Blackhawks

Will Rose return to form after surgery?

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Will Rose return to form after surgery?

As devastating as Derrick Roses torn left ACL injury, suffered in the Bulls postseason opener late last month, was to watch, the question soon became whether the All-Star point guard would return to his previous form.

While modern medicine has made considerable advancements and a torn ACL is no longer a death sentence for Rose, as Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau aptly put it after the injury occurred, there are several examples of players who dont regain their explosiveness, a key element of Roses brilliance, after returning to the court, something that can often stem from a lack of confidence in their body.

Its a huge part of it and if you look at reasons athletes do or dont get back to pre-injury level of play, theres no question that the psychological component is part of it, said Dr. Brian Cole, the Bulls team physician and the surgeon who performed Roses procedure last Saturday, at the teams Tuesday-afternoon press conference at Rush University Medical Center. But Rose will learn to be able to trust his knee.

Hell be doing basketball-specific activities very early on, continued the doctor, who allowed that some athletes dont fully regain confidence in being able to perform the same feats they did prior to an ACL injury. Then, you do non-contact, basketball-friendly activities against other people.

Its this progression of low contact to higher levels of contact in competition, pre playing a real game.

Fred Tedeschi, the Bulls head trainer, who has been working with Rose, both in helping get his range of motion back in preparation for surgery and in the recently-started rehabilitation process, discussed how Roses basketball recovery would potentially progress after the three-month mark.

As a patient, hes done everything Ive asked and more, said Tedeschi. Once you get him there, he does exactly what you ask. He usually does five more reps.

At the 12-week mark, youre talking about spot shooting on a basketball court, he continued. As the body tolerates, youll progress to cutting activities. Some of the things that youve seen Derrick do over and over again, hell have to re-learn.

As he can tolerate it, well keep advancing, well keep adding more to it, up until the point where you start looking at what I refer to as predictable contact. Then, you take the final step, which is full-blown practice and see how thats tolerated, progressing into game activities.

Added Cole, who acknowledged that Roses body could respond quicker than the typical timeline for recovery: Its a progression, so youve got to crawl before you walk and typically patients, after ACL reconstruction, are actually running within 12 weeks and in general, we speak of basketball-activities linearally in other words, without cutting and so forth as soon as four months, and then its just going to be a progression of conditioning.

You think of a return to sport ultimately, thats the end game here we think of recovery as sort of a long process thats in stages, he continued. Theres only so much thats willfully in our control. A lot of its about physiology, how his bodys going to respond to various aspects of training. Hes an unbelievably hard worker and he wants this more than anything. Were not going to rush it.

"The most important thing is all of us feel comfortable, based on some specific parameters, that he is ready to go at each stage as we advance him. If hes not ready, then we delay and if hes ready, then we advance him to the next stage, through that progression. People do get back in six months after ACL reconstruction, but its not common in professional sports with an athlete of this caliber, mainly because downside of not being fully prepared is a worst-case scenario.

Hes determined and he is an amazing kid. He believes he will do this.

Cole also confirmed that Rose will be expected to return to the court in the 2012-13 regular season at some point as early as January, if he recovers on schedule and while his workload might be lowered, if his body can handle it, he will see game action, not just practice minutes and be nursed along.

Theres a lot of therapeutic benefit to starting with early minutes when we think its safe because you really have to play to play and all these muscle patterns have to kick in. Obviously you can do that off the court, informally, said Cole. Whether he has to go 40 minutes, thats a whole different story, but just getting out there and playing when hes able, thats when his exponential growth is going to come. Lots of athletes go back and play at a very high level, but not necessarily initially at the level they were pre-injury.

Some people get it at six months, some people get it at eight its been reported that it can take three years it depends upon the muscle physiology, probably the confidence issues. All of those things play in, he continued. Every athlete has a different story and every injury is different. Suffice it to say, he will probably get back and if we think hes safe next season, hell play next season and even if hes not at the same capability he was before his injury, the expectation is hell get there over some, hopefully near-term period of time.

Added Tedeschi, who cited the examples of former Bulls guard Jamal Crawford and current backup center Omer Asik as players who have recovered from serious knee injuries under his watch: Its a process and its tough on the players, and eventually they make it. Its the initial hardship and then progressing through. I have every confidence Derrick will do fine with this and that it will go as planned.

As for Roses current state of mind, though he wasnt present at Rush for the time being, he remains in Chicago the update is that hes doing well.

His spirits seemed really good. I know, in his mind, hes just determine to attack this rehab and get his game back to the level that it was, said Bulls general manager Gar Forman. There was a period where he was downI think hes ready to aggressively attack this.

Chimed in Cole: Hes getting around great, resuming activities of normal function, which is what all of want to do early after an operation.

Blackhawks’ Kirby Dach emerging as star and living up to 'playoff performer' hype

Blackhawks’ Kirby Dach emerging as star and living up to 'playoff performer' hype

Ask anyone in Chicago who the standout of training camp 2.0 was and you'll hear one name: Kirby Dach.

“He has all the potential in the world,” Patrick Kane said. “He can be a top player in the league.”

“He’s got the potential to be a great player in this league and a great player for the Blackhawks for a long time," echoed Brent Seabrook.

Upon hearing this enormous praise from a pair of three-time Stanley Cup champions and joining the hype train myself, I couldn’t help but think: Are we putting unfair expectations on a kid who’s still only 19?

The answer: Nope. Because he can handle it.

Dach looks like a completely different player after finally having an “offseason” to recharge, both mentally and physically. And it’s showing in the postseason.

