Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Sky-high again, eyeing 7th heaven

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Hawk Talk: Sky-high again, eyeing 7th heaven

Monday, April 25, 2011
Posted: 5:34 p.m. Updated: 12:03 a.m.
By Chris BodenCSNChicago.com

The Blackhawks weren't flying quite as high as they would've liked en route to Game 7 in Vancouver Tuesday night. Left Wing Bryan Bickell could miss the remainder of the playoffs, no longer how long they last, but definitely the first-round series finale and whatever else could be immediately beyond.

"Bryan Bickell underwent surgery with our hand surgeon to repair a tendon lacerated during Game 2 of the Western Cnbference Quarterfinals," said Head Team Physician Dr. Michael Terry in a statement. "While the surgery was anticipated since the injury occurred, Bryan wanted to play before time ran out to complete the procedure appropriately. We anticipate a full recovery in approximately six to eight weeks."

Bickell had two goals in helping the team rally over the last three games, opening the scoring in Games Four and Six. He missed Game 3 after Canucks defenseman Sami Salo accidentally cut him near his wrist after a fall near the Blackhawks bench in Game 2.

Joel Quenneville did announce that Tomas Kopecky was (unlike for Game Five) on this trip and "progressing" from his upper-body injury sustained in the first period of the series opener, raising hope he might be available if the Hawks become the first 8th seed to rally from a 3-0 series deficit to beat a top seed.

But first things, first. The defending champs claim they're not spending much time worrying about who starts in goal for Vancouver Tuesday night, even if Cory Schneider was helped off the ice with only muscle cramping, and not anything more serious.

This will be the first Game 7 in Blackhawks history since 1995, when Denis Savard and company rallied from a 2-0 first-round deficit to defeat Toronto. The only players on the current roster who've played in playoff Game 7's are Marian Hossa, Brian Campbell, and Marty Turco. Quenneville coached in three of them in St. Louis.

While Jonathan Toews may be having a quiet offensive series, Quenneville noted that he's been neutralized - and is neutralizing - 41-goal scorer Ryan Kesler, who's expected to be a Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward) finalist this week. Each center's been held to no goals and three assists.

There are some interesting things to note about the new faces on each side as this series has progressed. Aside from the injured Manny Malhotra, Canucks GM Mike Gillis added Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard, and Raffi Torres. Torres' hit on Brent Seabrook seems to have worked in reverse against his team. Ballard has been a healthy scratch the past two games. Hamhuis pushed Dave Bolland's head into the glass in Game 5, then got his come-uppance from Bolland behind the net Sunday night, setting up the first goal. Then he set up the third by tripping Michael Frolik, leading to his penalty shot.

On the Blackhawks' side, Frolik has two goals, five points and a plus-5 rating. Ben Smith's scored three goals. Chris Campoli's a plus-3 after committing his worst mistake since being acquired at the trade deadline, with the turnover that led to Vancouver's second goal. His teammates would make it a lot less costly.

The Sedins have combined for 12 points through six games (they had 10 in the six games a year ago), but didn't have Bolland in their grill the first three games.

Since Bolland has again treated the Sedin Twins like a scratchy, uncomfortable sweater (a combined minus-13 since his Game Four return, while Bolland has been plus-6), here are some Vancouver-related quotes he left the media with at O'Hare Monday before the team's departure for Game Seven:

On if any thoughts about the Canucks' scenario has crossed his mind: "I don't think I wanna be in those shoes."

If this year's "wingmen" with him (Michael Frolik and Bryan Bickell) form a better line than last year's (Andrew Ladd and Kris Versteeg): "This one."

Because it's the current one? "Yep."

On whether he knew it was Hamhuis retrieving the puck behind Vancouver's net (after being upset wih Hamhuis pushing his head into the glass in Game 5), leading to his big hit, and the Hawks' first goal, by Bickell: "I think I knew from the blue line, in. I thought it felt better than a goal, yep."

On whether he'd ever vacation in Vancouver: "I'm pretty sure if I'm gonna go there on vacation it wouldn't be nice. They probably wouldn't let me in once I got to the border. I think people do recognize me and it's not the nices things they (could) say."

