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. 

What adjustments Blackhawks could make against Oilers for Game 3

What adjustments Blackhawks could make against Oilers for Game 3

The Blackhawks set the tone in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers by dominating at even strength and potting three power-play goals against the second-ranked penalty kill.

The Edmonton Oilers flipped the script and made the correct adjustments in Game 2, scoring 19 seconds into the game and never giving up control of it.

It's the Blackhawks' turn to counter in Game 3.

As the home team for Games 3 and 4, head coach Jeremy Colliton and his staff will have the luxury of last line change. That means the Blackhawks can decide which trio goes up against Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, who netted a hat trick on Monday.

But before getting into lineup adjustments, the first emphasis for the Blackhawks should be scoring the first goal. Well, it always should be.

"I'm pretty sure it's important to score the first goal no matter what, who you're playing," Duncan Keith said after practice on Tuesday. "That would help to try and win the game." 

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In Game 1, the Blackhawks fell behind 1-0 just 2:34 into the opening frame. In Game 2, they trailed 2-0 in the first 4:05. 

Only two teams had more wins during the regular season when scoring first than the Oilers (29). On the contrary, the Oilers had the sixth-worst points percentage (.250) when giving up the first goal. 

Scoring first is always crucial, but it feels even more significant against a high-powered offense like the Oilers.

"It’s two games in a row where we have to come from behind," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "It’s not a position we want to be in. I think we had a good start in Game 1, they score on the power play. Big difference from our start in Game 2.

"From our perspective we want to do the right things right from the puck drop. Sometimes a bounce goes for or against you but more so it’s how we perform shift to shift that gives us a chance to win the game. Hopefully results in the first goal, but if it doesn’t, we have a high level of play we’ve got to believe we’ll come back."

The Blackhawks were without Drake Caggiula in Game 2 after an illegal check to the head on Oilers forward Tyler Ennis in Game 1 resulted in a one-game suspension. John Quenneville took his spot in the lineup, but the Blackhawks were ultimately forced to double-shift Patrick Kane throughout the course of the game after falling behind quickly, which disrupted the line flow.

The Blackhawks will likely go back to their Game 1 rotation, and they should, even though things clicked immediately when Kane was put on a line with Kirby Dach and Alex DeBrincat. But it will be interesting to see how Colliton matches his group against the Oilers.

In Game 1, Dave Tippett and his staff tried exploiting the Blackhawks' fourth line of Ryan Carpenter, David Kampf and Matthew Highmore by making them defend McDavid, who was a non-factor at even strength. Leon Draisaitl's line, mainly, went up against the Blackhawks' third line of Caggiula, Dach and DeBrincat.

Will the Blackhawks try freeing up Kane and Jonathan Toews offensively by using the same tactic or does it make more sense to match the first two lines against Edmonton’s top guns as much as possible? There's a case to be made for both sides.

Exactly one week before the NHL put its season on pause, the Blackhawks played the Oilers at the United Center and beat them 4-3. Toews' line drew the McDavid matchup and Kane's line went up against Draisaitl, so perhaps we could see that again, at least to start.

It’s a game of chess, and the Blackhawks must use having the last move to their advantage.

When Mario Lemieux and Michael J. Fox owned part of Russian hockey team

When Mario Lemieux and Michael J. Fox owned part of Russian hockey team

In the early 90s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, a group of investors including two owners of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Mario Lemieux and Michael J. Fox took ownership of 50 percent of the then struggling Russian national hockey team.

"You can't really call it owning because it's the Russian government, but we basically stepped in and took over the financial interests of the central Red Army hockey team in Moscow, in Russia," Fox said on CNN's "Larry King Live" during a clip shown in director Gabe Polsky's new documentary, "Red Penguins".

"Red Penguins" is a more-than-worthy follow up to Polsky's well-received "Red Army" released in 2014.

His latest doc zeroes in on what happens when Pittsburgh Penguins owners Howard Baldwin and Tom Ruta, along with their other investors, try to save the once proud hockey club that had a previous relationship with the Soviet armed forces and name it the Russian Penguins.

"At the beginning, we didn't understand the risk. We didn't understand what the country was like and what have you," Ruta says early in the film. As the movie plays out, that statement becomes more and more true.

Marketing wiz Steven Warshaw, hired by Baldwin and Ruta and sent to Moscow, achieves success in coming up with promotions such as free beer nights to fill the Russian Penguins' arena. The success from the Americans' involvement in the team also attracted Disney's interest according to Warshaw.

Things go south when the Russian mafia gets involved. Not even Warshaw's comic relief in the film softens the destruction and violence done by the criminal organization as the partnership falls apart.

"Red Penguins" is available Tuesday on iTunes, Amazon, On Demand and all other video platforms.

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