Blackhawks

Former Senators shine in Blackhawks' 'biggest win'

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Former Senators shine in Blackhawks' 'biggest win'

OTTAWA, Ontario The writing was on the wall as the Blackhawks embarked on their latest road trip. They havent been very good away from the United Center, and if they want to do anything in the postseason including get there that had to change.

They took a big stride there on Friday night.

Marian Hossa scored the game-winner for the second consecutive game and Ray Emery stopped 25 shots against his former team as the Blackhawks beat the Ottawa Senators 2-1 at ScotiaBank Place. The Blackhawks won their second in a row and remained in sixth place in the Western Conference.

The Blackhawks got everything they needed on Friday night, from strong goaltending to great defense to timely goals. They peppered Senators goaltender Robin Lehner with 39 shots, overcoming a 1-0 deficit in the process.

We said to the guys after the game, Thats our biggest win. Its exactly what we wanted, coach Joel Quenneville said. We had everybody going, we had short shifts, had good energy and purpose. We needed a great start to this trip and thats the type of game we wanted.

Patrick Kane, who didnt make the score sheet despite a tremendous game by him and fellow top-liners Andrew Brunette and Hossa, nevertheless loved the outcome.

Thats probably everything you can ask for as a team and we probably couldve scored a couple more goals, too, Kane said. Were shaping up to be a good team. We just have to stay focused.

The top line had plenty of that on Friday, and how they didnt end up with a couple of goals is credit to Lehner and, perhaps, some tough luck.

They missed some A-plus-plus-plus chances, but youve got to love their puck possession and threat off the rush, Quenneville said. It was a dangerous line two games in a row. The finish wasnt there but we loved the way they played.

While the skill was tallying the shots on one end the Blackhawks defense was stymying the Senators on the other. Between the checking line and defensemen, the Blackhawks kept the Senators at bay.

We put tons of pucks at their net, got our chances and did things the right way and really limited their chances, said Emery. We protected our lead well, really let them make their mistakes and still got chances. Its important we won but more important that we won the right way.

Emery took care of the rest, saving some of his biggest stops for the final few minutes when the Senators were looking for an equalizer. Emery felt a little sentimental in returning to Ottawa, but put those feelings aside once the game began.

I played here for a while and had some great times and I still have some good friends on the team, he said. But I realize it was a huge game for the team. Were in a tough spot as far as the playoff battle goes. You have to forget that stuff and focus on the game.

The Blackhawks got a little bit from everyone on Friday. Most important, they got the type of game theyre going to need this spring, especially on the road. On their last multi-game road trip of the regular season, it was an excellent start.

We expect better on the road, Emery said. And its a goal of ours, especially on this trip, to correct that and put that to rest.

Recapping breakout OHL season for Blackhawks top prospect Adam Boqvist

Recapping breakout OHL season for Blackhawks top prospect Adam Boqvist

The London Knights set high expectations for themselves going into the 2018-19 OHL campaign. They always do. Their roster is usually loaded with top NHL prospects and this season was no different.

After finishing No. 1 in the Western Conference with 99 points, the Knights looked poised to go on a deep run. They got off to a roaring start in the playoffs by sweeping the Windsor Spitfires (4-0) and kicked off the second round by winning three straight against the Guelph Storm. But then, for the first time all season, the Knights lost four in a row to squander a 3-0 series lead and were eliminated just like that. It was a disappointing finish for a team with Memorial Cup aspirations.

One of the bright spots of the postseason was Blackhawks prospect Adam Boqvist. He was tied for first among all skaters with 10 goals through two rounds; no other defenseman had more than six. And he finished with 13 points in 11 games for a points-per-game average of 1.18.

To summarize his season: Boqvist scored one goal in his first 15 games. From that point on, he finished with 29 goals and 60 points in 50 games, including playoffs. He became an offensive driving force.

It's unclear what his future holds, but with Evan Bouchard expected to turn pro and secure a full-time roster spot on the Edmonton Oilers next season, returning to London would put Boqvist in a position where he could be the No. 1 defenseman in all situations.

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Blackhawks 2018-19 season grades: Front office

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AP

Blackhawks 2018-19 season grades: Front office

If we're evaluating Stan Bowman's moves as a whole, we have to go back to July 1 when the 2018-19 season really started.

On that day, the Blackhawks announced three signings: Chris Kunitz (one year, $1 million), Brandon Manning (two years, $2.25 million cap hit) and Cam Ward (one year, $3 million). Not exactly splashy additions after missing the playoffs for the first time in 10 years — although, to be fair, it wasn't a great market to throw money around.

Eleven days later, the Blackhawks traded Marian Hossa and his $5.275 million cap hit to the Arizona Coyotes in a seven-player deal that included top-nine winger Vinnie Hinostroza. Bowman acknowledged after the trade that he tried exploring every possible avenue before surrendering that the financial flexibility became more valuable.

But the trade might've put the team in a better position going into free agency had it been executed before July 1. Because of all that, Bowman's grade isn't looking great so far.

Then we get into the actual regular season.

The biggest move Bowman made was the coaching change on Nov. 6 in going from future Hall of Famer Joel Quenneville to Jeremy Colliton, which was a controversial decision in and of itself, especially the timing of it.

“There’s no perfect way to do things," Bowman admitted. "I think we made the best of it at the time. It’s one of those things where you’ve just gotta get through it. I think he’s gonna benefit from not only having a training camp next year but also we had this whole long stretch of a season. ... We’ve got a lot more things we want to get to, and I think we did a good job of — it’s a good start, but I’m sure Jeremy will tell you that we want to be way better next year and we’re gonna push our players to be better. We’re gonna try to do things differently. It’s not just taking this exact same program and we’ll start that. We want to do different things as well and enhance our team. I think there’s reason for hope there.”

Where did Bowman start to earn high marks? The roster tinkering, beginning in late November.

Perhaps recognizing that Nick Schmaltz wasn't progressing the way the team would have liked in a contract season, Bowman dealt him for a potential future second-line center in Dylan Strome and replenished the top-nine forward they lost in Hinostroza with Brendan Perlini, who showed flashes down the stretch. That's turned out to be a win-win for both sides.

The trade that was very clearly one-sided is the one Bowman pulled off with Peter Chiarelli, who was later relieved of his GM duties with the Edmonton Oilers.

Not only did Bowman acquire rugged winger Drake Caggiula, who became such a valuable part of the Blackhawks' second-half turnaround because he was a perfect complement for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on the top line, but he unloaded the contract of Manning without having to retain salary or giving up an important piece of the roster. It essentially gave the Blackhawks an extra $2.25 million to work with this summer, which shouldn't go unnoticed when you look at how deep the 2019 free agent class is.

Bowman essentially undid the mistake he made and put the Blackhawks in an even better position going into this offseason by adding a useful player on top of it. So he certainly upped his overall grade.

Now it's time to spend the money he cleared in getting rid of the contracts of Hossa and Manning, and continue building around the current core.

"We're not going to bring the same group back," Bowman said. "That's clear. We don't do that really any year. There's changes to every team, even a team that ends up winning the Cup this year will have some different players. We're going to have some new players next year. What we're going to do is try to improve in the areas where our team needs some help and the way that looks isn't completely clear right now, but we have time over the next couple months to dive in and look at our team in greater detail and figure out how we're going to make that happen.

"There's obviously free agent signings, there's trades, there's growth from within. Those are the ways that your team improves from year to year and we're going to do that. So we're going to have some new players here next year for sure but we have a lot of players that are going to be back and I think a lot of the key guys who had good seasons they're coming back for sure, so we don't need across the board changes but we do need some new players."

Front office: B-

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