Five Things from Blackhawks win in Game 5: Versteeg’s new home


Five Things from Blackhawks win in Game 5: Versteeg’s new home

TAMPA, Fla. – One more down, one more to go.

The Blackhawks are one victory away from claiming their third Stanley Cup in the past six seasons. And for the first time in more than a decade, they’ll have the chance to claim the trophy on home ice thanks to their 2-1 victory over the Lightning in Game 5 on Saturday night.

[MORE: Vermette powers Blackhawks to Game 5 win over Lightning]

But the Blackhawks aren’t getting ahead of themselves. They know they haven’t won a thing yet. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves, either. Before we head back home to see how Game 6 plays out, let’s look at Five Things to take from Saturday’s Game 5 victory.

1. Big performances by not-so-big names. Yes, we know Patrick Kane has yet to score in this series. The Lightning have done a good job of shutting down the Blackhawks’ superstar scorers – Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp have been held to one each. Your third- and fourth-line guys are critical this time of year and Antoine Vermette came through again on Saturday night. Three game-winning goals out of the four he’s had this postseason. Not bad.

2. Niklas Hjalmarsson’s all-around game. Hjalmarsson gets a ton of credit for his shot blocking, and for good reason. He had seven more on Saturday night. But whether it’s blocks or just handling the increased ice time – he played 28 minutes, 19 seconds, second only to Duncan Keith – Hjalmarsson has flourished. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “He's always been good. We've been fortunate to be around this guy for a lot of years, defending top players, defending tough situations, blocking shots. He's a warrior.”

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. Kris Versteeg’s new home. Versteeg hasn’t played much this postseason but his fresh legs have been a good addition to a Blackhawks team that has to be feeling some fatigue. Versteeg moved to the third line with Vermette and Teuvo Teravainen in Game 5 and provided a big spark. He also provided the primary assist on Vermette’s winner. Versteeg was happy to be part of the process. “We’ve got so many players here who can play and put points on the board, but we wanted to be a line that could help and contribute,” he said. “And fortunately tonight was one of those nights.”

4. Benefitting from a bounce. Or in this case, a collision. Sharp scored for the first time in more than a month when Ben Bishop and Victor Hedman collided, leaving an empty net. It was an odd play that doesn’t happen often. For the Blackhawks, it was a great scoring opportunity in a series that has had few prime ones. Like Sharp said, “make sure you put that one in.”

5. Keep the butterflies at bay. The Blackhawks are going to be an excited bunch for Game 6 on Monday night. They’ve got the chance to win the Stanley Cup at home, something that hasn’t been a possibility since 1938. Several talked of wanting to win it at home for the United Center fans. But they have to be careful not to let those feelings overwhelm them. Remembering Tampa Bay’s road record ought to keep them grounded and focused.

Blackhawks release 2018-19 schedule


Blackhawks release 2018-19 schedule

Uncap those markers and start circling your calendars, Blackhawks fans. The 2018-19 season is officially out.

The Blackhawks will kick off their 91st campaign in franchise history with a road contest against the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 4 at 6:30 p.m. The home opener is set for Oct. 7, with an Original Six matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs at 6 p.m.

The Blackhawks have 14 back-to-back games, and the longest road trip of the season is three, which takes place five times over the course of the season; the longest homestand is four games, from Dec. 12-18.

The biggest highlight of the season will be the Original Six Winter Classic Showdown between the Blackhawks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1 at Notre Dame Stadium. It will be the sixth outdoor appearance for Chicago, and fourth in the Winter Classic.

The Blackhawks will also square off with the defending champion Washington Capitals on Nov. 21 at 6 p.m., and welcome them to Chicago on Jan. 20, set for NBC's Game of the Week at 11:30 a.m.

Here's a look at the full schedule:

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman: 'We expect Corey to be back'

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman: 'We expect Corey to be back'

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman said that the team expects goalie Corey Crawford to be back next season around training camp. Bowman also mentioned that Crawford might speak about his status himself during the Blackhawks Convention.

“What I said at the end of the year was still the case now, which is we expect Corey to be back,” Bowman said in a Thursday afternoon conference call. “We don’t have any reason to think that’s not going to happen.”

According to Bowman, Blackhawks players, including Crawford, already have their eyes set on next season.

“At this point in the summer, all the players are preparing for next season,” Bowman said. “Corey’s in that same preparation mode.”

Crawford is nursing what has been labeled an upper-body injury by the team. The two-time Stanley Cup winner was put on the shelf for the rest of the season back in late December, and he has not seen the ice since he skated in a February practice.

“Nothing has changed,” Bowman said. “We expect him to be back and ready to go in training camp.”

The Blackhawks have chosen to keep any groundbreaking news with Crawford under wraps, which the organization has done with other player injuries in the past. Bowman spoke about his vagueness in this situation.

“We’ve never gone into specifics about injuries,” Bowman said. “I realize this probably gets more attention because he’s our starting goalie and he won the Stanley Cup.”

Fans will have to take a wait-and-see approach, because it is unlikely that there will be a significant update regarding Crawford’s health before the season gets closer to its start.

Last season, Crawford only appeared in 28 games, posting a record of 16-9 with 782 saves before going down for the rest of the year.