Five Things from Game 1: Crawford shows no signs of rust

Five Things from Game 1: Crawford shows no signs of rust

ST. LOUIS – Good things were happening but the good finish wasn’t there. That’s pretty much the synopsis of the Blackhawks’ Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues, a contest David Backes won about nine minutes into overtime.

As you can tell it’s late, we’re tired and we’re guessing you are too. So before we call it a night, we’ll give you something to read in the morning with our Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ Game 1 loss to the Blues.

[SHOP: Gear up for the Stanley Cup playoffs, Blackhawks fans!]

1. Andrew Ladd returns. The left wing went back to Chicago to be with his wife, who is expecting their third child. His wife did not give birth on Wednesday and Ladd got back to St. Louis in time to play in Game 1. For a guy who had a very busy travel day, Ladd looked good. He had an energy burst that made that first line look pretty strong, which is what the Blackhawks need. Said coach Joel Quenneville of Ladd, “I thought he had a heck of a game. He brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm. That line was dangerous.”

2. Two effective penalty kills. The Blues’ kill was big in the first period, nullifying a couple of Blackhawks opportunities, including 36 seconds of a 5-on-3. They did it with blocks and Brian Elliott stops. The Blackhawks’ kill wasn’t too shabby either, and an early second-period sequence reminded us all why the Blackhawks missed Marcus Kruger so much on it. On the other hand…

3. The power play could’ve been better. Again, both teams could say this. Quenneville was fine with the Blackhawks’ opportunities outside of their last one, and you can’t blame him. The Blackhawks got a power play just seven seconds into overtime, seven seconds into a new period with a fresh sheet of ice. They had the chance to do damage but instead the Blackhawks did nothing. They talked of finishing on chances. This was one that got away.

[MORE: Blues edge Blackhawks in overtime to take Game 1]

4. Corey Crawford’s OK. There was some question on how Crawford, out for nearly a month with an upper-body injury, would react to that first postseason game. The Blackhawks were strong in front of him, so he didn’t see many shots. But Crawford looked fine in Game 1, and only a carom off Trevor van Riemsdyk’s skate did him in. Did getting that final regular-season game in help Crawford? It didn’t look like it hurt him.

5. Keith is coming back. Well, the Blackhawks got through that one without him. The young defensemen got a good lesson at the end of the regular season and in this one, playing more minutes and in more critical situations. Now a rested Keith returns for Game 2 on Friday night. As you can imagine, his teammates are ready to welcome him back. “Yeah, it’s definitely a boost,” van Riemsdyk said. “He’s obviously a great guy in the locker room and what he does on the ice obviously speaks for itself. So that’ll be a huge boost for us and we’ll be excited to have him back.”

Blackhawks’ depth could be key as roster becomes clearer

Blackhawks’ depth could be key as roster becomes clearer

Jeremy Colliton has tried to dismiss any notion that forward lines in preseason games or practice groups in training camp give any indication as to what the Blackhawks might look like come October 4 in Prague. But with only two preseason games remaining – one of which could very well be the Rockford IceHogs against the Boston Bruins – it would be quite a shock to see the lines shuffled much before the team heads overseas.

“To me, it’s becoming more clear what our lineup is going to look like,” Colliton said after a 3-2 overtime win over an abbreviated Bruins squad on Saturday. “I think we’re getting what we want out of training camp here.”

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews look like a safe bet to once again start the season on the top line, with Alexander Nylander getting the first look on the left wing. On the second line, the combination of Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat look like they will have Andrew Shaw pestering opponents and opening up some ice for them.

Where the Blackhawks hope to see a major improvement is in the bottom six, where the team struggled to generate offense last season. Stan Bowman’s additions this summer seem to have the Blackhawks in much better position to not have to rely so heavily on their top two lines or top power play unit.

The third line looks fairly set with Brandon Saad on the left wing and Dominik Kubalik on the right wing. David Kampf looks like the favorite to center that line, but the Blackhawks did give Anton Wedin a look there against the Bruins, and he delivered a primary assist on Saad’s goal.

“I think he plays with a lot of energy and he’s a conscientious player. I think he works hard. Both sides of the puck, he’s got a little bit of skill. He’s a strong skater,” Colliton said of Wedin. “I thought he did well, I liked that line. I thought Saad was excellent.”

The fourth line of Drake Caggiula, Ryan Carpenter and Zack Smith earned high praise as well.

“I thought that Carpenter line with Smith and Caggiula was really good, really effective for us,” Kane said. “I think that’s something we might have been missing a little bit last year. Good to see them going, seems like that could be a fun line to watch.”

When the Blackhawks’ season ended this past April, Colliton said he wanted to rely less on Kane and use his star in a more “targeted” way. If the third and fourth lines can generate some scoring, or at the very least some offensive zone time, it could go a long way in getting the Blackhawks into a position to confidently roll four lines.

“We have so much more depth, definitely. There’s no question,” Colliton said. “To have the opportunity to move guys up at times, they should be fresh and ready to make a difference further up the lineup. We have competition, which I think is a good formula for us.”

So, while Colliton may try to play coy on forward lines and defense pairings, Kane has much less to hide.

“That was pretty much our lineup, or close to our lineup, so we’re trying to identify the way we want to play,” Kane said. “Obviously, I think we had some spurts tonight where we did that well and some other times where we struggled a little bit. It’s early in the season, we’re still trying to figure it out.”

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Blackhawks announce second round of roster cuts

USA Today

Blackhawks announce second round of roster cuts

After making a first wave of roster cuts to pare their roster down from 55 to 49, the Blackhawks announced a more significant second round Saturday afternoon.

Per the team, forwards Dylan Sikura, Matthew Highmore, Brandon Hagel, Philipp Kurashev, Mikael Hakkarainen, Alexandre Fortin, Reese Johnson, MacKenzie Entwistle, defensemen Nicolas Beaudin, Joni Tuulola, Lucas Carlsson and goaltender Matt Tomkins have all been assigned to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

The Blackhawks roster now consists of 33 players: 18 forwards, 11 defensemen and four goaltenders. 

The news comes just hours before the Blackhawks square off with the Bruins in the team's fourth game of the preseason Saturday night.

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