Blackhawks

Five Things from Game 4: A marathon win for Blackhawks

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Five Things from Game 4: A marathon win for Blackhawks

 

Ah, the lengthy overtime game. It’s a joy to watch for anyone who’s a fan of the game, albeit probably nerve-wracking for certain teams’ fans.

And they’re exhausting for the players, although wins certainly make them feel somewhat better. So the Blackhawks were feeling happy tired instead of deflated in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, moments after Brent Seabrook’s overtime shot gave them a 3-2 triple-overtime victory over the Nashville Predators.

[WATCH: Brent Seabrook sends Blackhawks home winners]

Now it’s time for ice packs, fluids, food and plenty of sleep – for the players, not us. Before we pack up, we bring you Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory, which gives them a 3-1 lead in this first-round series.

1. Brent Seabrook capitalizes again. He said this overtime game-winner may rank higher than the one he had against Detroit back in 2013. We’re guessing that’s mainly fatigue talking, but there’s no doubt this was big. The Blackhawks didn’t want to go back to Nashville tied 2-2 in this series; it’ll be hard enough to get that fourth game off the Predators, even up 3-1. Seabrook’s winner gave the Blackhawks momentum going into a hostile building.

2. Antoine Vermette breaks through. Vermette’s face was a mix of joy and relief on Wednesday morning, a few hours after he scored his first postseason goal in a Blackhawks uniform. “It’s a sense of happiness and relief. But that being said, it was early, we were focused, we a lot of work ahead and you want to keep playing,” said Vermette. He played just under 20 minutes, winning 12 of 20 faceoffs.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. Duncan Keith, marathon man. As coach Joel Quenneville said, if you see anyone else log 46 minutes, 19 seconds over five-plus periods of hockey, you may be stunned. With Keith, the Blackhawksaren’t surprised. Said Quenneville, “a lot of guys at the end of the night, look at the sheet and say, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of ice time.’ Other guys it doesn’t phase a bit. I think we’re accustomed to him playing significant minutes in games like this.” Keith had a team-high seven shots on goal, two hits and three blocked shots.

4. Scott Darling adds to the résumé. Darling was understandably tired after this on, and a little sore – “wearing skates for four or five hours doesn’t feel good,” he said. Nevertheless Darling was great once again, stopping 50 of 52 shots for his third postseason victory. He’s come into a playoff game in relief, he’s started his first NHL postseason contest and he’s now gone wire to wire in a triple-overtime game. He’s handling it all very well.

5. Does the momentum last? Let’s not kid ourselves: the Blackhawks may be up 3-1 but this series has been incredibly close. The Predators could easily have the same best-of-seven lead right now. It’s been a game of inches, and the Blackhawks head to Nashville with a chance to close this one out. Do they do that? They’ll have to ride this momentum to do so and dredge up some energy. But don’t be surprised if Game 5 is as riveting as Games 1 and 3 have been, and expect Nashville to come with everything it has left to give. 

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”