Blackhawks

Hawks-Preds: Who busts out of late-season slump first?

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Hawks-Preds: Who busts out of late-season slump first?

The Blackhawks left Colorado not thrilled with the end to their regular season but certainly not demoralized by it either.

“We’ll be fine: get to practice and get excited about Monday (is) where we’re at,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “All four games, tight games, comparable losses.”

The Nashville Predators were probably feeling the same way, given they went winless in their last six regular-season games (0-4-2). The Blackhawks’ problem was they couldn’t score goals. The Preds’ problem was they couldn’t stop opponents from scoring them.

But as the two teams get set to meet in their first-round matchup later this week, the question is obvious: Which team shakes its late regular-season doldrums first?

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Now Blackhawks turn their attention to Predators]

The Blackhawks soon head to Nashville, where they’ll face the Predators in Game 1 on Wednesday and Game 2 on Friday. After another loss to end to the regular season on Saturday — a 3-2 loss to the Avalanche — the Blackhawks sounded relatively upbeat and ready to start the postseason.

Still, they know facing the Predators, who they haven’t seen since Dec. 29, won’t be easy. The Blackhawks have struggled to score goals, managing just five in their last four games. Now they get to try and solve Pekka Rinne.

“Obviously, the last four or five games here we haven’t scored enough goals, and it’s not going to be easier playing against Nashville,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “We have to find a way to get people in front of the net more and get more rebounds and just more shots and just work him that way.”

For the Predators, giving up goals has been the problem. Whether it’s defense or Rinne, the numbers haven’t been good. Rinne gave up 14 goals in his last four regular-season starts, in which he went 0-2-2.

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get a Niklas Hjalmarsson jersey right here]

So how much do late regular-season losing streaks affect a team? Quenneville said it doesn’t matter much at all.

“It starts fresh,” he said of the postseason. “Everything’s even.”

Well, maybe for some teams that’s true. Take the Los Angeles Kings last year, who went 1-2-2 down the stretch, lost the first three games to San Jose in the first round, then took off and won their second Stanley Cup in three seasons. Then there are last year’s St. Louis Blues, who dealt with injuries and a poor late-season record heading into the playoffs. They took the first two games from the Blackhawks, thanks to comebacks late in each contest, but then lost the next four.

If postseason experience is any benefit, the Blackhawks have plenty. Much like the Kings, they’ve usually saved their best for this time of year, regardless of how that last part of the 82-game schedule went. In facing a revamped Nashville team that’s hungry to become a playoff threat, the Blackhawks will need to tap into that same mindset now.

Neither the Blackhawks nor the Predators got the desired results these last few games. As Quenneville said, however, the slate is clean. Now we’ll see which team starts writing the more successful playoff story.

Blackhawks trade goalie Robin Lehner to Golden Knights

Blackhawks trade goalie Robin Lehner to Golden Knights

The Blackhawks made a major last-minute trade deadline move Monday, dealing goalie Robin Lehner to the Vegas Golden Knights in a three-team deal.

Chicago sent Lehner to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for winger Martins Dzierkals, a 22-year-old unsigned draft pick. Lehner and Dzierkals were then traded to Vegas, netting the Blackhawks goaltender Malcolm Subban, defenseman Slava Demin and Vegas' second-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

Toronto received Vegas' fifth-round pick and retained some of Lehner's salary for helping complete the deal.

Subban has an .890 save percentage in 19 starts with the Golden Knights this season. Demin is a teammate of Hawks' prospect Ian Mitchell, also a D man, at Denver. 

Lehner signed a one-year, $5 million free-agent contract with Chicago the past offseason, making him an unrestricted free agent after this year. 

The 28-year-old netminder - who was a Vezina Trophy finalist last year with the New York Islanders - was 16-10-5 as a Hawk this season with 3.01 goals-against average, a .918 save percentage and zero shutouts.

Lehner and Chicago goalie Corey Crawford had been evenly splitting the net for the Blackhawks. Crawford has a 2.80 goals-against average, a .915 save percentage and one shutout this season. 

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Blackhawks trade Erik Gustafsson to Flames ahead of NHL deadline

Blackhawks trade Erik Gustafsson to Flames ahead of NHL deadline

The Blackhawks traded defenseman Erik Gustafsson to the Calgary Flames, the club announced Monday. In return, the Hawks acquired the earlier of Calgary's two third-round picks.

The puck-carrying defenseman had 26 points (six goals, 20 assists) with the Hawks this season after finishing last year with a career-high 60 points (17 goals, 43 assists). 

The 27-year-old blueliner carries a $1.2 million cap hit and will become an unrestricted free agent after this season. 

The Swede had 116 points (28 goals, 88 assists) in four seasons with the Blackhawks after being selected No. 93 overall in the 2012 NHL Draft. 

Gustafsson admitted his uncertain future was weighing on him in Chicago this season. 

"I don't know how I can't block it away," Gustafsson told NBC Sports Chicago earlier this month. "At the start of the year I was nervous going in, if I'm going to sign here or if I'm going to be traded or something like that. I think that just affected my game and I was thinking about that instead of thinking about my game on the ice."

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