Blackhawks

Five Things from Winter Classic: Blackhawks' quick start doesn't translate to strong finish

Five Things from Winter Classic: Blackhawks' quick start doesn't translate to strong finish

ST. LOUIS – OK, the outdoor games are just not friendly to the Blackhawks.

Yes, as the Blackhawks players and coach Joel Quenneville told us, this one was a close one that could’ve gone either way. But it’s the fourth of five outdoor games that went against the Blackhawks, as they fell 4-1 to the host St. Louis Blues on Monday.

We talk about the not-so-good outdoor record knowing full well it won’t matter: commissioner Gary Bettman said on Sunday that the league is planning on three outdoor games next season and we’ll be floored if the Blackhawks aren’t in one of them.

But we digress. The Blackhawks are struggling whether they’re outside or in right now, and they’ll have a few things to fix early in the new year. Before we get to that for an off-day story, let’s look at the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ Winter Classic loss.

1. Maybe not on the quick starts. The Blackhawks haven’t gotten off to very many fast starts this season but they did on Monday. Michal Kempny’s knuckleball shot put the Blackhawks up 1-0 just 62 seconds into the game. But for the second consecutive game a quick start didn’t translate into a strong finish. Oh, it was another good game for Kempny, who now has two goals in as many games. But the Blackhawks couldn’t muster enough at the end to build off that early lead.

[SHOP: Gear up Blackhawks fans!]

2. Conditions were just fine. Hey, we were all wondering how this one was going to go, considering the forecast leading up to this game and the rain falling at the start of it. The concerns were unfounded, however, as there were no real issues. Duncan Keith said the ice was, “probably the best we’ve had in an outdoor game.” Trevor van Riemsdyk, one of many players who wears a visor, said that wasn’t a problem, either. “You gotta wipe it off more than in a normal game. Just being outdoors it may fog up on you a couple of times but once you get moving it clears up.”

3. Vladimir Tarasenko does it again. Tarasenko was close a few times before breaking through in this one, including hitting iron on a third-period power play. But he got his goals against the Blackhawks, as he often does. Tarasenko, who scored twice in less than two minutes in the third period, now has 12 goals in 19 career regular-season games against the Blackhawks. The guy just loves torturing the Blackhawks – and their fans.

4. Too quiet start to the third. The Blackhawks had to start the third period on the penalty kill. But they didn’t get much momentum off recording their fourth kill of the game. The Blues just kept the pressure on while the Blackhawks couldn’t get a shot on goal for about 10 minutes. Their first shot came on their power play midway through the third period – Jonathan Toews – but it took way too long for the Blackhawks to get going in those final 20 minutes.

5. Blackhawks 1-4-1 in their last six games. We’ll get to this more on Tuesday, which we’ll assume is going to be a Blackhawks off day. The Blackhawks are still atop the Western Conference but they’ve looked shaky lately. It doesn’t help that Marian Hossa is out – just in case anyone still doubted his impact on every freaking game. The Blackhawks are hoping to get Hossa back on Thursday, when they host the Buffalo Sabres. They need to get more of a complete game back, too.

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.