Blackhawks

Mighty matinee as Sharp, Hawks cook Ducks

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Mighty matinee as Sharp, Hawks cook Ducks

Friday, Nov. 26, 2010
Updated 7:24 PM
By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Duncan Keith's shorthanded shot looked like it was playing out in slow motion, the puck hitting off Jonas Hiller's inner leg before methodically rolling toward, and then over, the goal line.

But with that shot, the Chicago Blackhawks reversed their penalty killing woes and jump-started their offense.

Patrick Sharp had the game-winning goal and set up Keith's shorthanded tally as the Blackhawks scored four unanswered goals in a 4-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday afternoon.

Corey Crawford was strong in net, stopping 26 of 27 en route to his third career victory over Anaheim. Niklas Hjalmarsson scored his first of the season and Troy Brouwer also scored as the Blackhawks found the back of the net three times in the third to cap a strong outing.

"We've lost a lot of games this year by just one or two goals in the third period so that was a huge win for us and our confidence to play like we did today," Hjalmarsson said. "We're on the right track here."

The Blackhawks once again had a strong start, outshooting the Ducks 13-6. But they gave one up on their first penalty kill, something that's been struggling on this road trip.

On the Ducks' second power play, however, the Blackhawks struck. Sharp grabbed an errant Ducks pass and threw it to Keith, who was charging toward Anaheim starter Jonas Hiller. It looked like Hiller had stopped it, but the puck trickled through.

"We gave up one early, but it was a great play on that Keith goal and we shut them down after that," Brian Campbell said. "Anytime you get a shorthanded goal it lifts your team up."

It did. The Blackhawks shut down that Anaheim power play, as well as the next three. They also took advantage of Ducks miscues. Sharp's game-winner, his fourth this season, came when he intercepted a bad Andy Sutton pass in the slot and beat Hiller for the 2-1 lead.

"You could say that's one of the bigger ones all year," coach Joel Quenneville said of the goal. "He had a great setup on the shorty as well. I like his production and what he brings."

Crawford, meanwhile, was stoic. He came up with some big stops en route to his fourth victory this season, including two on Corey Perry and another on Dan Sexton's early breakaway attempt.

"It was a good day," said Crawford, who won his third consecutive start. "They have a good power play and a top line that can break out at any moment. I was just prepared, trying to get ready for all of them."

Quenneville chose Crawford Friday because of his strong showings vs. Anaheim. Asked if Crawford could start Saturday in Los Angeles, Quenneville said, "we'll talk about it tomorrow," he said. "I thought he did a very good job. He's been very consistent. This one's big."

The Blackhawks' three victories on this road trip have been convincing ones. They were stronger on kills and offense on Friday. Getting that type of game more often is next on the list.

"It's nice to be up in the game and be able to keep adding on to the lead instead of it being so tight all the time," Keith said. "Every goal was a big goal, whether it kept our momentum or kept them down. We need to keep doing what did today, have that mindset, don't change anything."

Familiar pairs

The Blackhawks reverted back to their usual defensive pairs. Keith and Brent Seabrook were together again, as were Hjalmarsson and Campbell. The comfort level looked restored, too.

"I don't mind who I play with, but knowing what (Hjalmarsson's) going to do out there definitely helps us in areas," Campbell said. "We just figure it out. We mix well together."

Weight lifted

Niklas Hjalmarsson reacts after scoring his first goal of the season Friday afternoon in Anahaeim. Hjalmarsson doubled his point total with the goal and is a minus-4 on the year. (AP)Hjalmarsson waited longer than he wanted for his first goal of the season but was happy when it came on Friday.

"It's nice to see a puck go in; it doesn't happen too often for me," he said. "I had a bad start this year. The first 10 games didn't play well at all but the last 10 games have been better."

Exelby signed

The Blackhawks signed Garnet Exelby to a contract and assigned him back to the Rockford IceHogs on Friday. Exelby, the Rockford captain, had been with the organization on a player tryout contract prior to Friday's signing.
Briefly

Seabrook is OK after taking a puck to the groin area for the second consecutive game. "I'm just trying to get in front of shots and do what I can to block them. This one deflected off my stick and went off my leg. It didn't feel too good." ... Keith's short-handed goal was the fifth of his career. He's third among active NHL defensemen in that category, behind Nicklas Lidstrom (10) and Adam Foote (6).

