Blackhawks

Konroyd's keys for Game 7 of Blackhawks-Ducks

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Konroyd's keys for Game 7 of Blackhawks-Ducks

1. Weather an early Anaheim storm

Anaheim could have closed out the Blackhawks in Game 6 in the Windy City. They never really forced the issue or pushed the pace until the third period when they came at the Hawks in waves, and had Chicago in its own end for extended periods of time. Expect that early Saturday night from the Ducks. Forwards taking chances, D-men joining the rush, and pucks dumped in so that forecheckers can try to run you through the end boards. Anaheim has a lot of recent Game 7 history at home, and it isn’t good. They will be looking to change this record by pushing back hard on the Hawks. At this point of the year, it’s always will over skill. Get a hit, block a shot, make a good pass, win a faceoff, get into the game early. All those boring, thankless little things that go into any win are really what matter most.

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2. Score first

Sounds a little too simple to be a key, but there are a lot of benefits in accomplishing this. Scoring first would take the crowd at the Honda Center out of it. The Ducks would instantly feel the pressure and stress of “oh no, here we go again!” The way it has played out, the team that has scored first in each of the first six games of this Western Conference Final has gone on to win the game. In the Eastern Conference Final, all but one game went to the team that scored first. But there is more history here for Anaheim. Last year they allowed the Los Angeles Kings to score first in that pivotal Game 7 on home ice in the first round. Again, the team that scored first won each and every game of that series. Dial it back two years ago when Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings scored less than two minutes into that Game 7 in Anaheim, and again the team scoring first went on to win this game and the series.

3. Pump fake works: gotta use it

The Blackhawks might have learned a valuable lesson in Game 6 where Duncan Keith pump faked twice on the Blackhawks second goal. In doing so, he drew three Anaheim defenders, which left Marian Hossa all alone at the side of the net. The Ducks have blocked 162 shots in the six games so far. That is 65 more blocked shots than the Blackhawks have in this series. They also have more shots on net than Chicago. You have to hand it to Anaheim for making the sacrifice and getting in the shooting lanes. But that’s where Chicago can take advantage. Fake the shot, and look for a passing lane. Often there are two and three layers between the shooter and the net, so look for teammates off to the side or in the high slot. You might even get Anaheim goalie Frederik Andersen biting on one of those pump fakes.   

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”