Blackhawks

Hawks can't complete comeback, fall in shootout

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Hawks can't complete comeback, fall in shootout

The Blackhawks just cant break the habit of slow starts, especially when the Phoenix Coyotes are in their building. But unlike the last time the Coyotes were here a few days ago, the Blackhawks got back in this one enough to get a point.

Jonathan Toews had two goals and an assist but Oliver Ekman-Larsson had the shootout winner in the Coyotes 4-3 victory at the United Center on Monday night. Patrick Kane also had a goal and an assist for the Blackhawks, who have now gotten points in five of their last six games.

It was nearly a comeback victory for the Blackhawks, who were down 3-0 just 69 seconds into the second period. Corey Crawford was pulled for Ray Emery, who stopped 11 shots in regulation and overtime.

It was the second time Crawfords been pulled in as many games against the Coyotes.

The first goal was on a 2 on 1, clean pass, not his fault, coach Joel Quenneville said of Crawford. But certainly Ray gave us a spot to get us a point, which was good.

Getting one point wasnt bad. But Toews said the Blackhawks couldve made it two.

Some games lately we go down 2-3 goals in first or second period and it just seems it becomes a funk we cant get out of. As a team we did that tonight the second half of the game. We dictated most of the play, he said. We played better late but you get to that point where its 3-3, getting chances late in the third, we want to find a way to get that extra point.

The Blackhawks had a few prime chances to get that extra point. The biggest was a Marian Hossa attempt, but Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle was there to block it away.

We had a look there with Hossa in the third. That was a special look and good opportunity, Quenneville said. It was a good second period, good third, but a tough start to the game. You dont want to give them the lead. We were fortunate to get ourselves back into it.

Neither Toews nor Hossa could beat Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith in the shootout, while Ekman-Larssson and Radim Vrbata both connected on backhands for Phoenix.

I think we know our start couldve been better. They were on top of us a lot in the first period, defenseman Duncan Keith said. As the game went on we were able to establish more of a forecheck and get pucks behind them and get our game going and get more control of our play.

The Blackhawks found a way to get a point. It didnt look like theyd even have a chance at to start the second period. They finished strong. But that needs to be present from the start.

We can blame this loss on our first-period performance but at the same time we played some good hockey in the second and third, Toews said. We have to remind ourselves if we bring that for 60 minutes, especially at home, were going to be a tough team to beat. Its just about bringing that complete game right now. Theres not much more to say.

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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