Author Archives: Chris Block

Hawks say goodbye to Antti Raanta; Now look to solve depth goaltending puzzle again

By Chris Block

For the time being, goaltending is suddenly in short supply once again for the Blackhawks.

On Saturday after completion of the NHL Entry Draft, Hawks general manager Stan Bowman traded goaltender Antti Raanta to the New York Rangers in exchange for minor league forward Ryan Haggerty.

Haggerty, 22, will be a second year pro this coming season. He posted 15 goals and 18 assists in playing all 76 regular season games for the Hartford Wolf Pack in 2014-15. Haggerty notched 2 goals and 4 assists in 14 playoff games for Hartford.

The undrafted right winger out of R.P.I. is a Stamford, CT native and figures to add nice layer of scoring to the IceHogs.

Haggerty is familiar with IceHogs rookie defenseman Michael Paliotta. The due played two seasons together in the United States National Development Team Program. Haggerty is six weeks older than Paliotta. Read more »

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No movement from Hawks on Day One; Names to keep an eye on for Day Two of NHL Draft

By Chris Block

Friday evening’s opening round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft came and went without any involvement from the Chicago Blackhawks.

The anticipated trade of Patrick Sharp did not materialize as of late Friday, and general manager Stan Bowman was unable to move any other contracts, with Bryan Bickell and Kris Versteeg being the names prominently being floated as on the block.

Bowman and company were also unable to maneuver their way into a first round pick. The Arizona Coyotes used the pick they obtained from the Blackhawks in the Antoine Vermette trade to select Kelowna’s Nick Merkley, a 5’10” playmaking center who plays on the gritty size and was seen as a mid first round pick by most draft services.

There was a lot of movement up and down the first round board. Boston made the biggest headlines of the day swinging separate deals with Calgary and Los Angeles so that the Bruins wound up with the #13, #14 and #15 picks on Friday. Boston sent restricted free agent Dougie Hamilton to the Flames for the #15 pick, the #45 and #52. The Bruins then sent fan favorite Milan Lucic to the Kings in exchange for the #13 pick, goalie Martin Jones and minor league defenseman Colin Miller.

Ottawa traded goaltender Robin Lehner and center David Legwand to Buffalo in exchange for the 21st pick, which the Sens used to take center Colin White of the US National Development Team. White is headed to Boston College and regularly draws comparisons to Patrick Bergeron. White grew up in Boston and is a B’s fan. Read more »

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Salary Cap and Reality of Off Season Now Set; A look at Blackhawks position and options

[As I noted on Twitter last week, our Summer Blackhawks prospect rankings, originally scheduled for release on Monday, will be delayed due to a family emergency that had me pulled away and out of town last week. I don’t want to commit to a new date just yet, but I am working on it. The draft has taken precedent now. Thanks to all who sent nice notes the past week. I was off the grid for the most part. To those I didn’t get back to, I do appreciate it.]

By Chris Block

Today will kick-off our draft week coverage with the requisite state of the Blackhawks roster business in the wake of the salary cap becoming official for next season.

The Blackhawks currently do not own a 1st round selection in the NHL Draft this Friday in Sunrise, Florida. Chicago occupies just 2 spots over the initial 120 picks in the 2015 NHL Draft. You can expect that to change between now and this weekend, with the Hawks eyeing picks in return for some currently rostered players. Of course, a lot of that has to do with the situation the Blackhawks are in now because of new contracts kicking in, others still to be hammered out and the salary cap being the primary enemy of the defending Stanley Cup Champs.

2015-16 Salary Cap Guidelines Set

NHL released its parameters for the 2015-16 salary cap on Tuesday in conjunction with the National Hockey League Players Association per terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The new “upper limit” is set at $71.4 million, up $2.4M from the 2014-15 season. Read more »

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Resilient Lightning Tie Series in Game 2

By Chris Block

The 2015 Stanley Cup Final is shifting to United Center in Chicago on Monday with the series tied 1-1 after Tampa Bay bested the Blackhawks 4-3 in front of 19,204 fans at Amalie Arena on Saturday night.

Andrew Shaw, Teuvo Teravainen and Brent Seabrook notched the visitor’s goals, but Tampa was able to put 4 past Corey Crawford, who made 20 saves in an effort Joel Quenneville characterized as “just okay.”

The Blackhawks entered the 3rd period of Game 2 as they did three nights prior in Game 1, trailing Tampa Bay by a goal. Saturday night was following a similar path as Wednesday’s series opener, with Chicago largely dominating the pace of the game in the final twenty minutes of regulation.

