By Chris Block
After a weekend dealing with wild rumors of off-ice turmoil and supposed discord, the Blackhawks took to the ice on Monday with a couple of new faces and minus another. A United Center crowd announced as 21,641 watched the ‘Hawks cruise to a 5-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
The win pushed the Hawks to five points up on Winnipeg in the Central Division and eight on the Minnesota Wild. If the playoffs were to begin today, the Hawks would finish 3rd in the Central and face the Blues in the first round. Winnipeg would play Nashville and Minnesota would cross over into the Pacific Division bracket by way of finishing second in the Wild Card standings. Chicago is still four points back of St. Louis and the Blues have a game in hand on them.
Jonathan Toews notched his 20th and 21st goals of the season as the Hawks easily dissected the Hurricanes defense. Brandon Saad kept pace with the Captain, scoring his 20th midway through the second after a solid Patrick Sharp forecheck that created a Carolina turnover. Marcus Kruger (6th) and Marian Hossa (18th) would round out Chicago’s scoring. Corey Crawford made 27 saves in earning his 25th win on the campaign.
Antoine Vermette and Kimmo Timonen made their Blackhawks’ debuts. Both were acquired over the weekend in separate trades made possible by the misfortune of Patrick Kane’s broken left collarbone suffered last Tuesday against Florida. Kane spending the remainder of the regular season on long term injured reserve created the cap space Stan Bowman and Blackhawks’ management didn’t have previously to fill holes in their roster.
Toews got the Hawks on the board at 8:07 of the first when he slipped behind Jordan Staal at the Carolina blue line and was led perfectly by a Michael Rozsival pass. Toews stepped into the visitor’s zone alone and ripped a wrister over Cam Ward’s left glove hand. Niklas Hjalmarsson got the secondary assist. Rozsival’s pass was perfect but the play was really opened up by Ron Hainsey playing man on Marian Hossa on the wall at the Carolina blue line, leaving no protection for Ward in the zone.
The Hawks almost got another one a minute later when the newly formed third line got to work. Bryan Bickell was sprung down the left wing with speed. He gained the blue line and cut to the middle between two Carolina defenders. They converged to poke check Bickell, but that opened the door for the trailing Hawks to recover the puck and establish the zone. Brad Richards missed a would-be goal when he shanked an attempt wide of the left post. Then Teuvo Teravainen got in the mix but he whiffed on a bouncing loose puck.
44 seconds into the second period the Hawks increased their lead to 2-0 when Jonathan Toews was again sprung behind the Carolina defense, this time by a Duncan Keith saucer pass over Andrej Nestrasil’s stick. This time Toews wristed his shot under Ward’s left leg pad from thirty feet out. Keith got the lone assist.
Antoine Vermette committed the first major hockey faux pas as a Blackhawk six minutes into the middle period when his no look backhand pass into the slot inside the Hawks zone was picked off by Jeff Skinner. Fortunately for Vermette, Skinner put his shot right into Crawford’s chest and a whistle stopped play.
A couple minutes later we got a glimpse of the Patrick Sharp the Hawks have been missing. Sharp accelerated a burst of speed up the wing and by a defender but his shot clanked off the right post and cross bar.
On Sharp’s next shift he stepped off the bench and chased a dump in to the end wall. His fierce pursuit forced a Carolina turnover to Brandon Saad whose first shot attempt hit defenseman Michal Jordan. The puck came right back to Saad, however, and his second attempt beat Ward to give the Hawks a 3-0 bulge.
Marcus Kruger forced another turnover when he saw Michal Jordan had his head down just inside Carolina’s zone by the Hawks’ bench. Kruger got his stick on Jordan’s pass. Andrew Shaw got the puck and put a shot on. Kruger followed up on the rebound and backhanded it past Ward at 15:42 of the second, giving the Hawks a 4-0 advantage.
17 seconds later Marian Hossa found himself on a two-on-one with Kris Versteeg after Toews stole a puck at center but Hossa’s far side attempt snapped off the crossbar.
Anton Khudobin relieved Cam Ward for the third period but he didn’t fare any better.
Carolina did extinguish Crawford’s shutout bid at 4:29 of the third on a perfect passing sequence that ended with defenseman John-Michael Liles jumping into the play and beating Crawford to the blocker side. Andrej Nestrasil set Liles up after Kimmo Timonen went for a swim as Seabrook was tied up in front of Crawford. It was Liles 2nd goal in his 40th game of the season. Nestrasil and Nathan Gerbe got the helpers.
