Blackhawks

NHL lockout -- Theatre of the Absurd

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NHL lockout -- Theatre of the Absurd

Brian Campbells face showed more skepticism than optimism after Wednesdays skate with his former Blackhawks teammates. The defenseman, speaking before the NHL and NHLPA went through a marathon negotiation in New York City that seemed to yield progress, wasnt getting too giddy.

Yeah, I dont know. I dont want to get too far ahead, Campbell said. Ive gotten caught up in that, personally, thinking somethings going to happen. Its just kind of wait-and-see.

Its a wise outlook, considering how this whole collective-bargaining debacle has gone. Its truly been the Theatre of the Absurd: One day things are looking happy, perky, then 24 hours later the two sides are barely talking to each other. Case in point, the NHL and NHLPAs talks Wednesday and Thursday. After having several hours worth of seemingly meaningful negotiations on Wednesday (and into early Thursday), each side kept to itself on Thursday.

As CSNPhillys Tim Panacchio reports from New York, it was more of a day of potential litigation than of negotiation and mediation. It started when the league apparently changed language regarding hockey-related revenue after Wednesdays talks. Reportedly, that all got straightened out. But that apparently left angry feelings. The NHLPA, which didnt go through with its first disclaimer of interest by Wednesdays 11:59 p.m. (ET) deadline, gave players the chance to vote on another one. The union also went to court in the attempt to get the NHLs suit, which was filed the same day the NHLPA told players they would get to vote on that first disclaimer of interest.

Oh, and in the midst of all this legalese, the two sides will meet again tomorrow around 10 a.m. ET, the league told reporters in New York.

Confused yet? Annoyed yet? Dont answer that second one; we already know. Again, welcome to the Theatre of the Absurd, Act oh, weve lost track. For every high moment theres been a low moment; or more like a huh? moment.

So the saga continues. Ive been asked many times if I think there will be hockey this season. Yes, I do. To apply NHL deputy commissioner Bill Dalys infamous quote to my stance, that prediction is the hill I will die on. But its easy to understand why many have thrown their hands up in disgust and are tempted, not only to close their hearts to NHL hockey, but their wallets as well.

Campbells outlook is a smart one. Dont get too up or down, because the emotion will change quicker than the NHL & NHLPAs meeting plans.

Some call these highs, lows, actions and inactions just part of negotiations. Ill stick with absurd.

Four takeaways: Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews put on show as Blackhawks snap losing streak

Four takeaways: Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews put on show as Blackhawks snap losing streak

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 8-5 win over the Washington Capitals at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Dueling five-point games by 19 and 88

When you play the defending Stanley Cup champions, your top guys need to play like it. And the Blackhawks' did just that.

Reunited on the top line as the nuclear option, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews each registsered five-point outings, with Kane having two goals and three assists and Toews netting a hat trick and two assists. 

Toews also became the third active player to score at least 20 goals in his first 12 NHL seasons, joining Kane and Alex Ovechkin.

"We can play together for a long time and might not always get games like that, obviously," Toews said. "I think today the chances that we did get we converted and he was doing a good job in his own end chipping pucks out and their D men really pressuring, so we got some odd-man rushes. Drake [Caggiula] did a great job of going to the net and creating space. The two of us, Drake and I, know that it's kind of our game to go play puck possession and try to give it to Kaner when he has time and space. It was nice to see a bunch go in for us."

2. A whacky first period

We hope you didn't oversleep because there was a whole lot of action from the moment the puck dropped during NBC's Game of the Week.

The Blackhawks and Capitals combined for four goals in the first period, three of which were credited to Chicago but one that received a major assist from Washington after Dmitri Orlov swatted the puck into his own net. There was even a disallowed goal in there with Chris Kunitz scoring from underneath the net when the moorings were off, but it was reviewed and waved off.

The Blackhawks had three goals on five shots at one point for a shooting percentage of 60, and took a 3-1 lead into first intermission. The Capitals finished with one goal on 15 shots in the opening frame.

"It was a fun game," Kane said. "Kind of like a playoff-type atmosphere, playoff-type game. It was back and forth, it seemed like no matter how big our lead, we couldn't make it big enough to feel comfortable. Overall I think it was a good win for us."