On defending the Sedins: "I don't think I have a formula. It's not like math. I just have to go out there and play. They're just two ordinary players." (This after admitting he heard about the Canucks calling him "nothing special," and "not a game-changer" upon his return to the lineup for Game 4)

On Toews' two goals in the last 18 games: "After last night, 'Tazer' asked me when he was gonna score. I was like, 'I dunno, pretty soon, hopefully.' I guess I'll just keep scoring."

Possible rematch?

If the Blackhawks complete their first-round series comeback from a 3-0 deficit Tuesday night in Vancouver, they'd face San Jose in the second round.

Joe Thornton scored the game-winner (and series-clincher) early in overtime after the Sharks killed off a 5-minute Kings power play that spanned the end of regulation into the start of overtime. After their 4-3 win, the Sharks await either the Blackhawks or Red Wings in round two.

By virtue of the Sharks being the highest remaining seed in the West by virtue of the 8th- (and lowest) seeded Hawks knocking off number-one seed Vancouver, it would set up a rematch of last spring's Western Conference Final a round earlier, highlighted by Hawks Cup-winning goalie Antti Niemi opposing his heir, Crawford.

But first-things-first: the Blackhawks need to defeat the Canucks in Vancouver in Game 7 Tuesday night.

Chris Boden is the host of Blackhawks Pre and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet.

Stan Bowman plays coy when asked about pitching free agent John Tavares

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USA TODAY

Stan Bowman plays coy when asked about pitching free agent John Tavares

The unrestricted free agent market opens up for the NHL on July 1. Five-time All-Star John Tavares is will reportedly be meeting with five different teams to talk about the possibility of leaving the only team he's played for his entire career, the New York Islanders. 

After a highly disappointing 33-39-10 finish to the 2017-18 season, many expect Chicago general manager Stan Bowman to be very aggressive this offseason. When asked by NBC Sports Chicago's Pat Boyle if the Blackhawks would be one of the five teams going after Tavares, Bowman gave a very reticent answer.

"I woudn't want to spoil the surprise, right?" Bowman said with a smile. 

"No, I'm not going to comment on that, but I know we're gonna have a lot of discussions over the next five or six days and we'll see where it goes."

Reports indicate that the Islanders and Tavares had been trying to work out the terms of a long-term extension, but with so many attractive options out there, it will be a tough decision for him. There are several teams coming off of playoff runs expected to go after Tavares, including Tampa Bay, Las Vegas and San Jose. In addition to those teams, his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs are expected to be in play as well.

But Chicago's rough year was so out of place for a team so used to winning consistently, that one can imagine their pitch will be enticing.

Elliotte Friedman of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada had this to say about the Blackhawks potential pursuit of Tavares: "They're not going to tolerate being that bad again, they're going to try something. I think they'll make a run at John Tavares too. I do, I think they'll ask, is there any way we can get him here?"

When taking all of this into account, it is sure to be an extremely exciting free agency period for the Blackhawks. The team is in full "re-tool" rather than "rebuild" mode, and there have been discussions that Kane may be becoming the more vocal leader of the team. But the addition of Tavares to a core of Kane, Jonathan Toews and Corey Crawford could boost the Blackhawks back into Stanley Cup contention. 

Blackhawks 2018 NHL Draft capsules: Scouting reports and analysis

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks 2018 NHL Draft capsules: Scouting reports and analysis

A recap of the Blackhawks' selections in the 2018 NHL Draft, and their scouting reports, including analysis from Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman and VP of amateur scouting Mark Kelley:

Round 1, pick 8: Adam Boqvist, defenseman

Round 1, pick 27: Nicolas Beaudin, defenseman

Round 3, pick 69: Jake Wise, center

— What you need to know: Wise, 18, scored 11 goals and dished out 32 assists in 38 games for the United States National Team Development Program last season. He also scored a goal and added four assists in seven games during the Under-18 World Junior Championship. Wise will play at Boston University next year.

— Scouting report: Wise is 5-foot-10, 194 pounds and is known to be an excellent skater. He's also responsible in his own end, which is a trait the Blackhawks always appreciate in their younger players.

— Player reaction: "I thought the Hawks were probably one of the teams I was going to go to for the longest time. I don’t know why, but I always had a gut feeling. And to go to the Blackhawks, it’s unbelievable. Unbelievable organization and I couldn’t be happier."

