Blackhawks

Niklas Hjalmarsson says goodbye to Chicago in emotional Instagram post

Niklas Hjalmarsson says goodbye to Chicago in emotional Instagram post

Niklas Hjalmarsson has called Chicago home ever since he was drafted by the Blackhawks in 2005. But now it's time for a new chapter.

After being traded to the Arizona Coyotes in June, the former Blackhawks defenseman officially said goodbye to the city he spent a decade in and helped bring three Stanley Cups to with an emotional Instagram post that perfectly sums up his time here:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BW9plsvl2cO/?taken-by=niklas.hjalmarsson4&hl=en

One marriage. Two kids. Three rings. 

Hjalmarsson will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Blackhawks fans.

Can Blackhawks' Alex DeBrincat break through in Game 3 against the Oilers?

Can Blackhawks' Alex DeBrincat break through in Game 3 against the Oilers?

In the Stanley Cup Qualifiers against the Oilers, DeBrincat was held off the scoresheet in Game 1's 6-4 win, but picked up two assists in Game 2's 3-6 loss.

The 22-year-old winger has been on the Hawks' third line for the series against the Oilers with rookie center Kirby Dach. The third combo was without forward Drake Caggiula on Monday, who was suspended for Game 2 after an illegal check to the head of Edmonton forward Tyler Ennis in Game 1.

John Quenneville slotted in for Caggiula in the beginning of Game 2, but Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton had Patrick Kane double shift on the third line for a lot of the game, leaving Quenneville with just 6:04 of ice time for the contest.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Blackhawks news and analysis.

DeBrincat finished Game 2 one of four Hawks to log a positive +/- rating at +3. His center, Dach, was also a +3. 

"Playoffs (are) a little different obviously," DeBrincat told the media Tuesday. "I think I’m just trying to go out there, create some havoc, get some offensive (zone) time, you know, doing anything I can to help the team win. I think that’s the goal here. It doesn’t really matter if you get points in a game if you lose. We’re just trying to go out there each night and win."

DeBrincat acknowledged having Kane double shift on the third line didn't exactly hurt his game. 

"I think anytime you’re playing with a guy of that caliber in Kaner, I think you just got to get open and he can find you or vice versa. I think it’s pretty easy to play with a guy like that. That was pretty easy for us yesterday."

On Monday, Edmonton cooled off the Hawks' top line by countering them with McDavid's line, shutting down rookie forward Dominik Kubalik, who had five points (two power-play goals, three assists) and Jonathan Toews, who had three points (one power-play goal, one 5-on-5 goal, one assist) in Game 1.

If the matchups remain the same after Caggiula is potentially added back to the third line for Game 3, adding some energy, DeBrincat riding his offensive momentum from Game 2 and finding the back of the net himself could be a difference-maker for the Hawks in Game 3 Wednesday.

"I’ve liked him both games," Colliton said Tuesday. "I thought that line – Kirby, DeBrincat and later, Kaner – they were good. I thought that’s part of why (we) put Kane in with those two because it looked like the young guys were going. (DeBrincat's) habits and his skating and work ethic away from the puck, they’ve been really good. We know he can score. He had a couple good chances, particularly in Game 1. I thought he was around the net and causing some havoc there last night and it resulted in some goals. Just got to have good habits and (be) doing the right things. The puck drops on (his) tape and we believe he’ll put it in."

What adjustments Blackhawks could make against Oilers for Game 3

What adjustments Blackhawks could make against Oilers for Game 3

The Blackhawks set the tone in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers by dominating at even strength and potting three power-play goals against the second-ranked penalty kill.

The Edmonton Oilers flipped the script and made the correct adjustments in Game 2, scoring 19 seconds into the game and never giving up control of it.

It's the Blackhawks' turn to counter in Game 3.

As the home team for Games 3 and 4, head coach Jeremy Colliton and his staff will have the luxury of last line change. That means the Blackhawks can decide which trio goes up against Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, who netted a hat trick on Monday.

But before getting into lineup adjustments, the first emphasis for the Blackhawks should be scoring the first goal. Well, it always should be.

"I'm pretty sure it's important to score the first goal no matter what, who you're playing," Duncan Keith said after practice on Tuesday. "That would help to try and win the game." 

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Blackhawks news and analysis.

In Game 1, the Blackhawks fell behind 1-0 just 2:34 into the opening frame. In Game 2, they trailed 2-0 in the first 4:05. 

Only two teams had more wins during the regular season when scoring first than the Oilers (29). On the contrary, the Oilers had the sixth-worst points percentage (.250) when giving up the first goal. 

Scoring first is always crucial, but it feels even more significant against a high-powered offense like the Oilers.

"It’s two games in a row where we have to come from behind," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "It’s not a position we want to be in. I think we had a good start in Game 1, they score on the power play. Big difference from our start in Game 2.

"From our perspective we want to do the right things right from the puck drop. Sometimes a bounce goes for or against you but more so it’s how we perform shift to shift that gives us a chance to win the game. Hopefully results in the first goal, but if it doesn’t, we have a high level of play we’ve got to believe we’ll come back."

The Blackhawks were without Drake Caggiula in Game 2 after an illegal check to the head on Oilers forward Tyler Ennis in Game 1 resulted in a one-game suspension. John Quenneville took his spot in the lineup, but the Blackhawks were ultimately forced to double-shift Patrick Kane throughout the course of the game after falling behind quickly, which disrupted the line flow.

The Blackhawks will likely go back to their Game 1 rotation, and they should, even though things clicked immediately when Kane was put on a line with Kirby Dach and Alex DeBrincat. But it will be interesting to see how Colliton matches his group against the Oilers.

In Game 1, Dave Tippett and his staff tried exploiting the Blackhawks' fourth line of Ryan Carpenter, David Kampf and Matthew Highmore by making them defend McDavid, who was a non-factor at even strength. Leon Draisaitl's line, mainly, went up against the Blackhawks' third line of Caggiula, Dach and DeBrincat.

Will the Blackhawks try freeing up Kane and Jonathan Toews offensively by using the same tactic or does it make more sense to match the first two lines against Edmonton’s top guns as much as possible? There's a case to be made for both sides.

Exactly one week before the NHL put its season on pause, the Blackhawks played the Oilers at the United Center and beat them 4-3. Toews' line drew the McDavid matchup and Kane's line went up against Draisaitl, so perhaps we could see that again, at least to start.

It’s a game of chess, and the Blackhawks must use having the last move to their advantage.