Five Things from Hawks-Isles: Top line auditions continue


Five Things from Hawks-Isles: Top line auditions continue

Coach Joel Quenneville left New York on Friday night happier with the Blackhawks in Game 2 than in Game 1, but saying he needed to see more for Game 3.

“We have to be better,” he said.

On Saturday night, the Blackhawks were better. In their best all-around game of this early season – yes, we know three games is a small sample size – the Blackhawks got a little something from everyone in their 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders. It was a positive way to end the weekend for the Blackhawks, who won two of their first three to start the season.

[MORE: Second line shines again as Blackhawks top Islanders]

So before we wrap up the weekend, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory on Saturday night.

1. The Arty Line is pretty good. This is becoming a broken record but one the Blackhawks will listen to incessantly. That line name, by the way, came from Quenneville. Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane have made a strong combination, and Panarin and Kane combined for six points (a goal, two assists each) on Saturday. All lines have their ups and downs. The Blackhawks will ride this one as long as it’s up.

2. Teuvo Teravainen looks more like himself. Teravainen has plenty of skill and he’s gotten better defensively. But he looked hesitant when on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Perhaps he feels compelled to pass to those two as often as possible but on Saturday, centering the third line, Teravainen was showing the puck possession and shot that Quenneville wants to see from him. “He’s got that high-end ability to possess [the puck] and distribute it at the right times, draw attention and make sustained plays,” Quenneville said. “We still like his effectiveness without the puck and that reliability helps him make another line we can trust and play in all situations.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. TVR improving. Trevor van Riemsdyk got off to a slow start this season – actually his camp wasn’t as good as last year’s, either. But with each passing game van Riemsdyk is looking more comfortable. It didn’t hurt that he got two points, including his first NHL goal, on Saturday night. The confidence is building. “That first game was a slow start by me, personally. That can’t happen,” van Riemsdyk said. “I think as the games have gone on I’ve felt more comfortable playing better and better. I just want to be progressing in that upward way.”

4. Darling shows no rust. Scott Darling wasn’t supposed to get the second half of the Blackhawks’ final preseason game, but he did when Corey Crawford came out for precautionary reasons. Darling said at the time it helped to get a little unexpected work in. Whether that factored into tonight, who knows, but Darling looked comfortable from the start against the Islanders. The lone goal he gave up really wasn’t his fault – it came off a turnover – but Darling looked ready for the season in stopping 28 of 29 shots.

5. Top-line auditions continue. Ryan Garbutt got his chance with Toews and Hossa on Saturday. Quenneville said Garbutt was, “all right. He was OK.” The Blackhawks will keep looking for the first-line fix – hey, it could be Teravainen again if that game he played tonight transitions to the top line. But Quenneville said the Blackhawks will try and settle on a left wing there soon.

All eyes on Blackhawks defensemen as prospect camp opens


All eyes on Blackhawks defensemen as prospect camp opens

The second wave of Blackhawks defensemen is on the way. That's exactly where all the attention was when prospect camp opened up Monday at MB Ice Arena.

Nicolas Beaudin. Adam Boqvist. Henri Jokiharju. Ian Mitchell. Call it the Big Four. Where are they all at in their development? When will they be ready to make an NHL impact? Who's the most pro ready? 

Lots of questions. Those will slowly start to get answered and it begins now.

While there may not necessarily be an open competition among the group right away, there's certainly a desire to make a strong first impression in front of the upper brass that included Stan Bowman, John McDonough and Joel Quenneville watching on Day 1.

"Every NHL team has a lot of good defensemen prospects, so I mean obviously when you want to go out there you want to showcase yourself as best as you can," Mitchell said. "Obviously you want to be the best defenseman here so that's my goal going into this, I want to prove to everyone that I'm a good defenseman, I deserve to play at the next level. Obviously there's lots of good players here, but you're trying to all succeed."

Said Beaudin: "There's a lot of competition. There's a lot of good, young defensemen. I think you just need to be different when you play when you show what you can do."

Said Boqvist: "I'm trying to be better every day. Of course I will play in the NHL one day and win Stanley Cups, so that's my mindset."

The theme? Focus on your own game, take what you learn out of this week and apply those tools in your game when advancing your development next season. The rest will take care of itself.

Mitchell will go back to Denver for his sophomore campaign to continue his development. Beaudin is expected to return to the QMJHL with the Drummondville Voltigeurs. Boqvist signed with the OHL's London Knights, where he will look to get accustomed to the North American style of play.

For Jokiharju, the goal is different. This is his second development camp. He signed an entry-level contract in June. Making the big club is a real goal and a legitimate possibility for a Blackhawks team looking for young, impact defensemen immediately.

"I think if Henri has a really good summer of training, comes into camp, I certainly thinks he gets a good look," Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley told NBC Sports Chicago last month.

Jokiharju showed poise and confidence with and without the puck during drills, like someone who knows this is only the first step towards that ultimate goal.

"Yeah," Jokiharju responded when asked if the expectation is to make it to the NHL this season. "You want to set the bar high, you don't want to set the bar too low. I want to dream big and that's the dream."

That's the dream for everyone. When that happens, it's up to them. This week is a chance to set an early tone.

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery was identified as the victim in an early morning drowning on Sunday at the Hamilton Harbour, Hamilton Police confirmed. He was 35.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, Emery and his friends jumped in the water around 6:30 a.m., but Emery never resurfaced. His body was recovered later in the afternoon.

Emery played in the NHL for 11 seasons, two of which came with the Blackhawks from 2011-13, where he served as a backup goaltender to Corey Crawford.

In 2013, he teammated up with Crawford to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) with the fewest goals against in a single season, before going on to capture his first Stanley Cup. During that season, Emery went 17-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts.

The Blackhawks issued this statement following the confirmation:

The Chicago Blackhawks organization was deeply saddened to hear of Ray Emery’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.

The hockey community took to Twitter to offer their condolences when news began to spread: