Blackhawks

How a Jonathan Toews injury could have kept Blackhawks from winning 2010 Stanley Cup

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AP

How a Jonathan Toews injury could have kept Blackhawks from winning 2010 Stanley Cup

The Blackhawks made history in 2010 when they snapped a 49-year championship drought by breaking through to beat the Philadelphia Flyers in six games. But their fate could have changed dramatically if it got to a Game 7 for a reason that practically nobody was aware of until now.

The Athletic’s NHL Insider Craig Custance sat down over the summer with some of hockey’s greatest coaches to dissect games of their crowning achievements for his book titled, “Behind the Bench: Inside the Minds of Hockey's Greatest Coaches,” which was released in September. One of those coaches included was Joel Quenneville, who won his first career Stanley Cup as a head coach with the Blackhawks in 2010.

So the two went back and rewatched Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final in Philadelphia — the series-clinching game — to get a glimpse inside Quenneville's mind during that game.

Well, inside the book, there was a pretty big revelation regarding their star player. Jonathan Toews had apparently suffered a knee injury late in the game that was serious enough to put his status for a potential Game 7 in doubt.

Here are a few snippets:

"Jonny gets hurt in this game with less than 10 minutes to go in regulation," Quenneville says. "He can't really go. Thank God we scored early [in overtime]. I think it would have been impossible for Jonny to play Game 7."

Wait. What?

This was all news to me.

Same to everyone else.

It happened in the waning minutes of the third period on the play the Flyers evened up the score at 3-3. Toews was shoved into the goaltender after the goal was scored and stayed down on the ice grabbing his knee, then labored back to the bench hunched over.

His teammates didn't know how serious Toews' injury was at the time either:

"It wasn't until midsummer. I remember talking to him, he was still having problems with this knee," Sharp said. "That's when I was like, 'Holy shit, we wouldn't have had Tazer in Game 7.' That just shows you the margin of winning and losing is so small."

In this moment, Hossa has no idea how banged up Toews is. He taps the puck back to Toews as they enter the offensive zone. Flyers forward Darroll Powe bumps him off the puck and the threat is wiped out. The Flyers are headed the other way.

"Yeah, he can't go. Left leg, can't really go," Quenneville says.

It went completely unnoticed, but it could have been a psychological turning point in the series if the Flyers recognized that the Blackhawks' captain was banged up:

Just imagine the lift the Flyers would get if they realized that not only had they tied the game and possibly forced a Game 7, but the Blackhawks' most important player was injured. Quenneville realized this. He was hoping to play Toews just enough to throw the Flyers off the scent.

"He gets that shift, so everybody knows he's fine. Okay, this is Carter. Watch this chance he gets."

Claude Giroux finds a wide-open Jeff Carter, who spins and fires a puck that Niemi somehow saves.

I'm stunned at how close the Blackhawks came to losing this game.

"What a chance he had," Quenneville says.

"That would have made it 4-3 and you're going back without Toews in Game 7."

"Every one, we got lucky."

What a turn of events that would have been, huh?

Knowing the competitor in Toews, he probably would have found a way to play in a possible Game 7, but it certainly makes Chicago appreciate Patrick Kane's game-winning goal in overtime even more knowing its captain may not have been able to play or, at the very least, wouldn't have been close to full strength.

The book goes into full detail of how Quenneville monitored Toews' injury throughout the end of that third period and in overtime, the communication he had with Toews and trainers, and even offers his thoughts on his shifts after the injury like he's coaching in real time again, among many other things.

It's a must-read, and a great in-depth look at how the complexion of the series could have changed on a play nobody saw.

A sneak peek at Cam Ward's new Blackhawks goalie mask

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USA TODAY

A sneak peek at Cam Ward's new Blackhawks goalie mask

It's a new year, new team for Cam Ward, who spent his first 13 NHL seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes before signing in Chicago on a one-year deal this summer. That means a newly-designed goalie mask is required to match up with his new team's colors, uniform and Blackhawks logo.

The designer of Ward's goalie masks Steve Nash, whose clients include 2017-18 Vezina Trophy finalist Connor Hellebuyck, two-time Stanley Cup champion Jonathan Quick and three-time 30-win netminder Martin Jones, shared a teaser on Twitter of Ward's new Blackhawks-themed mask for the upcoming season and it's sweet.

Check it out:

Why Ryan Hartman is betting on himself going into another contract year with Predators

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USA TODAY

Why Ryan Hartman is betting on himself going into another contract year with Predators

Ryan Hartman has been through this before. Back in December of 2012, he sustained a torn labrum in his right shoulder but played through it because the Plymouth Whalers were in the middle of a playoff run. He waited until the offseason to have it surgically repaired and was cleared for contact just in time for him to attend his first training camp with the Blackhawks in September of 2013.

