Category Archives: Brad Gardner

Bruins top Hawks 3-2 in the shootout

By Brad Gardner

The Blackhawks entered Saturday’s tilt with Boston all too aware of what the Bruins’ struggling offense has experienced in the early stages of their Stanley Cup defense. Despite Boston’s slow start to the season, the marquee match-up between the league’s last two champions did not disappoint. Both teams carried play for stretches as they battled through 65 minutes, but it was Boston that eventually came away with two points in the shootout.

The squads traded chances in the early-going. Milan Lucic had several scoring opportunities on his own in the first period, the first one redirected high by the stick of Jonathan Toews and later a couple heavy shots on the rush that Corey Crawford was able to control. Patrick Kane’s line continued to create offense despite a new face in Viktor Stalberg on the right wing for an injured Marian Hossa. Their best chance came after Stalberg shielded the puck and passed to Kane, who drove unimpeded to the net but was robbed by the glove of Tim Thomas. Kane threw another backhand attempt at Thomas later in the period after using the spin-o-rama to get himself some space. Read more »

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Hawks Triumph 5-2 Past Stars in Home Opener

By Brad Gardner

After dropping the season opener in Dallas, the Blackhawks came out flying in the home opener in front of an announced 21, 647 at the United Center. Chicago jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second and it was enough of a cushion to hold off the Stars’ late push. The Hawks eventually walked away with a 5-2 win.

Andrew Raycroft was in net for the Stars despite Kari Lehtonen’s hurculean effort on Friday night in Dallas. Raycroft turned in a strong first period in keeping the puck out of the net – the Blackhawks outshot the visitors 10-2 in the first period – but Raycroft wasn’t handling too many shots cleanly.

Those miscues eventually cost him in the first period. On a Blackhawks’ power play, Patrick Sharp controlled the puck and tried to put it on net. His first attempt was blocked, but Sharp recovered and got his second attempt through to Raycroft. Andrew Burnette picked up the rebound and notched his first goal as a ‘Hawk with a backhander, putting Chicago on the board first. Read more »

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Pirri scores 2 more in another sluggish Hawks preseason loss

By Brad Gardner

The Blackhawks took the ice Friday night for their second meeting of the preseason with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens entered play in Chicago with a 4-0 record in the preseason having defended their home ice in the first meeting between the two teams, a 4-1 victory at the Consol Energy Center on September 22.

Special teams play was the story early on. Pittsburgh’s first goal came from former-Hawk Steve Sullivan on the power play just five seconds into the man advantage. Brandon Pirri had shot the puck over the glass, giving the Pens the extra man. The Pens controlled the ensuing faceoff and Kris Letang’s crossing pass found Steve Sullivan with time at the top of the left circle. Ray Emery didn’t stand much chance with Tyler Kennedy parked in front of the net.

Pittsburgh’s second goal, scored by Matt Cooke, came while the team was down a man. The penalty kill applied constant pressure while shorthanded throughout the game, but it was more of a fluke play that resulted in the goal. Ray Emery skated way out of his crease to play a loose puck, sending it off the boards and into the neutral zone. Cooke was the first one there and fired a slap shot from center ice that skipped over Emery’s stick and through a rather feeble attempt to block the shot from Brent Seabrook. Read more »

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Season Preview: Jonathan Toews

photo credit: Zimbio

By Brad Gardner

Jonathan Toews is returning for the second season of his five-year $31.5 million dollar contract extension as the Blackhawks’ leading scorer, cracking the 70 point mark for the first time in his career last season with 76 points in 80 regular season games. Of his 32 goals, just two short of his career-high of 34 set in 2008-09, eight of his markers were game-winners. Toews finished second on last year’s club with a plus-25 rating. He had 10 power play goals as well.

His strongest stretch came in the season’s second half as the Blackhawks hovered in and out of a playoff position on an almost nightly basis. The ‘Hawks captain scored 14 goals and 21 assists in 26 games during February and March, supplying the team with just enough offense down the stretch to hang on to the 8th seed in the Western Conference. Read more »

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Season Preview: Ben Smith

image credit: Zimbio.com

By Brad Gardner

The hyperbole in Chicago surrounding Ben Smith hit a fever pitch late last season and has carried over into big expectations for the 23-year-old winger. Originally a sixth round pick in 2008, he has made a quick climb up Chicago’s prospect ranks and is poised to move into the NHL full-time this season.