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Through three games in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, Dach has four points — all assists — and a team-best plus-4 rating; in total, he’s been on the ice for eight of the Blackhawks’ 13 goals so far. He became the first Blackhawks rookie to register at least one point in his first three postseason games since Eddie Olczyk in 1985. 

All those numbers are great, but here’s the eye-opener: Dach is averaging 20:21 of ice time in the postseason, which trails only Patrick Kane (22:21) among team forwards. He led all Blackhawks forwards with 23:21 of ice time in Wednesday’s Game 3 comeback win over the Edmonton Oilers, which was, by far, a career high for Dach, who averaged 14:16 of ice time during the regular season.

The Blackhawks are giving him an enormous amount of responsibility, whether it's top-six minutes at even strength, power-play time on the first unit and penalty kill reps. And Dach is handling it about as well as you could ask for.

"He loves responsibility and he thrives on it," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We knew, based on how he looked in training camp, that he was ready to take a bigger role here. He's been great. He's been as advertised."

Dach isn't just making an impact on the scoresheet, either. He's doing the little things right, too.

Olli Maatta scored the first goal in Game 3 after his shot from the point got past Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen, but that puck doesn't go in without the 6-foot-4, 197-pound Dach wreaking havoc in front of the net. Those plays don't go unnoticed inside the locker room.

"It shows that the coach trusts in your abilities to get a job done," Dach said of the added responsibility. "And as a player, it's a welcoming challenge. You want to be put in those situations and succeed in them."

One of the main reasons why the Blackhawks selected Dach third overall in 2019 was because of the way he elevated his game in the Western Hockey League playoffs. He was the engine for the Saskatoon Blades and the focal point for opponents yet thrived off the attention.

“He does all the things that can wow you, but then he does the other stuff, too," GM Stan Bowman said the day the Blackhawks drafted Dach. "He was great at stripping pucks, he was great at backchecking, he was great at the physical play when the series got pretty intense in the playoffs and it was clear they were targeting him. He not only took it, he gave it back. It was impressive to see him raise his game at a time of year when it matters most, which is playoff hockey.

"You watch the NHL playoffs and you see how intense it can be and then you look at the way he plays, and you can see that that game translates."

It sure does.

Whether he can be a big-time point producer in the NHL remains to be seen, but it's clear Dach is the kind of player whose game is better suited for the playoffs than the regular season. And we're seeing why.

How Blackhawks' unlikely heroes on defense are providing boost in Oilers series

How Blackhawks' unlikely heroes on defense are providing boost in Oilers series

Jonathan Toews was dominant in Game 1's 6-4 win and he was back at it in Game 3. But, with the special teams woes the Oilers have been causing the Hawks in touting a power play that was No. 1 in the NHL at the time of the pause and a penalty kill that was No. 2, not to mention the top two points leaders in the league during the regular season (Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid), Chicago needed some unlikely heroes to emerge in the series.

Enter Blackhawks defensemen Connor Murphy, Olli Maatta and Slater Koekkoek.

With Game 3 tied 3-3 and just 1:16 remaining early Thursday morning, Murphy fired a wrist shot to put the Hawks ahead. It even appeared as if he scored the goal himself at first, but Toews was credited with his second goal of the game on the play and Murphy with the primary assist. The D-man finished Game 3 with a +/- rating of +1 in 21:55 of ice time.

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"Just a lucky bounce," a modest Murphy said of his play that helped the Blackhawks take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series, having the Oilers facing elimination in Friday's Game 4. "Didn’t throw (a) hard one at the net. I saw Tazer had good position. He was all alone in front, should be able to get a tip on it. ... Just those last minutes of games, every faceoff’s so huge, obviously that one being a big one to get a shot off."

Koekkoek got the primary assist on Matthew Highmore's first career postseason goal which tied the game 3-3 at 14:13 of the third.

Maatta scored the first goal of the game 9:14 into the opening frame off a pass from Patrick Kane and picked up the secondary assist on Highmore's goal. 

"He's got experience from playing in the playoffs, it's nice to have that, and he's done a great job defensively, killing penalties and he's calm back there," Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said of Maatta, who won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins before coming to the Hawks, after the game. "He's been able to chip in offensively, too, that's always a bonus. Our D as a whole are doing a great job of getting pucks through and getting it to the net, and we're going to need to continue to do that."

Related: Blackhawks overcome special teams woes, complete comeback in Game 3

Maatta has a two-game goal streak in the series and he and his D-partner, Koekkoek, were the only blueliners in Game 2's 6-3 loss with a positive +/- rating (+2). Maatta had one goal in Game 2 and Koekkoek a goal and an assist.

"I think we do a great job whenever we get in the zone, our forwards do a great job holding onto the puck. That makes them collapse a little bit. They do a good job of giving us the puck with a little more time. It hasn't been only me and Kooks," Maatta said of the Hawks blueline's contributions to the series. "It's been Haaner (Calvin de Haan) and Murph and Duncs (Duncan Keith) and Boqi (Adam Boqvist). They're getting pucks through and it feels like every time we get it to the net our forwards are in good position, battling for them, getting rebounds, getting tips. It makes it tough for them."

According to Murphy, with the way the Blackhawks' forwards and D have been effectively collaborating in the offensive zone, it's best for Chicago's defensemen to just keep firing pucks on net when they can.

"It’s always part of your game plan," Murphy said. "Especially our forwards draw good attention when they’re entering the zone, knowing that we’ve got a lot of firepower in them, a lot of skill and strength. They do a good job of drawing wingers down to them. It leaves a couple of open shots. Kooks and Olli have been hot lately and have really smart shots they get through, go in. That’s always a good plan."