This time was a little different though.

Hartman had been acquired by the Nashville Predators at the trade deadline in exchange for prospect Victor Ejdsell and a 2018 first- and fourth-round pick — a hefty price to pay — in hopes of serving as an additional spark plug for a Predators team looking to load up for a second consecutive Stanley Cup run.

So when Hartman was brushed by Nathan MacKinnon along the boards, lost his footing and fell on his left shoulder late in Game 4 of the first round against Colorado, he immediately knew something was up.

"It didn't feel great at all," said Hartman, who went straight to the dressing room and had team doctors pop it back into place. "I finished the game and was able to finish playoffs in like a modified sling, which sucked to play with, but it's playoffs. It's one of those things where there are many guys playing through injuries and I was one of them."

Hartman, who's been rehabbing and training in Chicago, received the green light to fully participate in hockey-related drills last Monday but was advised to delay his Chicago Pro Hockey League debut for one more week just to err on the side of caution. On Wednesday, he got back into a game-type setting and "felt good" after 50 minutes of action going up against former teammates Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane.

Now he can fully focus on this upcoming season and amp up his on-ice training to a level he couldn't get to while recovering from shoulder surgery with training camp a month away.

Hartman was a restricted free agent this summer and recently re-signed with the Predators on a one-year deal worth $875,000. Clearly, he's betting on himself to bounce back to his rookie year form when he scored 19 goals and cash out on a larger paycheck down the line, even though he had multiple longer-term offers from the Predators.

"Yeah we talked, [GM David Poile] wants me to be there, I want to be there, we have a good relationship," Hartman said. "Obviously, he gave up a lot of stuff to take me and sees me in the future of the team and I see myself there too. There's a lot of little things that go into negotiations — if it's money wise or length — and there was a various amount [of offers] that was thrown out on both sides. With no [arbitration] rights, the best thing for me and my team was to bet on myself, take the year and go from there next year."

With that comes the pressure of having to earn another contract for the second straight year, which is also risky considering he's coming off an injury that sidelined him all summer. But that's just the way he wants it.

"Either way I want to play my best, if I have a contract or not for long-term," Hartman said. "There is the benefit of having security with long-term deals, but you see guys, in history, that sign these deals and maybe have a year or two of, not really being complacent, but just feeling satisfied. I don't like the feeling of being satisfied. I'm not saying that's why I took that contract over another contract, but it was a good month and a half of debating one of the other three [offers]. My family and my agent, we chose this was the best for me and the team as well."

It's easy to see why the Predators are happy with this deal, too. Hartman is better suited to play in a bottom-six role on a really good team but has the ability to play in the top-six if needed. A strong season out of him and they'll be happy to reward him with a longer-term offer next summer. It also means he'd be making an impact while making less than $1 million, and every contending team needs those contributions from their depth players.

Pull up the Predators' CapFriendly page and you'll notice generous contract after generous contract for a majority of their players, particularly their core group. Look no further than Ryan Ellis, who signed an eight-year extension on Tuesday that carries a cap hit of $6.25 million. He certainly left money on the table but elected to take less to follow the lead of everyone else in Nashville because the ultimate goal is to keep the band together.

"You look at Sidney Crosby, one of the best players in the league, isn't even making close to the most money in the league and that's a reason why they've won two Cups," Hartman said. "They have space, maybe not necessarily as much as the Preds do, but Poile's good at that, he's good at stressing winning, the importance of winning, and keeping a team together. Sometimes when you go year to year losing four or five players every summer, it takes a toll having to introduce yourself to new guys all the time. Keeping the same group is really beneficial."

The Predators won't have to do much introducing next month. They're essentially rolling back the same team that arguably would've reached the Stanley Cup Final if they had gotten past the Winnipeg Jets. Hartman will be an important part of that group, only this time he'll be there from the start.

"That's what I'm really excited for," he said. "It's tough coming in [halfway through the season], it kind of feels like ... it's your first time getting called up with the new team. You're adjusting, you're trying not to make a mistake, trying to earn a spot, per se, earn the respect of your peers, so having that and going through a playoff run and a Game 7, if you go through a Game 7 with anybody, it's a bond. The stuff you fight through and you play for each other, to be able to go through a training camp and the ups and downs throughout the whole season, it's going to be exciting. I fell in love with the group for the short time I was there and I'm excited to be there at the start of training camp."