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Do the Blackhawks have room to sign John Tavares?

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USA TODAY

Do the Blackhawks have room to sign John Tavares?

The NHL Draft is over. Farm systems have been restocked and now the focus has shifted to free agency, where the fun is just beginning.

The biggest fish on the market is John Tavares, a franchise-changing center in the heart of his prime. For a little bit, it seemed like the loyal New York Islanders captain was ready to move on after they took another step back by missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

But then Lou Lamiorello became available and was snatched up by Long Island. His first order of business was relieving GM Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight of their duties, the first real sign that significant changes were coming. The next was securing Barry Trotz as head coach after he couldn't agree to terms on an extension with the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.

For the first time in a while, there appears to be structure in the front office and coaching staff.

Yet, Tavares has remained committed to visiting with reportedly five teams in Los Angeles during the free agent negotiating window that opened Sunday. And he's absolutely earned that right. San Jose and Toronto are believed to be two of the teams. The rest is unclear.

When asked by NBC Sports Chicago's Pat Boyle at the end of the draft on Saturday, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman wouldn't confirm nor deny that they were one of the teams scheduled to meet with Tavares.

"I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise, right?" Bowman said with a smile.

Whether or not they are, could the Blackhawks realistically even make it work?

They actually have the cap space to do it. Or at least they can make room without shuffling too many cards.

As of Sunday, the Blackhawks have $9.225 million in open cap space to fill out six roster spots. If you can find a trade partner for Marian Hossa's contract, that creates an extra $5.275 million, which brings the total up to $14.5 million. That's without subtracting any real bodies from the roster. 

Tavares is likely to command in the $10 million range for average annual value over the next seven years, and the latter part is key. While it would certainly be challenging to have three players eating up at least $10 million each in cap space — with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews at $10.5 million — they could make it work in the short term.

But signing Tavares to a seven-year deal would probably get in the way of the Blackhawks' longer-term goals, which includes re-signing Alex DeBrincat and Nick Schmaltz when their entry-level deals expire and even Vinnie Hinostroza when his new two-year contract ends.

Are the Blackhawks willing to risk that?

For Tavares, maybe. But Toews is 30, Kane is 29 and Tavares will be 28 by the time this upcoming season starts. At some point, an infusion of youth would be required to remain competitive for the long term.

Stan Bowman plays coy when asked about pitching free agent John Tavares

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USA TODAY

Stan Bowman plays coy when asked about pitching free agent John Tavares

The unrestricted free agent market opens up for the NHL on July 1. Five-time All-Star John Tavares is will reportedly be meeting with five different teams to talk about the possibility of leaving the only team he's played for his entire career, the New York Islanders. 

After a highly disappointing 33-39-10 finish to the 2017-18 season, many expect Chicago general manager Stan Bowman to be very aggressive this offseason. When asked by NBC Sports Chicago's Pat Boyle if the Blackhawks would be one of the five teams going after Tavares, Bowman gave a very reticent answer.

"I woudn't want to spoil the surprise, right?" Bowman said with a smile. 

"No, I'm not going to comment on that, but I know we're gonna have a lot of discussions over the next five or six days and we'll see where it goes."

Reports indicate that the Islanders and Tavares had been trying to work out the terms of a long-term extension, but with so many attractive options out there, it will be a tough decision for him. There are several teams coming off of playoff runs expected to go after Tavares, including Tampa Bay, Las Vegas and San Jose. In addition to those teams, his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs are expected to be in play as well.

But Chicago's rough year was so out of place for a team so used to winning consistently, that one can imagine their pitch will be enticing.

Elliotte Friedman of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada had this to say about the Blackhawks potential pursuit of Tavares: "They're not going to tolerate being that bad again, they're going to try something. I think they'll make a run at John Tavares too. I do, I think they'll ask, is there any way we can get him here?"

When taking all of this into account, it is sure to be an extremely exciting free agency period for the Blackhawks. The team is in full "re-tool" rather than "rebuild" mode, and there have been discussions that Kane may be becoming the more vocal leader of the team. But the addition of Tavares to a core of Kane, Jonathan Toews and Corey Crawford could boost the Blackhawks back into Stanley Cup contention.