Blackhawks

Top line shines as Blackhawks down Preds, take 2-1 series lead

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Top line shines as Blackhawks down Preds, take 2-1 series lead

Scott Darling takes the same approach, has the same mindset entering every game: he’s just thrilled to be here, thrilled to be getting the opportunities he’s earning.

He may have just earned himself another one.

Darling stopped 35 of 37 shots for his second victory of the postseason and Jonathan Toews had a goal and an assist as the Blackhawks beat the Nashville Predators, 4-2, in Game 3 of their first-round series on Sunday. The Blackhawks take a 2-1 lead in the series, with Game 4 scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Andrew Desjardins, playing his first postseason game with the Blackhawks, scored his first postseason goal since April 12, 2012 (vs. St. Louis), when he was with the San Jose Sharks. Brandon Saad and Brent Seabrook also scored for the Blackhawks.

Darling, who relieved Corey Crawford in Game 1, got his first NHL postseason start on Sunday. He didn’t disappoint, coming up big when the Blackhawks needed him to do so.

So, does Darling earn the start in Game 4, too?

“We’ll talk about it but certainly he did everything he could to get himself back in the net,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He was rock solid today. He did everything he could to get us a win and he was square, big and controlled a lot of pucks around the net as well.”

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Darling got word from goaltending coach Jimmy Waite on Saturday that he was starting this afternoon. He said he got nothing but support from Crawford.

“He was great,” Darling said. “We’re a good goalie tandem with our relationship. He was happy for me, very positive. It was good.”

Darling didn’t have much time to think or worry when he came into Game 1 in the second period. This time he had more than a day to think about it. But if he was nervous, it didn’t show in his play.

“It was a little bit nerve-wracking but exciting all at the same time,” said Darling. “It couldn’t have been a better game for the team to help me in my first playoff start.”

Still, there were some moments through the first period plus that made you wonder if the Blackhawks were going down a bad road again. Just 31 seconds after Desjardins scored to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead, Mike Ribeiro scored to tie it for the Predators. And just 22 seconds after Toews scored, Mattias Ekholm evened it at 2-2 for Nashville.

“Disappointing,” Quenneville said of those two quick Nashville goals. “One was off a faceoff, one was not the way we play. We make a turnover in the slot right after a play and that’s not what we’re looking to do. Coverage off the rush was positionally poor, the other off a faceoff and sometimes they go in. But that’s the way it is when we talk about key shifts, being first shifts after goals, last or first shifts off periods, a lot of important shifts. That can’t happen on those two.”

The Blackhawks settled down after Saad’s goal, however, with Darling making a big not long after that to keep the lead. The Blackhawks padded their edge later in the second period when, after a long sequence in the Predators’ zone, Seabrook’s shot trickled through Pekka Rinne.

Darling has shown poise, be it the regular- or postseason. It’s hard to imagine the Blackhawks won’t go with him again in Game 4. He’s happy to be here, and playing like he definitely belongs here.

 

 

Getting to know four newly-signed Blackhawks

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AP

Getting to know four newly-signed Blackhawks

The Blackhawks announced Monday that they have officially agreed to terms with forward Dominik Kahun, defensemen Lucas Carlsson and Darren Raddysh and goaltender Kevin Lankinen on entry-level contracts.

Kahun ($925,000 cap hit), Lankinen ($925,000) and Raddysh ($730,000) each signed two-year deals that run through the 2019-20 season while Carlsson's is a three-year deal that runs through the 2020-21 campaign and carries a cap hit of $792,500.

So who are these guys? Let's meet them:

Carlsson

Drafted in the fourth round (No. 110 overall) by the Blackhawks in 2016, Carlsson set a career-high with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 44 games this season with Brynäs IF of the Swedish Hockey League. He was tied for fourth among all blue liners with seven goals.

Carlsson, 20, doesn't have major upside, but he's a reliable, well-rounded defenseman and that's what drew the attention of Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley.

“When he’s on the ice, he makes things happen," Kelley told Scott Powers of The Athletic last summer. "I think what impressed the Sweden under-20 coach was Lucas’ ability to challenge in all three zones. He’s an active defensively. Offensively, he challenges. He keeps plays alive.”