Brent Seabrook tied the game at 3:38 of the third when his blast from the top of the point blew by Ben Bishop’s glove hand. Seabrook’s 7th of the postseason put the score at 3-3, but was not without controversy. As the puck closed in on Bishop, Marian Hossa converged on Bishop’s crease as well. Hossa skated toward the crease with his stick pushing into Bishop’s left leg pad. It appeared to be a clear example of goaltender interference, whether intentional or not, but after a brief conversation among the officials, the goal was allowed to stand. Read more »

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Blackhawks Tap Ducks in Game 7: Highlights

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On Carl Dahlstrom, and possible disconnect between Blackhawks management, pro and amateur scouting staffs

Dahlstrom_Carl_2015Apr18_Marlies_RFD_IceHogs          Carl Dahlstrom, photo courtesy of Rockford IceHogs – April 18, 2015

Roughly half of the following piece first appeared in The Committed Indian program on May 21st. Also included here are quotes and further detail and analysis that didn’t fit into the first-run story.

By Chris Block

As great as the past seven or so years have gone for the Blackhawks, there are causes for concern as to whether or not the organization can sustain this reign of success going beyond yet another cap crunch that awaits Stan Bowman and company this summer.

Patrick Sharp’s days with the organization appear to be nearing an end due to the mammoth Toews and Kane contracts kicking in next season. And Marian Hossa may have only another year or two left in him before he retires. On the blue line, Brent Seabrook has one more year before he’s an unrestricted free agent. When that day comes, Seabrook will be a 31-year year old, 11-year NHL veteran.

Brandon Saad and Teuvo Teravainen are top-six talents who will help smooth that transition. Future Hall of Famers Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are so good the Hawks will always be a threat no matter what.

But what has separated the Blackhawks in their championship runs, as well as the near miss in 2014, is the team’s depth. A third and fourth line that matches or exceeds that of any of their conference and playoff rivals; as well as a top four defense that is as good as it gets in hockey. Whether the fourth guy was Brian Campbell or Johnny Oduya, it didn’t matter. The Hawks are filthy rich in elite defensemen with Keith, Seabrook and Hjalmarsson leading the way. Read more »

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Vermette ends incredible Game 4 in 2OT

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Desperate Hogs Strike Back, 4-1 win in Game 3 puts Rockford back in series

By Chris Block

Returning home for Games 3 through 5 of their best-of-seven series down 2-0 to Grand Rapids, the Rockford IceHogs took to the ice on Wednesday night with an automatic sense of urgency in an almost must-win situation.

The IceHogs exhibited that urgency and desperation before a crowd of just 1,780 at BMO Harris Bank Center in a fiery and physical opening twenty minutes in Game 3.

That dominant first period set the table for an eventual 4-1 IceHogs victory.

Mark McNeill scored his 2nd goal of the postseason just 25 seconds into Grand Rapids’ first power play of the game, a controversial five minute major assessed midway into the first period. The breakaway goal gave the IceHogs a 1-0 lead. Rockford’s penalty kill kept a consistent pressure on the Griffins’ power play throughout the 5 minute kill and prevented the visitor’s from tying the game.

Later, when Rockford got its first chance on the power play, Ryan Hartman banked a pass to himself at the Grand Rapids blue line and strode in alone the same way McNeill had earlier and beat Griffins’ starter Tom McCollum with 1:24 to play in the opening frame. Hartman’s goal would stand as the game-winner.

“We knew this was a must win for us and we came out in the first period and were a desperate hockey team,” said goaltender Michael Leighton, who made 23 saves in Rockford’s 4-1 win in Game 3. Read more »

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IceHogs leave Grand Rapids trailing 2-0

By Chris Block

Before the IceHogs left for Games 1 and 2 in Grand Rapids earlier this week, Rockford head coach Ted Dent spoke of his team’s focus needing to be on containing Teemu Pulkkinen and keeping their composure in a building they haven’t had much success at in recent years.

After outplaying Grand Rapids in much of Game 1, but losing the decision 5-3 because of their own costly mental and physical errors, Rockford had to feel some sense of reassurance knowing they really only beat themselves in the series opener.

Well, on Friday, Rockford was resoundingly blown out of Van Andel Arena.

Grand Rapids allowed the first goal of the game when Spencer Abbott setup Brandon Mashinter for a one timer than was blown through Tom McCollum’s five hole at 6:18 of the first period.

But the Griffins responded by scoring five unanswered goals in route to a 5-1 final. Read more »

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Blackhawks Sweep The Wild, Suffer Key Loss As Rozsival Likely Done For Season

By Chris Block

When the second-round series became official, about the last probable outcome most people would have come up with was a Blackhawks sweep of the hottest team in the NHL since January.

Yet, Chicago did just that. And now the Hawks are one step closer (8 wins, in fact) from their 3rd Stanley Cup in 6 seasons.

Thursday night in St. Paul, the Blackhawks completed the 4-game sweep of the Minnesota Wild by a 4-3 score in captivating fashion before what was a left of the sold out Xcel Energy Center crowd by the time the final horn sounded.

In doing so, the Blackhawks become the first team from either conference to advance into the Conference Finals. They now await the winner of the Anaheim-Calgary series, which resumes on Friday night in Calgary with the Ducks up 2-1 in that duel.

It could be up to 7 to 10 days before the Blackhawks play again, depending on how long the other series go as neither Conference Final series can begin until the series currently going have concluded.

Brent Seabrook, Andrew Shaw, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa scored for the visitors in the series-clinching victory. Read more »

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