Sep 182011

By Brad Gardner

The Blackhawks kicked off camp with the fourth annual Training Camp Festival on Saturday, September 17th. The sold-out event featured the camp invitees broken up into three teams for practices and a pair of scrimmages at the United Center.

Each game included two 25-minute periods and a shoot out to follow, regardless of the score. The red team, led by Dave Bolland and Brent Seabrook, played in both scrimmages and was the first team to score in each contest. Simon Danis-Pepin opened scoring in the first scrimmage with a long-distance slapper that found its way past Corey Crawford. In game two, the red team took the early lead when Peter Leblanc picked up a rebound and buried his chance in front of the net.

Neither lead would last long, however. The white team controlled most of the first scrimmage, winning by a score of 3-1 behind goals from Jonathan Toews, Brandon Pirri, and Shawn Lalonde.

The black team got a tying goal in the second scrimmage from Nick Leddy, whose wrister from near the faceoff circle got through goaltender Johann Mattsson. The black team also earned a 3-1 victory in regulation after a pair of quick goals beat Mattsson high blocker side, the first a breakaway score from Rob Klinkhammer and the final tally from Jamaal Mayers’ snap shot that found twine shortly after.

The first day’s scrimmages are just a small glimpse of the Blackhawks’ two week training camp, but here are some first impressions of the summer’s new additions as well as a few notes on returning players:

– Patrick Kane, recovering from offseason wrist surgery, skated with the white team in the first practice of the day, but he is still avoiding contact drills and did not play in the scrimmage. He returned for a shoot out attempt after the second game, predictably going backhand but still beating Mattsson over the shoulder.

– Of the Blackhawks’ first and second round picks over the summer, Phillip Danault seems to be the one who has had the most pressure to justify his draft position. He did so early in camp with his aggressiveness and skill with the puck. The winger plays fearless, even going up against the NHL regulars, and can make things happen with the puck on his stick.

– Mark McNeill, the team’s 18th overall pick, is more physically mature than any of the rookies. That point was made obvious to 2009 pick Brandon Pirri, who practically bounced off McNeill when he tried to check him in the open ice.

– Brandon Saad, after a couple very strong showings at the rookie tournament in Oshawa last weekend, was less noticeable in his first taste of an NHL camp. Consistency is the key for both Saad and McNeill, so each should find themselves back in the CHL for the year.

– It looked like some of the guys who could see some fourth line minutes during the year might bring a little more speed to the table than what was there last season. Dan Carcillo had some giddyup and was certain to finish his first few checks. Brandon Bollig stepped in to have a few words with the new addition, but Carcillo declined his invitation to drop the gloves.

– Brandon Segal, recently signed free agent from the Dallas organization, also skated well. He was in the right place at the right time for a couple chances but was unable to convert. Likely headed to Rockford to start the year, he could be asked to bring some energy to that bottom line at some point during the season.

– Rob Klinkhammer showed his breakaway speed throughout last season in Rockford but couldn’t convert a single opportunity. Great to see him finally finish one, even if it was against a goaltender headed to the OHL for the upcoming season.

– Elsewhere on the bubble, don’t think Ben Smith or Marcus Kruger did a lot to help or hurt their chances of making the roster in their first day of camp. Both will be players to watch when the preseason games kick off on Tuesday.

– An inauspicious start for Sami Lepisto in a Blackhawks sweater, as he turned over the puck in the slot one of the first times he touched the puck. From below the goal line, he passed up the middle of the ice but missed his forward skating across the defensive zone, resulting in a prime scoring chance for the other team. Lepisto settled down after the miscue, skating well and still moving the puck with confidence.

– Sean O’Donnell, another new addition to the blue line, has never been billed as a mobile defenseman, but at 39-year-old, he just didn’t have the wheels that Blackhawks fans have come to expect on the blue line.

– That said, he played a safe, reliable game in his own zone, which allowed Nick Leddy to take more chances. Looking much more assertive with the puck than he did as a rookie, he pushed the pace up the ice on a couple occasions and passed with confidence on the breakout. Although Mattsson would like to have that goal back, Leddy did a nice job of finding room to pinch in and get a quick shot on net.