Hossa made up for his earlier crossbar at 7:55 of the third when he rigged a shot through the legs of Michal Jordan and blew it by Khudobin. Toews and Rozsival added assists.
The Hawks got a scare with 5:42 to go when Crawford seem to pull a muscle in his left leg moving from right to left to make a desperation stop on a Nestrasil attempt. Crawford made a second stop on Nestrasil as he was laying on the ice in agony. There was a commercial time out after the whistle and Crawford was able to stay in the game.
The Hurricanes got a garbage goal late as they had the Hawks running around their zone winding out the clock. They left Alexander Semin loose and he was able to pot a backhander by Crawford with 1:10 to go to finish the scoring.
Chicago is now off until Friday when they host Edmonton. Then the New York Rangers visit the UC on Sunday. The Blackhawks won’t practice Tuesday or Wednesday, though there will be a team meeting and video session for players at the UC on Wednesday.
–Teuvo Teravainen is up to stay now.
-The big news of this day was the Blackhawks trading Ben Smith to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for center Andrew Desjardins. The key to this deal was money. Desjardins contract is worth $750,000 against the cap, exactly half that of Smith’s deal that does extend into next season. San Jose also retained half of Desjardins’ salary. That savings cleared the way for the Hawks to carry Teuvo Teravainen for the remainder of the season, which was the reason for trading Smith now. It was very likely Smith would have been traded in the off season to clear additional cap space anyhow, but making the move now was done specifically to carry both Nordstrom and Teravainen for the rest of the season.
–Stan Bowman also made no “paper transactions” on Monday. The NHL trade deadline also represents an important deadline to the AHL as well. For a player playing in the NHL at any point from this point of the season on to also be eligible for his organization’s AHL playoffs, the player had to be on the AHL team’s roster at 2pm central time today. Many teams made “paper transactions” today. Vancouver was one, as they “re-assigned” Adam Clendening to AHL-Utica Comets prior to 2pm only to recall him later in the afternoon. Clendening remained in Vancouver throughout the process. The Canucks host Ben Smith and the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night.
Since the Hawks made no such transactions Monday, this means Teravainen, Scott Darling and Joakim Nordstrom will not be eligible for the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL playoffs should the IceHogs still be active in the postseason whenever the Blackhawks postseason run ends.
This doesn’t prohibit those players from being reassigned to Rockford during the remainder of the regular season. That can still happen but it’s unlikely because there’s little point to it since they couldn’t continue on with the IceHogs into the AHL playoffs.
NHL teams are allowed 4 player recalls from their minor league affiliate after the trade deadline. Since the Hawks chose not to exercise any of the so-termed ‘paper’ transactions, this gives them the freedom to recall up to four players from Rockford from now until the end of the regular season. Any of those players would be eligible to play in the NHL playoffs as they were already under NHL contract at the time of the NHL trade deadline. Of course, NHL teams still must comply with the salary cap until the end of the regular season, however, the 23 man roster limit is now no longer in effect. The Hawks can carry as many players as they wish as long as they remain under the upper limit.
Joel Quenneville and Blackhawks management made up their minds on the backup position last week in choosing to carry Scott Darling on the NHL roster for the remainder of this year ahead of Raanta. There was talk that Bowman was dangling Raanta for assets prior to the trade deadline. If accurate, a trade did not materialize.
Kyle Cumiskey and Trevor van Riemsdyk obviously now have AHL playoff eligibility. As of a couple of weeks ago I had been told that the Hawks were not at all banking on TVR for this season. That was just before TVR had that sequence of four days were he went from skating on his own to practicing with the team and doing light battle drills, so that may have changed. van Riemsdyk was sent down to Rockford last week to continue his rehab and conditioning. He traveled with Rockford to Texas last weekend but did not play as he’s not quite ready to play in games just yet.
–van Riemsdyk is only cleared to skate at this point. There is no concrete plan for when he’ll play in a game in Rockford.
—Ben Smith had quite the whirlwind trade deadline Monday. It began in Chicago but ended in British Columbia after a stop in California to play a hockey game for a team that could have been considered a rival when the day began.
