Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Monday Morning Music City Musings

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Hawk Talk: Monday Morning Music City Musings

Monday, April 26, 20101:45 PM

By Chris BodenCSNChicago.com
Marian Hossa was on the ice, but Jonathan Toews and Brent Sopel were not.

Hossa expressed relief over NHL disciplinary boss Colin Campbell ruling he shouldn't be suspended following Saturday's hit on Dan Hamhuis, who was disappointed both will be on the ice tonight for Game 6. Predators coach Barry Trotz accepted the verdict, and was ready to move on.

That's what he's been telling his players to do the last couple of days since the roof almost came off the United Center four minutes into overtime on Hossa's goal that put the Hawks in the series driver's seat. He told us after the morning skate that, emotionally, his team was at "Gound Zero" in the locker room. He believes he's gotten them to the point that it's set aside and that they'll give the Blackhawks their very best tonight.

He may also finally have leading scorer Patric Hornqvist available again. Trotz says Hornqvist will skate in pregame (as he did this morning), and that it'll literally be a "gametime decision." Hornqvist was hopeful in the locker room, but said he would not play with his upper body injury unless he's 100 percent. Glad Brian Campbell didn't feel the same way.

Trotz also says he'll try some new things on that 0-for-21 power play -- that maybe he and his coaching staff have been too stubborn in their ways, and are ready to tweak a thing or two. The addition of Hornqvist would certainly help, as he also led the club with 10 power play goals.

The man who's had a big hand in that penalty-kill success -- Sopel -- was given the morning off to help his body prepare for a few more blocked shots tonight. Joel Quenneville says he'll play, as will Toews, who soldiered on after his leg appeared to take a bad hit along the boards Saturday.

It was difficult to gauge from the locker room this morning jumping from interview to interview the team's mood. It seemed pretty serious. And it's hard to even tell whether scoring the first goal or two might have an effect on these Predators. Maybe at this point, it would have a greater influence than at any other point in the series, based on Saturday. But keep in mind that overcoming a 3-1 deficit in Game 5 was as impressive as their inability to close it out was unimpressive. They seemed to have gained the Hawks' respect, as well they should. Letting a series rest on Game 7 -- even at home -- is no guarantee, especially against this team if they bounce back tonight, and especially in this postseason.

One thing the local media draws on is a game played on March 11 in San Jose. The Predators took a 4-2 lead into the third period, allowed six Sharks goals, and lost, 8-5. The naysayers thought it was the start of their slippery slope in the competitive West as other teams outside the top eight appeared to be stepping up their games. Trotz's Troupe responded with a six-game win streak, starting with wins in Anahaeim and L.A. So before the Hawks start planning for a rematch with Vancouver ... first things first. If the Predators are down, they may as well knock 'em out and expect the elimination game to be, as they say, the toughest one to get.

I'll be on from Bridgestone Arena on "SportsNite" at 6:30, "Blackhawks Pregame Live" at 7:30, and in-game interviews during Game 6, starting at 8:00 on Comcast SportsNet Plus, when we expect to talk with John Madden along the bench just before the puck-drop.

Why fixing penalty kill is crucial for Blackhawks in 2019-20

Why fixing penalty kill is crucial for Blackhawks in 2019-20

Just how important is special teams in the NHL?

Of the 16 teams that qualified for the postseason, 14 clubs had at least one special teams unit that was ranked in the top half of the league and 12 teams had at least one unit ranked in the top 10.

The Blackhawks finished the season with the 15th-ranked power play and 31st-ranked penalty kill. The Blackhawks' 72.7 percent kill rate is the lowest the league has seen in 30 years.

“The penalty kill is something that clearly has to be better," GM Stan Bowman said. "That was a big disappointment this year, no question about that. So we have to devote some resources to that. Some of it might be players, if we get some players that have that kind of experience or have a history. Part of it is tactically can we find ways to be better. We have a lot of time now to study it and put a lot of our focus on that.”

Jeremy Colliton did not rule out getting external help to improve the PK.

“We’re going to look at everything, for sure," he said. "We’re going to look at obviously tactically and we’re going to look at the personnel and how we’re using guys and try to put them in the best situation we can. And maybe that’s new, different guys who weren’t getting the opportunity. Or maybe that’s someone from outside.”

The Blackhawks did manage to fix their power play issues this past season. When Colliton became head coach on Nov. 6, the Blackhawks power play was near the bottom of the league. By December, the man advantage was dead last, cashing in on fewer than 12 percent of their power plays.

Colliton made Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Erik Gustafsson his top power play unit and from Dec. 20 till the end of February they were the league's best unit, converting on 35.2 percent of their power plays.  

Gustafsson’s addition to the power play was a major factor in the unit's improvement.

"A big part of our power play progression and transformation from being at the bottom to being in the top group," Bowman said of Gustafsson. "I was really pleased with that and we're going to need him next year for sure.”

If the Blackhawks penalty kill can make strides like the power play did, Colliton’s crew will likely be playing at this time next season.

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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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