Blackhawks

Hawks united, centered with mind games on

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Hawks united, centered with mind games on

Friday, April 22, 2011Posted: 8:10 p.m.
By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com
If the Canucks were going to go back to Vancouver after Game Four, the Blackhawks thought they might as well go with them. If the Hawks were coming back home after Game Five, why not make the Presidents Trophy champs add to their miles, too?

Thats a lot cuter and easier-sounding than the reality, but the mind games have certainly begun.

WATCH: Luongo shaves playoff beard

Before we start crowning the defending champs as the next Miracle on Ice, lets keep in mind 44 other teams in NHL history have turned 3-0 deficits to 3-2, and only three have overcome. And besides the 10-1-2 stretch that bridged February into March, the Hawks havent been very consistent this season. They have to be now.

On paper, most NHL executives might take Vancouvers roster over these Hawks. The question now becomes if Jonathan Toews and company can keep a firm hold on momentum while continue raising the doubts of the team theyve KOd from the past two post-seasons.

You compare the last two games to the first three its definitely more fun now, said the captain Friday afternoon upon returning from Vancouver. Weve been in a battle a long time. Things have tilted our way and were playing our best hockey of the year when it counts. Every single guys buying into that. Were saying we have the potential to do something special if we keep going that way, and were not holding anything back.

While Toews has yet to score a goal (three assists) in this series, he continues doing everything else in his job description, and doing it quite well. Hes not letting the personal offensive snakebite get in the way of other things, but as Tracey Myers accurately indicated in her in-game Tweets during Game Five, the chances hes been getting the last couple of games would seem to bode well to join Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith with multiple mentions on the scoresheet.

Hossa started having a greater presence in the Game Four rout, before scoring twice and setting up another in Game Five. Hed already been reminded about scoring a total of three goals in his 26-game Blackhawks career before Thursday night.

Then theres Keith, who has four goals and two assists the last three games. The Norris Trophy winner has alluded to not quite being himself this season, but he provided some clarity upon getting off the team plane at OHare.

This year for mes been frustrating. Ive felt Ive had really good stretches and times where I dont want to say lose my focus, or not interested, but just good stretches and bad stretches. More inconsistency than I wouldve liked. Im trying to have a good playoff here and do what I can to help the team keep going.

Keiths known for his devotion to conditioning, and is a creature of habit during the season, and in the off-season. Last summer was hardly your typical off-season, even if he had the best possible reason for it not being typical.

I like to work out and train a lot, and Im not making excuses but I didnt feel excited coming back to start a season. Once you get a bad start that you dont like or arent happy with, it kind of snowballs in some ways. You think youre getting out of it, and it comes back and becomes a mental thing. It makes you appreciate having a good start.

Hes playing his best hockey, Toews says. Its been awhile since weve seen him play that well. He was just all over the place. There isnt anything he wasnt doing (Thursday night). He was getting into the mix after the whistle. He wasnt afraid to get in there. Hes been deadly with his shot from the point. Whether its the power play or the penalty kill, hes our top guy right now.

Part of the bad start to this series was Raffi Torress Game Three hit on Brent Seabrook, which has sidelined Keiths best friend, frequent defensive partner, and fellow Olympian.

Keith and the Hawks arent admitting to the non-suspension of Torres being a rallying point, just topping off the embarrassment of being on the brink of elimination so quickly. The team hopes to have a better idea of Seabrooks possible return when he takes to the ice Saturday morning, probably before the regular practice.

Were still realistic and know were in a tough spot and facing elimination, said Keith. A lot of our motivation comes from that.

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

2019 Blackhawks development camp: Day 4 thoughts and takeaways

2019 Blackhawks development camp: Day 4 thoughts and takeaways

Here are four thoughts and takeaways from Day 4 of Blackhawks development camp at Fifth Third Arena:

1. MacKenzie Entwistle's growth

When the Blackhawks traded Marian Hossa's contract to Arizona last summer, Entwistle was perhaps viewed as a throw-in on the surface in the seven-player deal. But he certainly wasn't viewed that way by the Blackhawks.

Entwistle was drafted in the third round, No. 69 overall in 2017. The Blackhawks had the very next pick at No. 70 overall and were preparing to take him. They ended up selecting Andrei Altybarmakyan instead, but the organization had their eye on Entwistle and it was important for him to be included in the deal with the Coyotes.

Entwistle took a big step in his development this past season. He started the season as captain of the Hamilton Bulldogs in the OHL, was traded to Guelph Storm and averaged more than a point per game. Guelph went on to win the OHL championship, and he was a key reason why.

In between all that, Entwistle represented Team Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship. He scored three goals in five games and shined in a bottom-six, penalty-killing role. And that's exactly what he sees himself doing at the pro level, which the Blackhawks like to see when players accept what kind of players they are.

"I was kind of slotted into a role that was sort of an energy, penalty kill sort of type of player," said Entwistle, who's up 10 pounds from last year. "And I think for me that really helped me and it grew me as a player because at the next level that's sort of the player I'm going to be and I've kind of accepted that."

2. Alex Vlasic holding his own

The biggest skater at Blackhawks prospect camp is Vlasic, who was taken in the second round (No. 43 overall) in June. He's 6-foot-6, 198 pounds and is an absolute tower when you put him up against some of the undersized forwards.

