Blackhawks

Five Things from Game 6: Blackhawks top guys bring top games

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Five Things from Game 6: Blackhawks top guys bring top games

It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish. And while the Blackhawks would love to start a hell of a lot better than they did on Saturday night, they’ll take the way it ended.

Duncan Keith’s goal with less than four minutes remaining pushed the Blackhawks past the Nashville Predators, 4-3, and sent them into the second round of the postseason. They’ll wait to see who they play and we’re guessing you’ll be watching Game 6 between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues on Sunday afternoon, too.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Before we make any Sunday plans, let’s take a look at the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ first-round-clinching victory over the Predators.

[MORE: Blackhawks rally to beat Predators, advance to second round]

1. Duncan does it again.

Yes, he plays a ton of minutes and sometimes it shows in a gaffe here or there. But Duncan Keith’s ability to come through in those minutes is also evident. That lengthy sequence on which he scored the game-winner on Saturday was impressive. He faked twice as Predators defenseman Seth Jones challenged, and with Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews setting screens, Keith came up big. As Quenneville said of Keith’s ability to play long and well, “as the game progresses, some guys get more taxed and get fatigued and decision making becomes poor. He’s just the opposite.”

2. Crawford gets another chance.

Corey Crawford did all the right things and said all the right things during his benching. And when Scott Darling got the hook at 11:16 of the first period, it was Crawford’s chance to get his game and confidence back. He didn’t have to stop many shots; the Blackhawks allowed just 13 the rest of the way. But he made the necessary big stops on the penalty kill and down the stretch when the Predators were looking for the equalizer. Said Hossa, “I’m sure he wasn’t too happy with the situation but when he was in there he was ready and strong for us. It was huge.” And it sounds like Crawford will start the second round, too.

3. Top guys bring top games.

You need your best players to come through in critical situations. Have a look at the score sheet for Game 6: Keith, Toews, Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane were the Blackhawks’ goal-scorers. Saturday was the second time Keith’s had a game winner this postseason and Sharp and Toews each had their third of the playoffs. Said Kane, “whatever comes of it, whether it’s goals, good defensive plays, nice passes, whatever it may be, all of us are ready to play in these situations and have a lot of experience to play in these situations.”

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4. Kane is just fine.

Kane said he was a bit nervous of how he would feel when he got that first big hit on his surgically repaired left clavicle. Once he got it, absorbed it and felt fine after it, he shifted the focus back to his game. And his game is certainly looking good. Kane scored with just six seconds remaining in the first period and added an assist on Toews’ power-play goal.

5. Bravo, Nashville, for a fantastic series.

This was an entertaining one between these two, and full marks to the Predators for giving the Blackhawks everything they had. They started the series without Mike Fisher. They ended the series without stellar defenseman Shea Weber. And they just about forced a Game 7. The Predators are in a good situation and are going to be a handful again next season.

Getting to know four newly-signed Blackhawks

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AP

Getting to know four newly-signed Blackhawks

The Blackhawks announced Monday that they have officially agreed to terms with forward Dominik Kahun, defensemen Lucas Carlsson and Darren Raddysh and goaltender Kevin Lankinen on entry-level contracts.

Kahun ($925,000 cap hit), Lankinen ($925,000) and Raddysh ($730,000) each signed two-year deals that run through the 2019-20 season while Carlsson's is a three-year deal that runs through the 2020-21 campaign and carries a cap hit of $792,500.

So who are these guys? Let's meet them:

Carlsson

Drafted in the fourth round (No. 110 overall) by the Blackhawks in 2016, Carlsson set a career-high with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 44 games this season with Brynäs IF of the Swedish Hockey League. He was tied for fourth among all blue liners with seven goals.

Carlsson, 20, doesn't have major upside, but he's a reliable, well-rounded defenseman and that's what drew the attention of Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley.

“When he’s on the ice, he makes things happen," Kelley told Scott Powers of The Athletic last summer. "I think what impressed the Sweden under-20 coach was Lucas’ ability to challenge in all three zones. He’s an active defensively. Offensively, he challenges. He keeps plays alive.”

