Blackhawks

Who has the edge in the Blackhawks-Blues series?

Who has the edge in the Blackhawks-Blues series?

Well, here we are again: the Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues, returning to their rivalry on the playoff stage.

There are no secrets between these two: you know what you get with each team. So how does each part of each team stack up? Glad you asked. As we’ve done in the past, here are our edges in the first-round playoff matchup between the Blackhawks and Blues.

FORWARDS

Each team has its steady captain (Jonathan Toews and David Backes). Each team has its explosive forwards (Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko). The Blackhawks’ second line has been a consistent source of offense throughout the season. Kane finished with a career-high 46 goals and Artemi Panarin had 30, the most for a Blackhawks rookie since Eric Daze (1995-96). The top line has had its moments — Toews finished with 28 goals — but the third and fourth lines haven’t brought offense as they have in the past.

For the Blues, Tarasenko led the Blues with 40 goals. Backes, who is expected to be back from a lower-body injury, is next with 21. After that, the Blues have six players with 10 or more goals this season.

The big question is: will the Blackhawks get the more balanced scoring in the postseason that was so hit and miss in the regular season? Playoff history says they will. This is a close one to call, but...

EDGE: Blackhawks.

[MORE: Blackhawks' health returning at the perfect time]

DEFENSE

The Blackhawks know what they’ve got in their top three defensemen (Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson). Finding consistency from 4-6 hasn’t been as easy, and the Blackhawks’ overall defense hasn’t been as strong this season as in the past. Also, the Blackhawks will be without Keith for one more game. The Blues have jumbled up their defensive pairs plenty this season, but that’s been because of injuries, not lack of good play. Despite those injuries, the Blues’ defense has been consistent and strong this season.

EDGE: Blues.

POWER PLAY

We’re not used to saying this entering the playoffs but: the Blackhawks’ power play is good. We mean ranked-second-in-the-league good (22.6 percent). Kane and Panarin have been great on it this season but as Kane said, when the Blackhawks are moving on the power play, it’s worked well. The Blues, meanwhile, aren’t too shabby on this either. They’re sixth in the league, converting 21.5 percent of the time. Both will be threats to penalty kills.

EDGE: Even.

[SHOP: Gear up for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Blackhawks fans!

PENALTY KILL

The Blackhawks’ usual bread and butter was not nearly as strong and consistent this season as it’s been previously. Yes, it’s been much better down the stretch (29 of 31 in the last 11 games) and if that continues the Blackhawks will be in good shape. The Blues’ kill, however, has been great throughout this season, ranked third in the league (85.1 percent). As much as the Blackhawks’ improvement lately is a good sign, the confidence for the Blues in this category has been there all season.

EDGE: Blues.

GOALTENDING

Corey Crawford is back after missing nearly a month with an upper-body injury. He was hit and miss in the regular-season finale, where getting the timing back was the toughest part. But said he feels great and is ready for the postseason. Brian Elliott will be the Blues’ starter for Game 1. Elliott was great down the stretch and when the Blues recorded four consecutive shutouts in late March, he was in goal for three of them. Will this be the postseason Elliott proves himself? Perhaps. But to this point, the other guy already has.

EDGE: Blackhawks 

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.