— Analysis from Kelley: "He's just a really smart two-way centerman. He had a great start to the season and then he missed some time and it was ironic when he came back, it was the same time Jack Hughes joined the team and all of a sudden they had a No. 1 and No. 2 center and the team really took off."

Round 3, pick 74: Niklas Nordgren, forward

— What you need to know: Nordgren, 18, compiled 42 points (13 goals, 29 assists) in 28 games for Jr. A SM-liiga in the HIFK U20 league, and produced at a point-per-game rate in the playoffs with six goals and four assists in 10 games. He also reigstered 10 points (eight goals, two assists) in seven games for Finland during the Under-18 World Junior Championship. He plans to return to Finland next season.

— Scouting report: Nordgren is an undersized winger (5-foot-9, 170 pounds) but has the ability to score and can play in any situation.

— Player reaction: "Pretty exciting to get [drafted by the] Blackhawks, one of my favorites teams in the NHL."

— Analysis from Kelley: "He has great instincts around the net, he has a really good stick in traffic. I think if you look and track his goals you'll find they're goal scorers goals. He gets in the dirt, he's not afraid and he's just got a really great release."

Round 4, pick 120: Philipp Kurashev, forward

— What you need to know: Kurashev, 18, recorded 60 points (19 goals, 41 assists) in 59 games for the Québec Remparts of the QMJHL, and added one goal and four assists in six postseason contests. He also scored a goal and added two assists in five games with Switzerland during the Under-20 World Junior Championship.

— Scouting report: Kurashev is 6-foot-0, 190 pounds and is known to be a smooth skater who can blow past defenders during odd-man rushes. There are concerns about his effort level, but the package is there and that's what attracted the Blackhawks.

— Analysis from Kelley: "Really smart, skilled centerman but he's also really strong on his skates. We thought he had a really good year this year. We think he's better acclimated, we expect him to have a real good year this year coming back."

Round 5, pick 139: Mikael Hakkarainen, forward

— What you need to know: Hakkarainen, 20, accumulated 46 points (15 goals, 31 assists) in 36 games for the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL last season, and added an assist in three playoff games. He was a member of the Chicago Steel for 16 games in 2016-17, where he recorded four assists. Hakkarainen will play at Providence College for the 2018-19 season.

— Scouting report: Hakkarainen is 6-foot-1, 194 pounds and can be an impact-type player and contribute on special teams.

— Analysis from Kelley: "I think what attracted us to him was, when you went and saw him play, he got on the scoresheet but even if he wasn't on the scoresheet you noticed him play. He played hard. 200-foot."

Round 6, pick 162: Alexis Gravel, goaltender

— What you need to know: Gravel, 18, had a 3.38 goals against average and .890 save percentage in 39 games with Halifax Mooseheads last season, and a 2.70 GAA and .917 save percentage in eight playoff games. 

— Scouting report: Gravel is 6-foot-3, 223 pounds, which immediately stand out because it's the kind of size and big frame the Blackhawks like in their goaltenders. His strengths include his quick glove hand and rebound control.

— Player reaction: "It's amazing. It's probably the best day of my life. I just look down and there's a Chicago Blackhawks logo on the jersey. It feels amazing. It's unreal."

— Analysis from Bowman: "Alexis is a guy we think has a lot of potential. And with goalies you have to be patient with them, they take a little bit longer [to develop]. But he’s got a lot of ability, he’s got the size to be an NHL goalie, and I think that’s part of it. We’re happy that he was there and we were able to get him."

— Analysis from Kelley: "He's going to have a great situation. They're going to host the Memorial Cup next year. We're expecting a peak year out of him. He's been a good goaltender. This year we saw him play some really good games. He's in a good spot. We like the opportunity for him."

Round 7, pick 193: Josiah Slavin, forward

— What you need to know: Slavin, 19, had 42 points (23 goals, 19 assists) in 60 games last season with the Lincoln Stars of the USHL, and two goals and one assist in seven playoff games. He is expected to return to the USHL before going to Colorado College in 2019-20. He is the younger brother of Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin.

— Analysis from Kelley: "We like the project there. We think where he is on the curve, he's gonna play another year and then go to Colorado College. We just like the whole project."