He's a defensive-minded defenseman, and that's something the Blackhawks are excited about because he would complement their other offensive-minded blue liners well in the pros. At least that's what they're hoping.

Skating is going to be something he has to continue to work on given his large frame, but the Blackhawks feel he's ahead of the curve in that department and don't see it as a concern.

"He's pretty smooth," GM Stan Bowman said. "I think that's always the challenge with guys that big. He covers a lot of ground with his reach but his skating, he's kept up quite well being one of the youngest guys here. He's tough to play against, he defends really well and I think that's a strength of his guy. So I think it's just going to be a progression for him. He seems to have a pretty good understanding of his path and he's not trying to make the NHL [right away], he understands he's got some growth to do and I think those are the players that end up figuring it out as he's got a good idea of what it's going to take to become an NHL player."

Vlasic reiterated that he expects to play at Boston University for "maybe two or three years and then figure out what I'm going to do from there." Chad Krys recently turned pro after three years at BU, and Jake Wise is going into his sophomore season. Vlasic has been spending time around them this week, which has made it "pretty comfortable for me."

3. Nicolas Beaudin's transition to pro

The Blackhawks have high hopes for Adam Boqvist and Ian Mitchell, both of whom have been standouts at development camp. Same with Kirby Dach and Alex Nylander up front. 

Beaudin is kind of the forgotten guy, which seems odd because he was taken in the first round in 2018. But it might be because there's still a lot of room to grow in his game. 

After four years in the QMJHL, Beaudin is turning pro and is expected to start the season with the Rockford IceHogs. The Blackhawks like that they'll be able to have more of a hands-on approach in his development with him being under their roof on a daily basis.

"He's a smaller defenseman so it's going to be the defending part," Bowman said on what Beaudin's biggest transition might be. "We like his two-way ability. He was probably the top defenseman in the Quebec League last year. He was on a good team and played a lot of minutes. Played all situations there so you're trying to find your niche as a defenseman and I think the biggest thing is don't get away from what you do well.

"He's a pretty smart player, he's got some creativity to his game. He's not a high-risk player but he's got the ability to play offense as well as be defending and learning at his size how to play against bigger players. Have a good stick, use his feet and his brain to defend. All the attributes you want a player in the NHL to have. Good gap, force players to unload the puck before they're ready to and when he gets it he makes pretty smart decisions with it. So it's not one thing with Beaudin, it's becoming an all-around defenseman."

4. Dominic Basse’s side of the Mark Kelley story

One of my favorite stories from the NHL Draft came after the Blackhawks drafted Basse in the sixth round (No. 167 overall), and it waas told by Blackhawks VP of amateur scouting Mark Kelley, who shared the journey he went on to scout Basse for the first time:

"The first time I went to see him this year I drove in a snowstorm. Luckily it was 45 minutes from my house to get there and I got there and I get situated and I look out there, watched a little warmups, the game starts and he was on the bench. So he was coming off between periods, he was the last guy and I said to him, 'Hey, you! When are you playing?' And he told me: 'I'm going to be the starter tomorrow and Monday.' So I came back. He caught my eye."

I caught up with Basse on Thursday and got his side of the story and whether he recalls the encounter:

"I actually remember him. Good thing I didn't say something bad. I thought he was just a parent. I was walking through and he's like, 'Hey! When are you playing?' I was just surprised and was like: 'Sorry sir, I play this day and this day.' And he's like, 'alright' and just left and I thought, 'OK, that's that.'"

That was the only time Basse had any interaction with Kelley. He saw the interview of Kelley explaining his side after the draft ended, but it wasn't until development camp when he actually put a face to the name.

"I kind of made a little sense of it when I came to prospect camp and I saw his face again and I was like, 'Oh wait I think I remember that face. I've seen him somewhere.' And then it all came together when he said that during the interview. It was pretty funny."

Other notes:

— Kyle Olson did not participate in the on-ice session because of an illness. 

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WATCH: Blackhawks' Kirby Dach wears a mic during Prospects Camp

WATCH: Blackhawks' Kirby Dach wears a mic during Prospects Camp

When the Blackhawks made Kirby Dach the third overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, they lauded his skill level on the ice and maturity off it. And in his first week as a member of the franchise, Dach has done nothing to dispel the notion that he’s the organization’s top prospect, shining through the first few days of their development camp. 

NBC Sports Chicago put a microphone on Dach for his second day on the ice as a member of the Blackhawks, and his skill level and leadership showed instantly.

"It's hard not to notice his skill level," said Bowman. "He's a big guy but he's got really soft hands, he's got that long reach and he's got a quick stick. He's pretty tricky with the puck. He's got the ability to hold it out so that guys can't poke it away and if they try to get it he can pull it through. He's got quick hands. And I think that's what you notice. He skates well for a big guy.”

Dach has been increasingly vocal on the ice, getting comfortable with other top prospects such as Adam Boqvist and Ian Mitchell – a group the Blackhawks hope can soon become the future core of the team.

“Between Dach and [Alex] Nylander and Boqvist and Mitchell, those guys sort of stand out as guys that are probably above everybody else,” said Bowman on Wednesday. 

The Blackhawks will hold another split practice on Thursday at Firth Third Arena before a scrimmage Friday morning to wrap up camp. From there, Dach and the other top prospects will have to wait until training camp in mid-September to vie for the few remaining spots on the Blackhawks’ opening night roster. 

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