– Goaltending was solid, considering the setting, but there didn’t seem to be too many great chances for the offenses either. Ray Emery and Johan Mattsson each played an entire scrimmage for the red team, giving up three goals apiece. Emery still made some strong saves and showed he can still move well laterally in the crease as he was challenged throughout the scrimmage by Toews and the white team. As long as he is healthy, Emery could be a great fit in the back-up role behind Crawford and bolster the ‘Hawks depth in net.

Brad Gardner

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  12 Responses to “Training Camp Festival 2011: Klinkhammer scores on the breakaway”

  1. Has anyone seen the scrimmage rosters for the red, white and black teams?

  2. Has anyone seen rosters anywhere for the makeup of the red, white and black scrimmage squads?

  3. It was on the team site, but doesn’t look like there’s the link there today. Apparently Kane participated in scrimmage today.

  4. I had a different take on Saad. I was quite impressed with him Saturday. He made a pretty touch pass to Pirri for a goal and scored in the shootout despite losing control of the puck in deep. But beyond that, he showed tremendous skating ability and speed on a semi-breakaway in the 2nd half. Just a few effortless moves and he glided past the red team like they were standing still.

    It’s clear to me that Saad has been mislabeled as a power forward. In reality, he’s more of a highly skilled, great skating playmaker.

    • Completely Agree.
      Saad looks to be much closer to filling the 2C hole than McNeill.
      McNeil is certainly the bigger more physical body but the skill and play-making ability is not yet upto Saad’s.

      • And yes, I know Saad is a LW. I’m saying he has more 2C abilities than McNeill right now. Interestingly both are listed at 6’2″ and only 10 lbs apart.

        • McNeill needs time to fill out. Last year was a career breakout season for him, so you’re looking for him to return to Prince Albert and replicate it. Not at all implying he could be a flash in the pan. I like McNeill a lot. Just saying I wouldn’t go too far to analyze him at this stage. He’s made a great leap as a prospect in one calendar year. This time last year he wasn’t listed anywhere on mock boards. Then he gets drafted and folks are talking like he might make the NHL straight away. He has a lot to learn. With the Raiders he flipped back and forth between C and RW. I don’t know, but I suspect the Hawks have a position in mind for him and are hoping he stays at that one position this season.

          • Chris,
            That’s exactly what I was attempting to say. Many folks are expecting McNeill to step into that 2C role, but he is a few years away at best. Saad is closer to being NHL ready despite being drafted 43rd vs. McNeill’s 22nd.

    • Saad reminds me a little of a young, quicker Steve Larmer. Premature comparison I admit, but that was the first image that crossed my head. What impresses me most are his hands and willingness to drive to the net and ability to travel there while carrying the puck.

    • I wouldn’t say he is exactly mislabeled, because I think a lot of his success, especially when he gets to the pro level, will be with his strength and willingness to work in the tough areas of the ice. As Chris mentioned, he’s not afraid to get to the net and I’ve seen him win some pretty convincing board battles. He doesn’t have the frame of guys like Brouwer or Bickell and he’s never struck me as a guy that “looks big” on the ice. But he’s tough to contain when he is playing physically and using his strength… just seems like there are times he would rather play more of a finesse style and beat someone with his skill rather than brute force. But I still think the “power” aspects of his game are going to be a big part of his success as he moves up the ranks.

      In terms of his comparisons to McNeill, I don’t know that many people would argue with the point that Saad is more skilled offensively. I think Saad has quite easily out-chanced McNeill from prospect camp, to Oshawa, to training camp. McNeill has more of a reputation as a two-way player, a guy that does the little things (to borrow front office parlance)… that’s one of the main differences between the two in my mind, because Saad is sometimes accused of, for example, not playing as physically as he could. Saad’s second half last season seemed to scare a lot of teams off a player who has those types of questions.. whether it was the groin, changes to the Saginaw roster, or just general disinterest at the junior level, Saad still has some questions to answer after a disappointing finish.

      • Saad got labeled “power forward” prior to his draft and I still don’t understand why. He’s not even that big, slightly smaller than Toews in fact. And Toews is excellent around the net but would never be called a PF. With his speed, skating ability, hands and shot, I don’t care if Saad’s not a physical player. It would be a bonus, but not crucial.

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