Blackhawks

Five Things from Game 1: Blackhawks must play 60 minutes

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Five Things from Game 1: Blackhawks must play 60 minutes

Win some, lose some or escape some: the Blackhawks’ victory on Friday night would probably fit best in that last category.

What started as a strong, multi-goal lead for the Blackhawks soon turned into a tie game, and the Minnesota Wild were giving them everything they could handle. Thanks to a young Finn and a better third period, the Blackhawks pulled out a 4-3 victory in Game 1 of this first-round series.

[MORE: Teravainen nets winner as Blackhawks edge Wild in Game 1]

So while Blackhawks fans check their heart rates, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory.

1. Play 60 minutes. The Wild deserve plenty of credit for its second period; it pushed the pace, it took advantage of Blackhawks mistakes and it came back from a 3-0 lead after the first period. But the Blackhawks could’ve prevented some of that damage. Playing a full game has been a challenge this postseason, and it was again on Friday night. Said Patrick Sharp, “we’ll take a 3-0 lead but you always hear people say that’s the worst lead in hockey. Minnesota has the firepower to come back and we have to be better than that.”

2. Good timing for Teravainen. Hey, if you’re going to score your first career NHL playoff goal, make it a winner – literally. Teuvo Teravainen threw what looked to be a rather harmless puck toward the net late in the second period. It wasn’t so harmless, as it got past Devan Dubnyk with 58.2 seconds remaining in the period and gave the Blackhawks the 4-3 lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Teravainen was understandably happy. “It's a great feeling of course,” he said. “I just think I had to shoot more. I got the puck there and I just tried to shoot. Sometimes good thingshappen.”

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3. Penalty kill improves. The Blackhawks’ first trip on the kill on Friday wasn’t good, as Zach Parise scored a power-play goal as part of the Wild’s second-period comeback. It got better as the game went on, however, and killed off two third-period penalties to keep the Wild at bay. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “they had some decent looks but I think we did a good job preventing them easy access.”

4. Crawford stays strong. The second period wasn’t the best for the Blackhawks or for Corey Crawford, who gave up three goals on 12 shots – that’s the same goal/shot total that got him chased in the first period of Game 1 vs. Nashville. But Quenneville said he never thought about pulling Crawford in this one – it was a tie game midway through this one, not a 3-0 deficit for the Blackhawks. Crawford was there in the third, stopping all eight shots the Wild had.

5. This series is going to be something. If Game 1 was a glimpse of how this series is going to play out, everyone better buckle up. Big leads, lost leads, good goaltending, shaky goaltending, ups, downs, crossbars hit, goals just missed: this series, much like Game 1, will probably have a little bit of everything.

 

Do the Blackhawks have room to sign John Tavares?

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USA TODAY

Do the Blackhawks have room to sign John Tavares?

The NHL Draft is over. Farm systems have been restocked and now the focus has shifted to free agency, where the fun is just beginning.

The biggest fish on the market is John Tavares, a franchise-changing center in the heart of his prime. For a little bit, it seemed like the loyal New York Islanders captain was ready to move on after they took another step back by missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

But then Lou Lamiorello became available and was snatched up by Long Island. His first order of business was relieving GM Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight of their duties, the first real sign that significant changes were coming. The next was securing Barry Trotz as head coach after he couldn't agree to terms on an extension with the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.

For the first time in a while, there appears to be structure in the front office and coaching staff.

Yet, Tavares has remained committed to visiting with reportedly five teams in Los Angeles during the free agent negotiating window that opened Sunday. And he's absolutely earned that right. San Jose and Toronto are believed to be two of the teams. The rest is unclear.

When asked by NBC Sports Chicago's Pat Boyle at the end of the draft on Saturday, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman wouldn't confirm nor deny that they were one of the teams scheduled to meet with Tavares.

"I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise, right?" Bowman said with a smile.

Whether or not they are, could the Blackhawks realistically even make it work?

They actually have the cap space to do it. Or at least they can make room without shuffling too many cards.

As of Sunday, the Blackhawks have $9.225 million in open cap space to fill out six roster spots. If you can find a trade partner for Marian Hossa's contract, that creates an extra $5.275 million, which brings the total up to $14.5 million. That's without subtracting any real bodies from the roster. 

Tavares is likely to command in the $10 million range for average annual value over the next seven years, and the latter part is key. While it would certainly be challenging to have three players eating up at least $10 million each in cap space — with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews at $10.5 million — they could make it work in the short term.

But signing Tavares to a seven-year deal would probably get in the way of the Blackhawks' longer-term goals, which includes re-signing Alex DeBrincat and Nick Schmaltz when their entry-level deals expire and even Vinnie Hinostroza when his new two-year contract ends.

Are the Blackhawks willing to risk that?

For Tavares, maybe. But Toews is 30, Kane is 29 and Tavares will be 28 by the time this upcoming season starts. At some point, an infusion of youth would be required to remain competitive for the long term.

Stan Bowman plays coy when asked about pitching free agent John Tavares

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USA TODAY

Stan Bowman plays coy when asked about pitching free agent John Tavares

The unrestricted free agent market opens up for the NHL on July 1. Five-time All-Star John Tavares is will reportedly be meeting with five different teams to talk about the possibility of leaving the only team he's played for his entire career, the New York Islanders. 

After a highly disappointing 33-39-10 finish to the 2017-18 season, many expect Chicago general manager Stan Bowman to be very aggressive this offseason. When asked by NBC Sports Chicago's Pat Boyle if the Blackhawks would be one of the five teams going after Tavares, Bowman gave a very reticent answer.

"I woudn't want to spoil the surprise, right?" Bowman said with a smile. 

"No, I'm not going to comment on that, but I know we're gonna have a lot of discussions over the next five or six days and we'll see where it goes."

Reports indicate that the Islanders and Tavares had been trying to work out the terms of a long-term extension, but with so many attractive options out there, it will be a tough decision for him. There are several teams coming off of playoff runs expected to go after Tavares, including Tampa Bay, Las Vegas and San Jose. In addition to those teams, his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs are expected to be in play as well.

But Chicago's rough year was so out of place for a team so used to winning consistently, that one can imagine their pitch will be enticing.

Elliotte Friedman of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada had this to say about the Blackhawks potential pursuit of Tavares: "They're not going to tolerate being that bad again, they're going to try something. I think they'll make a run at John Tavares too. I do, I think they'll ask, is there any way we can get him here?"

When taking all of this into account, it is sure to be an extremely exciting free agency period for the Blackhawks. The team is in full "re-tool" rather than "rebuild" mode, and there have been discussions that Kane may be becoming the more vocal leader of the team. But the addition of Tavares to a core of Kane, Jonathan Toews and Corey Crawford could boost the Blackhawks back into Stanley Cup contention.