3. A crazier second period

The first period was highly entertaining. But that was just a warm-up to what the second period offered. Because things got chippy.

Kane and Ovechkin were seen jawing at each other near center ice, which led to an exchange shortly after. Kane whacked Ovechkin, who responded by shoving Kane's helmet off. It eventually led to a larger scrum at the end of the shift, with Connor Murphy and Ovechkin getting penalized for roughing.

Less than one minute later, Tom Wilson laid a hit on Duncan Keith, which prompted longtime partner Brent Seabrook to come to his defense. That's when things went off the rails. Four penalties were assessed on the play, and each of them fell under a different category: roughing, unsportsmanlike conduct, hooking and slashing. At one point the Blackhawks had four skaters in the box before it was determined that Seabrook was not part of it.

In total, seven penalties were assessed in the second period and six of them came within a 39-second span. It had an old-time hockey feel to it.

"Yeah, there was a lot happening," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "But I think there was a lot happening the whole game, it just wasn't wasn't the second period. That third period pucks were going in the net like crazy also. Entertaining game. Hopefully the fans got their money's worth, but they still get to get home at a decent time."

4. Save of the Year?

Collin Delia was solid for the Blackhawks. He gave up a few goals from low-danger areas that he certainly would've loved to have back, but he made up for that by making the big stops from high-danger areas and at key times.

Most notably, Delia provided hockey fans with the potential Save of the Year candidate when he made an acrobatic stop on Wilson, which drew a standing ovation from the United Center crowd:

"Just trying to get something in front of the net, keep the puck out of the net at whatever cost," Delia said. "Just trying to fill space, quite honestly. I think it was a shot, guy wrapped it and I thought he was going to try to tuck it, so I just made a desperation [save] and then I had to somehow get to my feet or get to my knees again to seal the bottom of the ice."

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Blackhawks know development won’t be linear for Henri Jokiharju

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AP

Blackhawks know development won’t be linear for Henri Jokiharju

The Blackhawks couldn't have been more pleased with how Henri Jokiharju performed at the 2019 World Juniors. He was one of Finland's best and most reliable players, and played a crucial leadership role for his country that won gold.

But he hasn't been as effective on the blue line as he was before he left. 

In four games since returning to the Blackhawks, Jokiharju has one assist, two shots on goal, a minus-3 rating and is averaging only 14:47 of ice time. He averaged exactly 20:00 minutes of ice time per game in his first 32 contests and was among the top Chicago skaters in 5-on-5 ice time.

On Sunday against the Washington Capitals, he was a healthy scratch.

"I think as a 19-year-old, we're pleased with his progression," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "It's not going to happen overnight where he becomes a dominant player at this level. There's going to be ups and downs, and that's part of the journey as a young player. You got to go through some adversity, and it's not going to be perfect and that's fine. It's up to us to give us to give him the feedback he needs to continue to improve and up to him to work as hard as he can."

To be fair, Jokiharju hasn't exactly been put in the best positions to succeed as of late. In one of the games, he was moved to the left side as an experiment for the Blackhawks, who organizationally have a surplus of right-handed shot defensemen. In another, the team rolled with seven defensemen, which makes it difficult for any defender to get in a groove.

The other part of the equation is that the Blackhawks are currently at seven defensemen, and have another on the way when Gustav Forsling returns from his upper-torso injury. Somebody needs to come out. Two guys, actually.

The Blackhawks aren’t looking at this stretch for Jokiharju as a setback. They know player developments aren’t linear, especially with young defensemen. So they’ll be patient with him and make sure he’s growing into the player they all want him to become at his own pace, even if it means cutting back his ice time.

"I'm not sure the way to go is to play them until they drown," Colliton said. "I think we try to give them what they can handle and sometimes maybe give them less than they can handle while giving them feedback, whether it's off-ice work or video work or extra practice time. That can be part of the picture. We could end up with a rotation on defense with some of the young guys we have. That wouldn't be a bad thing either. We have some young players. It's tough to play 82 games at this level against top competition night in and night out. It could be an option to lighten the load somewhat."

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