Five Things: Blackhawks persevere, head to another Game 7

Five Things: Blackhawks persevere, head to another Game 7

It’s not over.

After the first period that first sentence was similar, it just didn’t include the “not.” Because at that point, with the Blackhawks trailing the St. Louis Blues 3-1, it certainly looked like this game and this series was over.

But over the next 40 minutes, the Blackhawks showed they had other ideas. And while we shouldn’t be surprised the Blackhawks found a way to force a Game 7, we’re a little stunned nonetheless.

Enough about all of that; there will be plenty of time to talk about Game 7 on Sunday. Right now, let’s get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 6-3 victory over the Blues.

1. Overcoming a two-goal deficit. The Blackhawks were 3-15-1 this season when they trailed after the first period. That’s a surprising stat, given how good the Blackhawks have been over the last few seasons at coming back. So it didn’t look good entering the second period on Saturday night. But five unanswered goals later, the Blackhawks showed that counting them out is a really bad idea, no matter what their usual record when trailing might be.

2. The acquisitions contribute. Andrew Ladd had the opening goal and an assist, Richard Panik helped set up Trevor van Riemsdyk’s tying goal, and Dale Weise had the game-winning goal. One of the biggest questions entering the postseason was if the players acquired at the deadline were going to make a difference. Well, they did in Game 6, and their work is making the Blackhawks look more complete with their lines. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “We had our best game of the series and best four-line rotation of the series. We like the progress.”

3. Andrew Desjardins exhales. Desjardins had an empty net in front of him and a Weise pass heading his way early in the first period. But the shot sailed wide, and the Blues responded by tying the game a few seconds later. That, and the rest of the first period, could have been a deflating moment for Desjardins and the Blackhawks. But the final score had everyone feeling better. Said Desjardins, “I mean, you know, for a second it’s obviously not a great feeling. But ... it’s a long game and you have to try to rebound from that. Just rebound and try to focus on other things.”

4. Andrew Shaw returns with a bang. Shaw went from the top line to start the game to the second line by the second period, but he gave the Blackhawks some much-needed breathing room (a two-goal lead) with his power-play goal late in the third period. Shaw said he’s learned his lesson from his terrible choice of words in Game 4, which cost him Game 5. He stayed much more calm in Game 6 and, more important, stayed out of the penalty box. On his goal he was where he plays best: right in front of the net.

5. And the teams played on. Yeah, we wouldn’t have guessed when the Blackhawks went down 3-1 after Game 4 that there would be a Game 7 between them and the Blues. But that’s where it stands. Who has the edge? The Blues are heading back home, where they’ve won just one game in this series. The Blackhawks are playing their fifth Game 7 in Quenneville’s tenure; they’ve won two of the previous four. So it’ll probably be a typical Game 7: Flip a coin to figure out the winner.

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Anton Forsberg cleared waivers on Tuesday morning and was assigned to the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League.

That's good news for the Blackhawks organizational depth chart, with Forsberg as the No. 3 in goal. But it also complicates things in Rockford, where Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen have been sharing the duties.

Delia is 3-1-0 with a 3.26 goals against average and .910 save percentage while Lankinen is 0-1-1 with a 3.39 GAA and .825 save percentage. Perhaps the most likely scenario is Lankinen gets sent to the ECHL with the Indy Fuel while Delia and Forsberg split the load in Rockford.

It's certainly a good problem to have, but it's still unclear how that dynamic will play out.

"We haven’t talked about that," coach Joel Quenneville said. "But we expect [Forsberg] to play."

Luke Johnson recalled

With a spot opening up on the 23-man roster, Johnson is being brought back up after he was squeezed out by Corey Crawford's return. He had a goal and an assist in two games with Rockford.

Brandon Saad returns to top-six role

After turning in arguably his best performance of the season on Sunday, Saad is back playing on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane. He had seven shot attempts (three on goal) against Tampa Bay and led the team in 5-on-5 possession numbers.

"[Saad] is coming off a game where we liked what we saw," Quenneville said. "Playing with Kaner can help him get going."

Nick Schmaltz to play right side for first time in NHL career

Eight games into the season and Schmaltz has spent time at both center and left wing. Now he'll get a look on the right side with Alexandre Fortin on the left and David Kampf centering the third line.

Part of the reason for Schmaltz’s move to the right side was because Quenneville said they like Fortin on the left. It's not unfamiliar territory for Schmaltz, but could take some time getting used to.

"I played a little while back, not sure when," Schmaltz said "Just a little bit different. Catching pucks on your forehand now instead of your backhand. It's not a huge adjustment, just play with speed and compete hard and hopefully the skill on our line will take over."

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers


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 ECHL 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.