NHL

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Will Crawford's return get the Blackhawks into the playoffs?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Will Crawford's return get the Blackhawks into the playoffs?

Alex Maragos, Harry Teinowitz and Gabe Ramirez join Kap on the panel.

0:00- Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy meet the media at the NFL Combine and discussed how seriously they were pursuing Kareem Hunt and how they are going to find a new kicker.

7:30- Corey Crawford is back. Will his return get the Blackhawks into the playoffs or is it too late?

11:30- The panel discusses the latest on the Bryce Harper sweepstakes. Are the Giants now the frontrunners? Plus they talk about Cole Hamels desire to pitch until he's 45 and Welington Castillo blaming someone else for his suspension.

18:30- Lauri Markkanen has been red hot in February. Is he the superstar the Bulls will need to eventually become a contender?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: 

Blue line finding consistency with Murphy and Dahlstrom

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USA TODAY

Blue line finding consistency with Murphy and Dahlstrom

Hearing a pair of young defensemen say they “take pride in defending hard” and “being reliable defensively” must be music to the ears of Jeremy Colliton.

But it strikes a much nicer chord when the play of those defensemen on the ice matches the words coming out of their mouths.

Those words came from Connor Murphy and Carl Dalhstrom, the Blackhawks most consistent defensive pairing of late.

“Him and Murphy have done a great job playing hard minutes against really good players,” said Colliton. “I view it as a huge positive - the progression they’ve shown. I think they’re a big part of why we’ve been getting a lot more points lately.”

Murphy returned early in December after missing an extended period of time due to a back injury, while Dahlstrom missed making the team out of camp and later was recalled from Rockford. They’ve been paired together since Dahlstrom made his season debut on December 12th against the Penguins and there is no doubt that their consistency has paid dividends on the Blackhawks blue line.

“Connor is a great guy and an even better player. I really like playing with him,” said Dahlstrom. “I think both of our type of games really suit each other, really trying to break up plays early.”

As a team, the Blackhawks allowed 3.7 goals per game in their first 30 contests of the season. Since Murphy’s return, they have allowed 3.44 goals per game as a team. A lot of it has to do with better defensive play all around, as the team gets settled in with Colliton’s new systems. But Murphy and Dahlstrom have played a big part. In 16 games, Murphy has a +8 rating while Dahlstrom owns a +5 in his 14 games.

“It’s nice to take pride in playing defensive roles. I think I’ve had good chemistry with Dahlstrom and playing against some good forwards,” said Murphy after the Winter Classic. “We just take pride in defending hard.”

And while they may not be putting up the offensive stats like fellow defenseman Eric Gustafsson has been, Colliton has noticed their play on both ends of the ice.

“They’re competing hard, they’re winning battles, they’re willing to be physical, they get us out of [the] d-zone, and then those are the times you can potentially create offense,” said the 33-year old head coach. “That’s a huge benefit to our team.”

For Dahlstrom, getting a taste of the NHL last season helped him boost his confidence, knowing he can hang with the game’s best. Dahlstrom spent a majority of last season in Rockford under Colliton, and that familiarity has helped his transition this season as well.

“I know what he wants from me, what the whole coaching staff wants from me,” said Dahlstrom. “It’s nice to get the trust from the coaches to play against the top lines.”

Dahlstrom even went as far as claiming that he has an even greater comfort level in the NHL than he did playing in the AHL with the IceHogs.

“I don’t know why I seem to find a better level up here,” said Dahlstrom. “Obviously the players up here are better, and you’re playing with better players, but you’re also playing against better players. Really just focusing on defense and being reliable defensively might be a big key from me.”

And the Murphy-Dahlstrom pairing has been a big key in steadying the Blackhawks blue line…just like everyone predicted.

Through our eyes: The 2015 Stanley Cup Final

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USA TODAY

Through our eyes: The 2015 Stanley Cup Final

June 15, 2015 – The Chicago Blackhawks clinch their third Stanley Cup in six years on home ice at the United Center. Everyone remembers where they were at the moment, and everyone remembers how they celebrated. Here’s how it went down through the eyes of the people covering the game for (then) Comcast SportsNet.

Pat Boyle (pre/postgame host): Game 6 vs Tampa Bay in 2015. It was a crazy weather night in Chicago. Lightning outside the United Center…and inside of it.  