Kahun

The 22-year-old forward spent the last four seasons with EHC München of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, Germany's top professional hockey league, where he established career highs in assists (29), points (41) and tied a personal best with 12 goals, leading Munchen to their third straight championship in 2018 after recording four goals and 10 assists in 17 playoff contests.

He raised eyebrows at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, where he compiled five points (two goals, three assists) in seven games and won 55.4 percent of his faceoffs (41 of 74), helping Germany capture a silver medal.

“He has made an enormous step this year, has become much more stable and mature," German national team coach Marco Sturm said after the Olympics. "I am sure that he would grab it in the NHL,” Sturm told the Hamburger Morgenpost.

Most recently, Kahun had a goal and two assists in seven games for Germany during the IIHF Men's World Championship. He's 5-foot-11, 176 pounds whose known to be a solid two-way player and can play center but may need some time to adjust to the smaller ice surface and NHL style of speed and physicality.

Lankinen 

Lankinen is 23 years old and coming off a season in which he was in the discussion for the Urpo Ylönen trophy, annually awarded to the top goaltender of the Finnish Elite League, after registering a league-best 1.33 goals against average and .946 save percentage in 15 games with HIFK.

He missed a large portion of the season because of an injury, but it didn't stop him from turning in a strong postseason, guiding his team to a bronze medal after posting a 1.99 GAA and .936 save percentage in 13 playoff games. The year before that, he led the league with seven shutouts in 42 games, backstopping his team to a silver medal.

This is a low-risk, medium-sized reward signing for the Blackhawks, who could use some more young goaltending depth in the pipeline, especially given how this season unfolded with the big club.

Raddysh

The Blackhawks signed Raddysh to a one-year AHL contract last June, and he turned it into an NHL one after a strong season with the Rockford IceHogs.

Raddysh, 22, accumulated 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) in 66 regular-season games with the IceHogs, and has appeared in each of the team's playoff games en route to the Western Conference Final.

Last season Raddysh was named the OHL's top defenseman after scoring 16 goals and 65 assists for 81 points in 62 games for the Erie Otters, where he was teammates with current Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat. He's the Otters' all-time leader in assists (143) and points (184) among defensemen.

Raddysh might be nothing more than a depth defenseman, but his development is worth monitoring because the offensive production is there and that's something the Blackhawks lacked this past season from their back end.

Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa: 'I will not play hockey anymore'

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AP

Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa: 'I will not play hockey anymore'

Days after putting his Gold Coast condo on the market, Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa revealed to a Slovakian newspaper that he is moving back to his hometown country and doesn't plan on returning to the NHL.

"I will not play hockey anymore," said Hossa, who missed the entire 2017-18 campaign due to a progressive skin disorder and the side effects of the medications involved to treat it. "I have a valid contract with Chicago for the next three years, but I have only one health and it does not allow me to return."

Because he has three years left on a deal that carries a $5.275 million cap hit, Hossa is not expected to sign his retirement papers until the contract is completed or else it would result in salary cap consequences.

The news is not surprising, but it officially allows the Blackhawks to move on without him in the fold roster-wise and toy around with some options this summer.

The first is stashing his contract on long-term injured reserve, as they did last season when they utilized the in-season preference.

The second, which Hossa wondered could happen, is finding a trade partner that would absorb the remainder of his contract, usually done by lower payroll teams aiming to reach the cap floor.

And it wouldn't be difficult trying to find a buyer, considering Hossa's actual salary is $1 million per year over the next three seasons. Hossa, of course, has a no movement clause but it's likely he would waive it given his status at this point.

The good news for Chicago is, the three-time Stanley Cup winner didn't rule out joining the Blackhawks organization in some capacity after his contract expires in 2020-21, whether it's in a front office role or as a team ambassador.

In 19 NHL seasons, Hossa accumulated 525 goals and 609 assists for 1,134 points in 1,309 regular-season games, and added 149 points (52 goals, 97 assists) in 205 postseason contests. He's one of 45 players in league history to net at least 500 goals in his career.