Smith had his fans coming out of the NCAA following a four-year career at Boston College in which he contributed to two National Championship teams. A hard-working, defensively-sound forward, he also had strong production at the college level, including a 50-point season as a sophomore when he played mostly on a line with Buffalo’s Nathan Gerbe. He capped off his impressive career at Boston College with a Frozen Four MVP in 2010 at Ford Field with three goals and an assist in helping the Eagles capture their second National Championship in three years. Read more »

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Season Preview: Nick Leddy – Changing Levels

photo credit: Zimbio / Getty Images

By Brad Gardner

Acquired from Minnesota along with Kim Johnsson in February 2010 in the trade that sent Cam Barker to the Wild, Nick Leddy was thought to still be a few years away from making an impact at the pro level. After making big strides in his game as a freshman at the University of Minnesota in 2009-10 and another strong showing at Chicago’s prospect camp the following summer, Leddy showed that he was much closer than originally thought. Blackhawks’ GM Stan Bowman signed the defenseman to a pro deal after just the one year of college hockey, citing the prospect camp performance as the club’s main reason for bringing him into the fold so soon.

Leddy continued to impress at training camp heading into the 2010-11 season. He stuck with the big club out of camp in large part because Brian Campbell was going to miss time at the start of the year due to injury, but the look at the NHL lasted only six games. In Rockford, Leddy was able to play a bigger role and earn more ice time, particularly on special teams. He scored two goals and eight assists in 22 AHL games as a 19-year-old and was tied for third among IceHogs defensemen in points by the time he left for Team USA’s World Junior camp. Leddy’s minus-7 at the AHL level was as much an indication of the team’s struggles in the first half of the season as it was a sign of his own struggles in the defensive end. Read more »

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Season Preview: Corey Crawford – To be The man

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By Brad Gardner

The Blackhawks’ goaltending position underwent more turnover last season, as another prospect overtook a veteran to earn a bulk of the load down the stretch. Longtime Chicago goalie prospect Corey Crawford finally had his chance with the big club last season and did not falter, appearing in 57 regular season games for the ‘Hawks and starting all seven playoff games against the Canucks.

Crawford’s surge came just one season after Finnish prospect Antti Niemi took the reigns from Cristobal Huet and eventually led the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup. Even dating back to the 2008-09 season, veteran Nikolai Khabibulin was halfway out the door at the start of the season but earned a bulk of starts down the stretch and in the playoffs for the ‘Hawks. It has practically been a revolving door in Chicago’s net and that trend continued heading into the 2010-11 season.

During the summer of 2010, with the salary cap looming large over all of GM Stan Bowman’s maneuvers, the organization opted to walk away from Antti Niemi’s $2.75 million arbitration award months just after the goalie raised the Stanley Cup. With Niemi out of the picture, Bowman turned to former Dallas Stars’ stalwart Marty Turco. Even at 35 years old by the start of the season, Turco was expected to carry the load as Crawford eased into his first full season of NHL duty. Read more »

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Training Camp Festival 2011: Klinkhammer scores on the breakaway

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. Read more »

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Season Preview: Viktor Stalberg

photo credit: Zimbio

By Brad Gardner

The most immediate return from the Blackhawks’ summer purge in 2010, Viktor Stalberg skated in 77 games with Chicago during the ensuing season. With the exception of the nine-game debut of Jeremy Morin, Stalberg was the only player acquired last summer to suit up with the ‘Hawks during the 2010-11 season.  Much of the remaining returns came in the form of prospects and draft picks, so it will take years to determine just how effective Stan Bowman’s maneuvering turns out to be for the Blackhawks organization.

For the quick triggers, though, Viktor Stalberg was most certainly not Kris Versteeg last season. Coming from Toronto along with prospects Chris DiDomenico and Philippe Paradis, the big Swede was coming off a solid NHL debut of nine goals in 40 NHL games with the Maple Leafs in just his first pro season out of the University of Vermont.  While thoughts of a blazing fast 20-goal scorer danced through the minds of fans, Stalberg instead struggled to carve out a role on the Blackhawks’ roster and was relegated to the fourth line for much of the season. Read more »

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Season Preview: Dave Bolland – Year of ‘The Rat’

photo credit: National Post/Getty

By Brad Gardner

Dave Bolland missed significant time due to injury for the second consecutive regular season, but again proved himself with a strong finish in the playoffs. The center helped key the Blackhawks’ turnaround in their first round series against Vancouver.  Bolland earned a goal and three assists in Chicago’s game four win. He finished the postseason tied for the team lead with six points and led the team with a plus-six rating despite playing in only the final four games of the series.

A high elbow from Pavel Kubina knocked Bolland out of the lineup for the final 14 games of the regular season and start of the playoffs, resulting in his second consecutive injury-shortened season. Despite the missed time, the center’s production rebounded from the previous season in which his effectiveness was limited by a back injury. Surgery on the back eventually cost Bolland half of the 2009-10 regular season and he registered a career-low .41 points per game when he was able to play.

Last season, he upped his output to .61 points per game, a notch better than the .59 mark that helped him earn a 5-year, $16.875 million dollar extension in the summer of 2009. It may not be the top-six production that some expected from a former 100-point scorer at the junior level, but Bolland’s reputation has largely been built as a shutdown center capable of throwing the opposition off its game. Read more »

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