Kahun

The 22-year-old forward spent the last four seasons with EHC München of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, Germany's top professional hockey league, where he established career highs in assists (29), points (41) and tied a personal best with 12 goals, leading Munchen to their third straight championship in 2018 after recording four goals and 10 assists in 17 playoff contests.

He raised eyebrows at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, where he compiled five points (two goals, three assists) in seven games and won 55.4 percent of his faceoffs (41 of 74), helping Germany capture a silver medal.

“He has made an enormous step this year, has become much more stable and mature," German national team coach Marco Sturm said after the Olympics. "I am sure that he would grab it in the NHL,” Sturm told the Hamburger Morgenpost.

Most recently, Kahun had a goal and two assists in seven games for Germany during the IIHF Men's World Championship. He's 5-foot-11, 176 pounds whose known to be a solid two-way player and can play center but may need some time to adjust to the smaller ice surface and NHL style of speed and physicality.

Lankinen 

Lankinen is 23 years old and coming off a season in which he was in the discussion for the Urpo Ylönen trophy, annually awarded to the top goaltender of the Finnish Elite League, after registering a league-best 1.33 goals against average and .946 save percentage in 15 games with HIFK.

He missed a large portion of the season because of an injury, but it didn't stop him from turning in a strong postseason, guiding his team to a bronze medal after posting a 1.99 GAA and .936 save percentage in 13 playoff games. The year before that, he led the league with seven shutouts in 42 games, backstopping his team to a silver medal.

This is a low-risk, medium-sized reward signing for the Blackhawks, who could use some more young goaltending depth in the pipeline, especially given how this season unfolded with the big club.

Raddysh

The Blackhawks signed Raddysh to a one-year AHL contract last June, and he turned it into an NHL one after a strong season with the Rockford IceHogs.

Raddysh, 22, accumulated 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) in 66 regular-season games with the IceHogs, and has appeared in each of the team's playoff games en route to the Western Conference Final.

Last season Raddysh was named the OHL's top defenseman after scoring 16 goals and 65 assists for 81 points in 62 games for the Erie Otters, where he was teammates with current Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat. He's the Otters' all-time leader in assists (143) and points (184) among defensemen.

Raddysh might be nothing more than a depth defenseman, but his development is worth monitoring because the offensive production is there and that's something the Blackhawks lacked this past season from their back end.

Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa: 'I will not play hockey anymore'

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AP

Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa: 'I will not play hockey anymore'

Days after putting his Gold Coast condo on the market, Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa revealed to a Slovakian newspaper that he is moving back to his hometown country and doesn't plan on returning to the NHL.

"I will not play hockey anymore," said Hossa, who missed the entire 2017-18 campaign due to a progressive skin disorder and the side effects of the medications involved to treat it. "I have a valid contract with Chicago for the next three years, but I have only one health and it does not allow me to return."

Because he has three years left on a deal that carries a $5.275 million cap hit, Hossa is not expected to sign his retirement papers until the contract is completed or else it would result in salary cap consequences.

The news is not surprising, but it officially allows the Blackhawks to move on without him in the fold roster-wise and toy around with some options this summer.

The first is stashing his contract on long-term injured reserve, as they did last season when they utilized the in-season preference.

The second, which Hossa wondered could happen, is finding a trade partner that would absorb the remainder of his contract, usually done by lower payroll teams aiming to reach the cap floor.

And it wouldn't be difficult trying to find a buyer, considering Hossa's actual salary is $1 million per year over the next three seasons. Hossa, of course, has a no movement clause but it's likely he would waive it given his status at this point.

The good news for Chicago is, the three-time Stanley Cup winner didn't rule out joining the Blackhawks organization in some capacity after his contract expires in 2020-21, whether it's in a front office role or as a team ambassador.

In 19 NHL seasons, Hossa accumulated 525 goals and 609 assists for 1,134 points in 1,309 regular-season games, and added 149 points (52 goals, 97 assists) in 205 postseason contests. He's one of 45 players in league history to net at least 500 goals in his career.