Five Things from Blackhawks-Flames: Special teams perfect

Five Things from Blackhawks-Flames: Special teams perfect

CALGARY, Alberta – The Blackhawks weren’t too happy with their game in Winnipeg on Tuesday, and for good reason. They looked flat and uninspired in what ended up being a lopsided loss (at least on the scoreboard).

Friday was a reminder of what the Blackhawks have to do on the road: play smart hockey, be patient and make sure special teams work in your favor. All that happened, and the Blackhawks came out of Calgary with a 3-2 victory. Oh, there were a few other factors, too. We’ll look at some of those now in our Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over the Flames.

1. Getting better with age. Remember back in the winter of 2013 when the Calgary Flames looked like they were headed to victory, despite Ray Emery’s tremendous game? Marian Hossa kept that from happening, thanks to his game-tying goal with mere seconds left on the clock. On Friday Hossa came through with the big goal again, this time the winner. It’s been a great season for Hossa, and he once again came through on a night the Blackhawks needed someone to step up late.

2. Ryan Hartman responds. Hartman was a healthy scratch last game – we’re figuring due to numbers, not performance. But he nevertheless put an exclamation point when he returned on Friday, scoring on a breakaway for his third goal of the season. By the midway point of the second period Hartman, who was active and noticeable throughout, was on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

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3. A strong kill. The Blackhawks’ penalty-kill issues continue to fade in the distance, as they went 5-for-5 against the Flames on Friday night. They got away from the discipline that has been more evident in recent games – they took just three penalties in their previous three games prior to this one – but they nevertheless denied the Flames. Including tonight’s game, the Blackhawks have now killed off 25 of their last 27 penalties. Oh, and not to be outdone…

4. A nice (albeit brief night) for the power play. One advantage, one goal. It’s not a bad percentage, really. I wrote Thursday on how the Blackhawks’ power play hadn’t been doing well lately (2-for-23 entering Friday’s game). Well, they made a big impact on the one power play they had on Friday night with a patented Brent Seabrook howitzer. It came in the second period, when the Blackhawks weren’t doing so well, and tied the game. “I mean he really steps into it and that one was another hard one there,” Corey Crawford said of Seabrook’s shot. “Key point in the game, too. We needed a big goal at that point and he got it for us.”

5. Going on without Gaudreau. Give the Flames credit: Johnny Gaudreau is out 4-6 weeks and they could’ve faltered. But they played a solid game against the Blackhawks and that top line of Sam Bennett, Sean Monahan and Troy Brouwer (you remember him) was potent. Each finished with two points. The Flames are missing a couple of guys, including Gaudreau. But Calgary isn’t going to use that as an excuse.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks fall to Red Wings, but there were plenty of positives

Four takeaways: Blackhawks fall to Red Wings, but there were plenty of positives

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-3 preseason loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on Tuesday:

1. Dominik Kubalik's big night

The Blackhawks acquired Kubalik's rights from the Los Angeles Kings in January for a fifth-round pick. And this could end up looking like a steal when it's all said and done.

GM Stan Bowman said in April that he expects Kubalik to be a solid offensive player for the Blackhawks this season, and the 24-year-old Czech native showed why.

Kubalik found the back of the net twice in his preseason debut, with the second one displaying his absolute rocket of a shot. That's his strength and he's going to be a player to watch for the Blackhawks this season and someone who certainly helped his case as the team looks to finalize its Opening Night roster in the coming weeks.

2. Hello, Philip Holm

The Blackhawks made a low-key signing in August when they agreed to a one-year deal with Holm, a 27-year-old Swedish defenseman who spent the 2018-19 season in the KHL. He might've been the most noticeable player on the ice in Detroit.

Holm scored a goal, added an assist, and led all skaters with 11 shot attempts (six on goal). He also registered a hit and one takeaway, and logged a game-high 21:58 of ice time. Add him to the list of guys who find themselves among the pool of players vying for everyday roster spots.

3. Robin Lehner and Kevin Lankinen split duties

Collin Delia started and finished the preseason opener in Washington, and the plan was for Lehner to do the same in Detroit but the coaching staff called an audible and decided to share the duties between he and Lankinen.

Lehner started the game and was sharp early on before allowing a goal to Red Wings forward Matt Puempel, which Lehner would've liked to have back. The second goal was a fluky one that was put in by his own player. There was nothing Lehner could do. He stopped 15 of 17 shots for a save percentage of .882, but overall it was a successful debut.

Lankinen replaced Lehner near the halfway mark of the second period and he was immediately tested. He faced 10 shots in the first 7:08, which included a Red Wings power play. Lankinen gave up two goals on 21 shots and finished with a .905 save percentage. He was good.

4. DeBrincat-Strome-Shaw trio effective

The Red Wings didn't dress any of their top players so this should be taken with a grain of salt, but the line of Alex DeBrincat, Andrew Shaw and Dylan Strome showed some good chemistry together. Shaw and Strome each recorded an assist, and the trio generated three scoring chances at 5-on-5, according to Natural Stat Trick.

DeBrincat, Shaw and Strome were also on the first power play unit together and recorded eight shot attempts (four on goal) and were on the ice for Kubalik's power-play goal that tied the game up at 3-3.

Note: DeBrincat had an injury scare in the final seconds of the first period when he got the worst of a knee-on-knee collison. He wasn't on the bench to start the second period, but he only missed a shift before returning.

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The NHLPA is continuing its deal with the CBA—here’s what that means

USA Today

The NHLPA is continuing its deal with the CBA—here’s what that means

It was announced on Monday the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) has decided to continue its contract with the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The CBA sets out the terms and conditions of employment for professional hockey players playing in the NHL, according to the CBA’s website. The current agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA was ratified in January of 2013 and is set to last ten years, expiring in September 2022. The NHL and the NHLPA had the opportunity to opt-out of the deal but have decided to remain for the duration of the agreement.

"While players have concerns with the current CBA, we agree with the league that working together to address those concerns is the preferred course of action instead of terminating the agreement following this season," NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said in a statement. "We have been having discussions with the league about an extension of the CBA and expect that those talks will continue."

The current CBA came about after a four-month lockout in 2013. Under this agreement, the league has grown in revenue, alongside adding the Vegas Golden Knights to the league in the 2017-18 season. There are plans to add a 32nd team to the league for the 2021-22 season in Seattle.

Why was the CBA under contention? While NHL players have benefited under this agreement, many feel frustrated by the escrow system. Under this system, a percentage of players’ salaries are withheld every season to cover potential owner shortfalls. A portion of this is refunded to the players at the end of season.

Where do the Blackhawks stand on the issue? Captain Jonathan Toews isn’t a huge fan. In 2018, he told ESPN about his dissatisfaction with the escrow system, saying "the No. 1 thing fans don't know about is that we're paying 10 to 20% [of our salary] in escrow every year."

NHL players would also like to revisit the current resolution on international play. Specifically, players would like the NHL to break for them to go to the Olympics. NHL players were noticeably absent from the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, which ended a streak of five Olympic games with NHL players participating. This matter won’t be easy to fix before the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. The NHL will have to make deals with both the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The main takeaway from the NHLPA sticking with the current CBA is that they’re deciding to keep the peace, avoiding another lockout. Fans and players alike will just have to wait and see how the chips will fall in the next few years in the league.

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