Smith woke up at his home in Chicago and took the morning skate with the Blackhawks, preparing to play against the Hurricanes and skate in his customary fourth line spot alongside Marcus Kruger. Shortly after the morning skate he learned that he had been just been traded to San Jose. The Sharks made a bunch of other deals as well on Monday that left them with exactly 12 active rostered forwards, including Smith. Smith had to quickly say his goodbyes, go home to quickly pack and then caught a flight out of O’Hare at 2 o’clock Chicago time and flew to San Francisco. He was picked up by a member of the Sharks organization at SFO and had a police escort on the hour drive in rush hour traffic down to San Jose.
He arrived at SAP Center shortly after 6:30pm pacific during warmups, rode a bike for five minutes once he got to the dressing room to loosen up and stepped out onto the ice for the game shortly after 7pm. On his third shift of the game, Smith tipped a Marc-Edouard Vlasic shot to score his first goal as a Shark. He later added an assist on a Matt Irwin blast in the second period after Smith did some good work along the wall to hold the zone and get the puck back toward the point. Smith skated at center in his Sharks debut, between Tomas Hertl and Tommy Wingels, which is now San Jose’s third line. The Sharks won the game 4-0, their first win at home since they beat the Blackhawks there on January 31st. Smith was named the game’s 2nd star. Afterwards, Smith and the Sharks boarded their charter to fly to Vancouver where they’ll face the Canucks on Tuesday. Long, eventful day for Mr. Smith.
For those unfamiliar with Ben Smith’s path to the Blackhawks, check out our feature piece on Smith, and how his untimely injury as the 2013 NHL lockout ended opened the door for Brandon Saad to make the NHL team at a time Saad had not been performing well in Rockford.
–It’s been a rough week or so for the Rockford IceHogs. They saw their leading scorer (T.J. Brennan) traded away. Earlier this year they said goodbye to another of their top defenseman, Adam Clendening, who was traded to Vancouver and has played in the NHL ever since. Then on Saturday, Klas Dahlbeck is pulled from the lineup just prior to their game in Austin. Dahlbeck was traded to the Arizona Coyotes during the second intermission. Now they find out for certain they’ll be without Nordstrom, Darling and Teravainen.
–Carolina Hurricanes coach Bill Peters is in his first season with that team. He previously served as an assistant on Mike Babcock’s bench in Detroit. Peters actually got his start in junior hockey under Babcock as well. Peters also was the coach the last time Rockford made the playoffs (2011), a streak that is likely to be broken this spring. Ted Dent was an assistant on Peters’ bench, as he was for Mike Haviland before Peters.
Joel Quenneville’s post-trade deadline lines, pairs, scratches & specials
23-Kris Versteeg / 19-Jonathan Toews / 81-Marian Hossa
10-Patrick Sharp / 80-Antoine Vermette / 20-Brandon Saad
29-Bryan Bickell / 91-Brad Richards / 86-Teuvo Teravainen
42-Joakim Nordstrom / 16-Marcus Kruger / 65-Andrew Shaw
2-Duncan Keith / 4-Niklas Hjalmarsson
44-Kimmo Timonen / 7-Brent Seabrook
5-David Rundblad / 32-Michal Rozsival
33-Scott Darling (backup)
Scratches: LW-13-Daniel Carcillo… C-Andrew Desjardins (traded for Ben Smith earlier in the day, had not arrived)…
Injuries: D-27-Johnny Oduya (upper body)… RW-88-Patrick Kane (left collarbone fracture)…
*Carolina was not called for a penalty in the game
PK forwards: Kruger-Nordstrom, Toews-Hossa
PK defense: Keith-Hjalmarsson, Timonen-Seabrook, Rozsival
-One would suspect Vermette will wind up a part of the PK as they move along, but Nordstrom did a fine job on Monday. Shaw and Nordstrom got some PK time in Friday’s loss at Tampa Bay late when the game was all but over.
Carolina Hurricanes’ lineup Monday March 2nd at United Center
12-Eric Staal / 11-Jordan Staal / 28-Alexander Semin
53-Jeff Skinner / 20-Riley Nash / 16-Elias Lindholm
14-Nathan Gerbe / 49-Victor Rask / 15-Andrej Nestrasil
24-Brad Malone / 18-Jay McClement / 25-Chris Terry
65-Ron Hainsey / 27-Justin Faulk
38-Jack Hillen / 47-Michal Jordan
26-John-Michael Liles / 73-Brett Bellemore
31-Anton Khudobin (backup)
Scratches: RW-39-Patrick Dwyer… D-62-Rasmus Rissanen….