded Marian Hossa and his $5.275 million cap hit to the Arizona Coyotes in a seven-player deal that included top-nine winger Vinnie Hinostroza. Bowman acknowledged after the trade that he tried exploring every possible avenue before surrendering that the financial flexibility became more valuable.

But the trade might've put the team in a better position going into free agency had it been executed before July 1. Because of all that, Bowman's grade isn't looking great so far.

Then we get into the actual regular season.

The biggest move Bowman made was the coaching change on Nov. 6 in going from future Hall of Famer Joel Quenneville to Jeremy Colliton, which was a controversial decision in and of itself, especially the timing of it.

“There’s no perfect way to do things," Bowman admitted. "I think we made the best of it at the time. It’s one of those things where you’ve just gotta get through it. I think he’s gonna benefit from not only having a training camp next year but also we had this whole long stretch of a season. ... We’ve got a lot more things we want to get to, and I think we did a good job of — it’s a good start, but I’m sure Jeremy will tell you that we want to be way better next year and we’re gonna push our players to be better. We’re gonna try to do things differently. It’s not just taking this exact same program and we’ll start that. We want to do different things as well and enhance our team. I think there’s reason for hope there.”

Where did Bowman start to earn high marks? The roster tinkering, beginning in late November.

Perhaps recognizing that Nick Schmaltz wasn't progressing the way the team would have liked in a contract season, Bowman dealt him for a potential future second-line center in Dylan Strome and replenished the top-nine forward they lost in Hinostroza with Brendan Perlini, who showed flashes down the stretch. That's turned out to be a win-win for both sides.

The trade that was very clearly one-sided is the one Bowman pulled off with Peter Chiarelli, who was later relieved of his GM duties with the Edmonton Oilers.

Not only did Bowman acquire rugged winger Drake Caggiula, who became such a valuable part of the Blackhawks' second-half turnaround because he was a perfect complement for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on the top line, but he unloaded the contract of Manning without having to retain salary or giving up an important piece of the roster. It essentially gave the Blackhawks an extra $2.25 million to work with this summer, which shouldn't go unnoticed when you look at how deep the 2019 free agent class is.

Bowman essentially undid the mistake he made and put the Blackhawks in an even better position going into this offseason by adding a useful player on top of it. So he certainly upped his overall grade.

Now it's time to spend the money he cleared in getting rid of the contracts of Hossa and Manning, and continue building around the current core.

"We're not going to bring the same group back," Bowman said. "That's clear. We don't do that really any year. There's changes to every team, even a team that ends up winning the Cup this year will have some different players. We're going to have some new players next year. What we're going to do is try to improve in the areas where our team needs some help and the way that looks isn't completely clear right now, but we have time over the next couple months to dive in and look at our team in greater detail and figure out how we're going to make that happen.

"There's obviously free agent signings, there's trades, there's growth from within. Those are the ways that your team improves from year to year and we're going to do that. So we're going to have some new players here next year for sure but we have a lot of players that are going to be back and I think a lot of the key guys who had good seasons they're coming back for sure, so we don't need across the board changes but we do need some new players."

Front office: B-

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