Blackhawks

Five Things from Game 5: Blackhawks season on the brink

blackhawks-season-on-the-brink-5-25-15.png

Five Things from Game 5: Blackhawks season on the brink

ANAHEIM, Calif. — It was looking like the Blackhawks were going to pull another rabbit out of the hat, wasn’t it?

We’ve seen this movie before: Blackhawks find a way to get to overtime, Blackhawks play extended overtimes and Blackhawks win in overtime. But on Monday, the script was flipped, and quickly. The Ducks got an odd-man rush and cashed in, with Matt Beleskey’s rebound goal giving them a 5-4 victory just 45 seconds into overtime.

[MORE: Blackhawks rally falls short in Game 5 OT loss to Ducks]

Now the Blackhawks are up against it, facing elimination when they host Game 6 on Wednesday night. Will they stave it off and force a Game 7? Will they learn from their mistakes, especially all of those committed in the first period? We’ll find that out on Wednesday. Until then, let’s look at the Five Things to take from the Ducks’ Game 5 victory over the Blackhawks.

1. Have to start better than that. For all the talk of urgency and getting off to a strong start, the Blackhawks were absent in the first 20 minutes. It was awful. They were awful. All comebacks aside, the Blackhawks had no excuses for their start, in which they got just three shots — and those came in the final 3:37 of the period — and trailed 3-0. Said Patrick Sharp, “Crucial game in their building, we know they’re going to come out with some pace and put a lot of pucks on net. They certainly did that and we weren’t ready to start the game.”

2. Don’t doubt Jonathan Toews. Entering Game 4, Toews still didn’t have a goal in this series. In the final 1:50 on Monday night, he scored twice to force the game to overtime. That’s what your top players do: they find a way. While that second goal was a terrible one for Frederik Andersen to give up — bad angle, off his leg — full marks to Toews for giving the Blackhawks a chance.

[NBC SHOP: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

3. Teuvo Teravainen providing a jolt. The forward shrugged off his Game 3 healthy scratch status, scoring a goal and an assist in Game 5. Teravainen could have been overwhelmed by the NHL playoff stage, this being his first time on it. Instead he’s been poised, and was part of a strong third line with Sharp and Antoine Vermette. “I’m confident. I’m a lot more confident out there [on the ice] than in the media right here,” Teravainen said to laughs. “That’s a good thing.”

4. Another three-goal period against the Blackhawks. The first period was the seventh — yes, seventh — time this postseason that the Blackhawks have given up three goals in a period. That’s not good. Again, good on the Blackhawks for coming back but they’re putting themselves in this position too often. Said Quenneville, “we have to kill that.”

5. [Post]season on the brink. Well, it comes to this: for all the times the Blackhawks call games “must-win,” Wednesday’s game truly is that. As Toews said, they’ve faced series deficits before and play their best when faced with critical situations. They need that on Wednesday, and they need it from the start this time.

Why Ryan Hartman is betting on himself going into another contract year with Predators

ryan_hartman_usa_today.jpg
USA TODAY

Why Ryan Hartman is betting on himself going into another contract year with Predators

Ryan Hartman has been through this before. Back in December of 2012, he sustained a torn labrum in his right shoulder but played through it because the Plymouth Whalers were in the middle of a playoff run. He waited until the offseason to have it surgically repaired and was cleared for contact just in time for him to attend his first training camp with the Blackhawks in September of 2013.

This time was a little different though.

Hartman had been acquired by the Nashville Predators at the trade deadline in exchange for prospect Victor Ejdsell and a 2018 first- and fourth-round pick — a hefty price to pay — in hopes of serving as an additional spark plug for a Predators team looking to load up for a second consecutive Stanley Cup run.

So when Hartman was brushed by Nathan MacKinnon along the boards, lost his footing and fell on his left shoulder late in Game 4 of the first round against Colorado, he immediately knew something was up.

"It didn't feel great at all," said Hartman, who went straight to the dressing room and had team doctors pop it back into place. "I finished the game and was able to finish playoffs in like a modified sling, which sucked to play with, but it's playoffs. It's one of those things where there are many guys playing through injuries and I was one of them."

Hartman, who's been rehabbing and training in Chicago, received the green light to fully participate in hockey-related drills last Monday but was advised to delay his Chicago Pro Hockey League debut for one more week just to err on the side of caution. On Wednesday, he got back into a game-type setting and "felt good" after 50 minutes of action going up against former teammates Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane.

Now he can fully focus on this upcoming season and amp up his on-ice training to a level he couldn't get to while recovering from shoulder surgery with training camp a month away.

