Blackhawks

Stalberg willing to take abuse for power play time

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Stalberg willing to take abuse for power play time

Viktor Stalberg was pretty happy with the way 2011-12 went for him. Not surprising, as he set career-high numbers in goals (22), assists (21) and points (43).

But when the Blackhawks conducted exit interviews last week, his focus was about what he could add to his game next season.

Or, more specifically, what parts of the game he could be added to next season.

When Stalberg scored his 22 goals this season, they were all in even-strength situations. The forward, in his third NHL season, saw little to no time on the Blackhawks power play. And thats where hed like to get more of a chance next season.

Im always looking to get a bigger role on the team, Stalberg said. Im working on little things to get on special teams and things like that. I didnt play much this year, but I want to get more into my game and hopefully I can help out there in the future.

Considering his even-strength work this season, why not give Stalberg more power-play opportunities next season? The Blackhawks power play struggled mightily in 2011-12, usually doing more to stifle momentum than build it. There were plenty of tweaks, too, as basically everyone played some on that power play. But the results were never very consistent.

Stalberg did play there. Sort of. He logged a little more than 35 minutes of total power-play time this season; that worked out to about 27 secondsgame.

I definitely want to get a chance at it, Stalberg said. I didnt get much of a chance this year, no extended time. I think its something Ill look to get better and keep working at.

Stalberg could be used in a few ways on that power play, although one role may be perfect for him in the current situation: net-front presence. Several Blackhawks talked last week about that element being MIA this season, mentioning former Hawks Tomas Kopecky and Troy Brouwer by name. Stalberg brings a big body (6-foot-3, 209 pounds) that could screen a few goaltenders and deflect a few goals.

And as far as the hits, slashes, pushes and shoves that net presence gets from the opposition on the power play, Stalbergs ready to take the abuse.

Yeah, for sure. I think you want to get all the ice time you can get, Stalberg said. Thats the role you have to take, and Id like to get that into my game. Get grittier and score more goals in traffic like that. A lot of guys made great careers standing in front of the net.

Stalberg hopes to add power play to his repertoire next season. Will he get the chance? Who knows. But considering the anemia the Blackhawks had on it this season, its certainly worth consideration.

Well see what happens, he said. Im definitely looking to get better, and hopefully Ill get a chance to be on there.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Reacting to Round 1 of NHL Draft

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Reacting to Round 1 of NHL Draft

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis recap Round 1 of the 2018 NHL Draft.

They discuss the pair of puck-carrying defensemen that the Blackhawks selected on Friday, Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin. When can we expect to see these first-round picks play in the NHL?

Boyle also goes 1-on-1 with Boqvist and Beaudin. The guys spoke with Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville on Friday.

The guys also share their biggest takeaways from those interviews, which includes your daily Corey Crawford update and Quenneville appeared excited that the team has plenty of cap space to spend in free agency.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

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USA TODAY

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

The preseason expectations and the results have been drastically different for Lucas Giolito.

Expected to be the best pitcher on the White Sox starting staff, Giolito hasn’t come too close to that title, instead heading into Friday’s doubleheader with the most earned runs allowed of any pitcher in baseball. His walk total has been among the highest in the game all year long, too. And the calls from social media to send him down to Triple-A haven’t been at all infrequent.

But Friday, White Sox fans got a glimpse at what they expected, a look at the guy who earned so much hype with a strong September last season and a dominant spring training.

It wasn’t a performance that would make any reasonable baseball person’s jaw drop. But it was the best Giolito has looked this season. He still allowed four runs on seven hits — as mentioned, not a Cy Young type outing — but he struck out a season-high eight batters. Prior to giving up the back-to-back singles to start the eighth inning that brought an end to his evening, he’d surrendered just two runs.

Most importantly he walked just two guys and didn’t seem to struggle with his command at all. That’s a big deal for a pitcher who had 45 walks to his name prior to Friday.

“You know it was a tough eighth inning, but throughout the whole game, I felt in sync,” Giolito said. “(Catcher Omar Narvaez) and I were working really well, finally commanding the fastball the way I should. Definitely the best I felt out there this year, for sure. Velocity was up a tick. Just felt right, felt in sync. Just competed from there.”

Confidence has never left Giolito throughout the poor results, and he’s talked after every start about getting back on the horse and giving it another try. Consistently working in between starts, things finally seemed to click Friday night.

“It all worked today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “(Pitching coach Don Cooper) says that every bullpen has gotten better, from the beginning to this point. He sees progress. The velocity that he showed today was something that Coop was seeing in his work. You can see that his delivery is continuing to improve. He was trusting himself, really attacking the strike zone, trusted his breaking ball today when he need to and just tried to command as much as he could. Did a nice job.”

Giolito went through this kind of thing last year, when he started off poorly at Triple-A Charlotte with a 5.40 ERA through his first 16 starts. But then things got better, with Giolito posting a 2.78 ERA over his final eight starts with the Knights before getting called up to the big leagues.

This was just one start, of course, but perhaps he can follow a similar formula this year, too, going from a rough beginning to figuring things out.

“I’m not trying to tinker or think about mechanics anymore,” he said. “It’s about flow, getting out there and making pitches. We were able to do that for the most part.

“I’ll watch video and see certain things, and I have little cues here and there. But I’m not going to go and overanalyze things and nitpick at certain stuff anymore. It’s about going there and having fun and competing.”

Maybe that’s the secret. Or maybe this is simply a brief flash of brilliance in the middle of a tough first full season in the bigs.

Whatever it was, it was the best we’ve seen of Giolito during the 2018 campaign. And it was far more like what was expected back before that campaign got going.