Blackhawks

Five Things from Game 2: Who's Blackhawks goalie now?

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Five Things from Game 2: Who's Blackhawks goalie now?

NASHVILLE — Well, that didn’t go quite as planned, did it?

Coming off the relief appearance of Scott Darling’s career, the Blackhawks once again looked to No. 1 goaltender Corey Crawford for Game 2 against the Nashville Predators. It didn’t work. A close game turned into a drubbing, as the Predators peppered Crawford en route to their 6-2 victory. The series is now tied heading back to Chicago, where the Blackhawks will host the Predators in Game 3 at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Well, we all know what you want to talk about so let’s not digress any longer. Here are Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ loss to Nashville.

[MORE: Predators thump Blackhawks in Game 2, even up series]

1. Who’s the Blackhawks goaltender now? We understood the decision to stick with Crawford for Game 2. He had one bad period, and it wasn’t all him. It wasn’t completely him in Game 2, either, but he didn’t come up with the big saves when the Blackhawks had lapses. Scott Darling, who faced 42 shots in three-plus periods of relief goaltending in Game 1, did make those stops. Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks will go with the goaltender who gives them the best chance. That may be Darling now.

2. The defense still needs to be better. Goalies are the last line of defense, no doubt, but the Blackhawks’ goalies aren’t getting much help lately. Darling said the Blackhawks played better in front of him in Game 1. Well, not entirely; he still saw 42 shots and had to come up with some spectacular saves. The Blackhawks are giving up too many shots — another 35 tonight — and worse, too many great scoring opportunities. The Predators aren’t missing them, either.

3. Ends as important as beginnings. The first period nearly ended in a tie. Instead, Roman Josi scored with 3.6 seconds remaining to give the Predators a 2-1 lead. Craig Smith scored with about five minutes left in the second period to send Nashville to another intermission with a lead, this one 3-2. As Brad Richards noted, those hurt. “We have to finish out the periods stronger,” he said. “If we go in with 1-1, 2-2 tie going into those other periods, it might be a different story.”

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4. Get Antoine Vermette in this lineup somehow. This group needs a spark of some kind for Game 3. The Blackhawks could get it from the goalie selection but shaking up the forwards may not be a bad idea, either. We get it: Vermette wasn’t great down the regular-season stretch. He wasn’t alone. Put him back in the lineup.

5. The team game, overall, needs to stabilize. Let’s look at these two games for what they are: the Blackhawks had one great period as a team — the second period of Game 1 — to go with a lot of ups and downs through these first two games. We have yet to see that complete-team game from the Blackhawks and they better find it fast. The Predators are proving they’re not going away quietly.

Blackhawks acquire Olli Maatta, send Dominik Kahun to Penguins

Blackhawks acquire Olli Maatta, send Dominik Kahun to Penguins

One of the Blackhawks’ priorities this summer is to add pieces that will help shore up the defensive part of their game after they gave up the second-most goals in the NHL last season. And they didn’t waste much time doing it.

Less than a week before the 2019 NHL Draft, the Blackhawks announced Saturday that they have acquired defenseman Olli Maatta from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for forward Dominik Kahun and a 2019 fifth-round pick.

Maatta is 24 years old, carries a left-handed shot and is a two-time Stanley Cup champion. But he battled injuries last season and fell out of favor in Pittsburgh, where he was a healthy scratch for three games in the first round of the playoffs.

The Blackhawks are hoping a fresh start could help Maatta find his game again, and do it in a place that may better utilize his skill-set. Where he could help is in the defensive part. 

According to The Point, Maatta ranked 9th among defensemen in blocked shots per game (2.05), 26th in defensive zone puck battles won (2.45), 40th in blocked defense zone passes (3.77) and 47th in outlet passes (8.95). 

Maatta, who was taken in the first round (No. 22 overall) in 2012, had 14 points (one goal, 13 assists) in 60 games last season. His best year came in 2017-18 when he tallied 29 points (seven goals, 22 assists) in 82 games. He has three years remaining on his deal that carries a $4.083 million cap hit.

It’s worth noting that when Maatta signing his extension with Pittsburgh on Feb. 26, 2016, the contract included a modified no-trade clause in his final two years, according to Cap Friendly. The Blackhawks will have the option to either honor that clause or nullify it.

The Blackhawks are expected to have some heavy competition among the forwards at training camp with the signings of Dominik Kubalik and Anton Wedin. That likely made Kahun expendable despite a rookie season in which he compiled 37 points (13 goals, 24 assists) in 82 games.

2019 NHL Draft Profile: RW Kaapo Kakko

2019 NHL Draft Profile: RW Kaapo Kakko

From June 10-20, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile one top prospect per day — 11 total — leading up to the 2019 NHL Draft as the Blackhawks prepare to pick third overall.

Kaapo Kakko

Position: Right wing
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 194 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report from The Draft Analyst's Steve Kournianos:

"Multi-tooled winger with size and coordination who incorporates his impressive puck skills with a desirable physical package that consistently exhausts opponents. Blessed with incredibly soft hands and tight-quarter quickness, Kakko is a reliable stickhandler who uses timing plays to either get open or create space for his linemates.”

NHL player comparable: Mikko Rantanen

Fit for Blackhawks:

Alright, let’s get this out of the way with: Kakko isn’t going to be on the board when the Blackhawks pick at No. 3. He’s expected to be taken second overall by the New York Rangers.

But, hypothetically, if he did slip, Kakko is probably one of two players in this draft class who could step onto an NHL roster today and make an immediate impact. He’s that good, and we saw it at the 2019 IIHF World Championship when he scored six goals to lead Finland to a gold medal. 

Kakko would give the Blackhawks a dynamic winger on the right side to go along with Patrick Kane, meaning they wouldn't have to worry about their top-six right wingers for many years to come. You shouldn't draft a winger this high unless he's as close to a sure-fire prospect as they come, and Kakko would qualify.

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