Hartman was a restricted free agent this summer and recently re-signed with the Predators on a one-year deal worth $875,000. Clearly, he's betting on himself to bounce back to his rookie year form when he scored 19 goals and cash out on a larger paycheck down the line, even though he had multiple longer-term offers from the Predators.

"Yeah we talked, [GM David Poile] wants me to be there, I want to be there, we have a good relationship," Hartman said. "Obviously, he gave up a lot of stuff to take me and sees me in the future of the team and I see myself there too. There's a lot of little things that go into negotiations — if it's money wise or length — and there was a various amount [of offers] that was thrown out on both sides. With no [arbitration] rights, the best thing for me and my team was to bet on myself, take the year and go from there next year."

With that comes the pressure of having to earn another contract for the second straight year, which is also risky considering he's coming off an injury that sidelined him all summer. But that's just the way he wants it.

"Either way I want to play my best, if I have a contract or not for long-term," Hartman said. "There is the benefit of having security with long-term deals, but you see guys, in history, that sign these deals and maybe have a year or two of, not really being complacent, but just feeling satisfied. I don't like the feeling of being satisfied. I'm not saying that's why I took that contract over another contract, but it was a good month and a half of debating one of the other three [offers]. My family and my agent, we chose this was the best for me and the team as well."

It's easy to see why the Predators are happy with this deal, too. Hartman is better suited to play in a bottom-six role on a really good team but has the ability to play in the top-six if needed. A strong season out of him and they'll be happy to reward him with a longer-term offer next summer. It also means he'd be making an impact while making less than $1 million, and every contending team needs those contributions from their depth players.

Pull up the Predators' CapFriendly page and you'll notice generous contract after generous contract for a majority of their players, particularly their core group. Look no further than Ryan Ellis, who signed an eight-year extension on Tuesday that carries a cap hit of $6.25 million. He certainly left money on the table but elected to take less to follow the lead of everyone else in Nashville because the ultimate goal is to keep the band together.

"You look at Sidney Crosby, one of the best players in the league, isn't even making close to the most money in the league and that's a reason why they've won two Cups," Hartman said. "They have space, maybe not necessarily as much as the Preds do, but Poile's good at that, he's good at stressing winning, the importance of winning, and keeping a team together. Sometimes when you go year to year losing four or five players every summer, it takes a toll having to introduce yourself to new guys all the time. Keeping the same group is really beneficial."

The Predators won't have to do much introducing next month. They're essentially rolling back the same team that arguably would've reached the Stanley Cup Final if they had gotten past the Winnipeg Jets. Hartman will be an important part of that group, only this time he'll be there from the start.

"That's what I'm really excited for," he said. "It's tough coming in [halfway through the season], it kind of feels like ... it's your first time getting called up with the new team. You're adjusting, you're trying not to make a mistake, trying to earn a spot, per se, earn the respect of your peers, so having that and going through a playoff run and a Game 7, if you go through a Game 7 with anybody, it's a bond. The stuff you fight through and you play for each other, to be able to go through a training camp and the ups and downs throughout the whole season, it's going to be exciting. I fell in love with the group for the short time I was there and I'm excited to be there at the start of training camp."

Start of the Blackhawks Dynasty, Part 4: Roster overview

Start of the Blackhawks Dynasty, Part 4: Roster overview

In a 10-part series, we look back at the 10-year anniversary of the 2008-09 season, the start of the Blackhawks dynasty.

Starting a dynasty means you have to identify a group of core players to build your team around. Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews were those guys, along with Marian Hossa, who joined that mix later on.

You also need a mixture of young talent and strong veterans to fill out the depth to become successful. That's exactly what the Blackhawks had at the beginning of their dynasty and throughout.

On the first day of NHL free agency in 2008, the Blackhawks inked All-Star defenseman Brian Campbell to an eight-year deal, which solidified Chicago as a destination players wanted to commit to long term. That same year, Kris Versteeg emerged as the Blackhawks' third Calder Trophy candidate in two years, Martin Havlat and Andrew Ladd set a career high in points with 77 and 49, respectively, while youngsters Dave Bolland, Troy Brouwer and Dustin Byfuglien began to make a name for themselves as valuable pieces to the puzzle.

"Real good group of guys," Joel Quenneville said on Oct. 18, 2008. "I can say that it's the first time I walked in the room where, wow, I was impressed."

Six of the Blackhawks' Top 10 scorers in 2008-09 were aged 23 or younger. The average age for the other four? 27. The youth movement was real and they all contributed in a big way.