Luke Stuckmeyer (reporter): The 2015 Championship was special because it happened on home ice. With just a 1-0 lead going into the 3rd period the game was far from over. So, as the media started to lineup in the Zamboni entrance we didn't know if a celebration was coming or a game-tying goal from the Lightning.

Danny Wysocki (booker/field producer): I was in the working media room booking travel in case there was a Game 7 in Tampa and the flight costs were already going up. The TV’s were delayed, but you heard the crowd roar and the goal horn. Patrick Kane’s goal to put the Blackhawks up 2-0 was the most dramatic moment of the night because you knew it sealed the W. Chelsea Dagger wasn’t even finished when cameraman Jeff Korbitz and I raced to the Zamboni entrance to get in line with the other media members to go on the ice.

Slavko Bekovic (producer): I’ll never forget the buzz of the newsroom that day. I was in to help produce the pregame and postgame shows, cutting highlights and video clips and also helping turn around interviews for the celebration. There was so much to sift through! Between Luke Stuckmeyer, David Kaplan and Steve Konroyd, it felt like we interviewed every single player and front office member on the ice with the Cup.

Sarah Lauch (producer/editor): One photo I love is from 2015. Every year, the same situation. Standing. Hoping. People sometimes forget we do not have the luxury of watching at bars, at the arena or with our families. But there is nothing better than a newsroom ready to burst and so invested in a team.  I would not trade it for the world.

Stuckmeyer: I couldn't see the puck go in when Patrick Kane all but wrapped it up, but the roar was deafening in the United Center. It took me back to being a kid and watching Michael Jordan being introduced at the old Chicago Stadium. You could feel the sound traveling through your body. It was the loudest I've ever heard the UC.

Boyle: When Patrick Kane scored the insurance goal with five minutes to go, the countdown to the third cup in six seasons was on. When the clock hit zeroes, our postgame show started, but the star of the show was not in the building. While the players were making their way through the handshake line, the Stanley Cup had not yet arrived to the United Center.  

Wysocki: There were bad thunderstorms in Chicago that night, so the Stanley Cup was delayed from O’Hare. Usually during celebratory moments, media members are working so fast there’s no chance to take in the moment, since the Cup delayed we got to watch the team celebrate and reflect on what a great team the Blackhawks were to cover.

Boyle: Tornado warnings and bad weather had caused gridlock on the roads. The Cup was caught in traffic and needed a police escort to get to the UC. After a little bit of stalling and presentation of the Conn Smythe trophy, Stanley finally arrived and the party was on in Chicago once again! 

Wysocki: After the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe trophy presentations, media were let on the ice. My job was to bring players over to Steve Konroyd and Pat Boyle to interview. Patrick Sharp was holding his daughter during his interview, and Denis Savard came and gave Toews a big bear hug during his. My favorite moment was getting on the ice and seeing Andrew Shaw hug his dad as he got on the ice. We had to wait to do the interview because he was teary eyed.  

Stuckmeyer: I'd walked out onto that United Center ice to host "Shoot The Puck" and the "First Star interview" many times that season, but the actual ice had a different feel this time. It sounds crazy, but the ice was so carved up from these players spilling their guts for three periods of world-class hockey, that it wasn't even remotely slippery out there. You could hear the crowd roaring, but you could feel the blood sweat and tears in the shredded ice.

Mike Cappozzo (photographer): There was a massive Chicago media presence with the excitement of winning at home. I had a bunch of friends in the crowd. They snapped pictures of me while working on the ice postgame. I also mounted my GoPro on the top of my camera and captured some great moments walking to the ice for the celebration.

Bekovic: My favorite moment was Kris Versteeg skating around the ice with his newborn baby, taking pictures with the fans. I think him and Sharpy might have been the only guys carrying something other than the Cup. Versteeg went on to do an interview with Kap with newborn in hand…complete with a massive set of earmuffs. And Scott Darling saying he needed to get checked for an ulcer because of the intensity of the series was classic.

Stuckmeyer: I remember the hallway outside the Blackhawks locker room that night. More beer on the floor than a college fraternity at 2am. Every handshake. Every congratulations. You don't realize how long that season is and how many hours of work go into a Championship. It's not just the players. This time, all the workers at the United Center got to enjoy it too.