Prospect watch: College players at winter break

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
3:49
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Here’s a look at how the Chicago Blackhawks' college prospects are doing as the college season take a break until January:

Mike Paliotta, defenseman, Vermont (NCAA), drafted 3rd round in 2011
Paliotta is the lone senior among the Blackhawks’ college prospects. Paliotta, who is 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, has taken a step forward each season at Vermont, and that’s the case again this year. He leads Vermont as a plus-12 and is tied for a team-leading 16 points. He’s tied for fourth among the nation’s defensemen in points. He has five goals and 11 assists in 17 games. Vermont is 13-3-1 and is ranked No. 10 in the country by USCHO.com.

Nick Schmaltz, forward, North Dakota (NCAA), drafted 1st round in 2014
Schmaltz hasn’t disappointed after being the Blackhawks’ top pick in 2014. As a freshman at North Dakota, he’s tied for third on the team and tied for seventh among the nation’s freshmen with 15 points. He has three goals and 12 assists in 15 games. He missed four games with an injury. He closed out December with five points in the final four games. He’s on the preliminary U.S. roster for the upcoming World Junior Championship. North Dakota is 13-4-2 and ranked No. 2.

John Hayden, forward, Yale (NCAA), drafted 3rd round in 2013
Hayden was one of the players who stood out at the Blackhawks prospect camp in the summer. He has good size at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds and uses it to create offense. He had a solid freshman season and is off to a good start as a sophomore. He leads Yale with 10 points in 10 games. He has three goals, seven assists and is a plus-4. He’s also second on the team with 39 shots. He’s on the preliminary U.S. roster for the upcoming World Junior Championship. Yale is 6-3-2.

Vince Hinostroza, forward, Notre Dame (NCAA), drafted 6th round in 2012
Hinostroza has nearly been a point-a-game player throughout his college career. He had 32 points in 34 games as a freshman last season and now has 14 points in 18 games as a sophomore. His pace was off earlier in the season, but he’s picked it up lately. He registered five points in Notre Dame’s last two games. He’s tied for a team-leading 12 assists and is tied for third in points. Notre Dame is 8-8-2.

Chris Calnan, forward, Boston College (NCAA), drafted 3rd round in 2012
Calnan was expected to play a large role as a sophomore with Boston College graduating its top offensive players after last season, and that’s been the case. He is tied for a team-leading 12 points. He has seven goals and five assists in 16 games. He had 13 points in 37 games as a freshman. Boston College is 9-7-1 and ranked No. 15.

Tyler Motte, forward, Michigan (NCAA), drafted 4th round in 2013
Motte was among a number of Blackhawks’ prospects who had a strong freshman season. He’s been building on that as a sophomore. He’s fourth on Michigan with 14 points. He has five goals and nine assists in 14 games. He had 18 points in 34 games as a freshman. He’s on the preliminary U.S. roster for the upcoming World Junior Championship. Michigan is 8-7-0.

Anthony Louis, forward, Miami Ohio (NCAA), drafted 6th round in 2013
Louis is known for his playmaking skills and he’s continuing to create at Miami Ohio this season. He’s tied for a team-leading 11 assists and is fifth on the team with 14 points. He had 25 points in 36 games last season as a freshman. He’s also on the preliminary U.S. roster for the upcoming World Junior Championship. Miami Ohio is 11-5-0 and ranked No. 6.

Nick Mattson, defenseman, North Dakota (NCAA), drafted 6th round in 2010
Mattson, a junior, hasn’t consistently been in North Dakota’s lineup and has been made a healthy scratch at times this season. He has one goal, three assists and is a plus-2 in 10 games this season.

Luke Johnson, forward, North Dakota (NCAA), drafted 5th round in 2013
Johnson, sophomore, has been contributing to North Dakota’s success. He has four goals and five assists in 19 games. He had 21 points in 42 games as a freshman last season.

Matt Tomkins, goaltender, Ohio State (NCAA), drafted 7th round in 2012
Tomkins has been up and down during his sophomore season. He has a 3-5-1 record with a 2.80 goals-against average and .894 save percentage this season. He has one shutout. Ohio State is 5-9-1 this season.

Sam Jardine, defenseman, Ohio State (NCAA), drafted 6th round in 2011
Jardine, a junior, is second on Ohio State with six assists. He has six points, is a minus-1 and has 19 blocked shots in 13 games.

Luc Snuggerud, defenseman, Nebraska Omaha (NCAA), drafted 5th round in 2014
Snuggerud has one goal, six assists, is a plus-4 and has 17 blocked shots in 16 games as a freshman. The Mavericks are 10-4-2.

Dylan Sikura, forward, Northeastern (NCAA), drafted 6th round in 2014
Sikura has one goal, two assists and is a minus-6 in 13 games as a freshman. Northeastern is 5-10-1 this season.

Chat wrap: Powers talks Blackhawks

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
2:35
PM CT
By Staff
ESPNChicago.com
Scott Powers took your Chicago Blackhawks questions during a chat Thursday. Click here to read the chat wrap.
Watch all the fun and games as the Winter Classic rink is constructed at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

Blackhawks rolling despite inconsistent power play

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17
8:12
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks continue to prove they don’t need a dominating power play to be successful.

They were 16th in the league with a 17.7 power-play percentage in the regular season when they went on to win the Stanley Cup in 2010. They were 19th when they captured the Stanley Cup again in 2013.

This season is following that same trajectory.

[+] EnlargeBlackhawks Power Play
David Cooper/Getty Images

Goals are not the only measure of success for the Blackhawks' power plays, according to coach Joel Quenneville. "The production isn't there, but in games we're getting the momentum," he said.

While the Blackhawks are second in the league with 45 points, their power play is far from tops. They’re tied for 17th with an 18.0 percentage.

More power-play goals would bolster their numbers, but it probably wouldn’t affect their record a whole lot. They’re 12-5-1 in the games when they have scored a power-play goal and 10-4-0 when they haven’t scored one.

While the Blackhawks would obviously prefer to score more of them, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed his team capitalized on one of its power plays in a 5-3 win over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.

“It certainly helps,” Quenneville said. “I still like the way the power play was going. Had some good looks earlier on. You get some bounces by hanging around the net. But I thought we had some good looks [Tuesday], as well.”

Quenneville and his players often talk about the power play in terms other than strictly results. When the Blackhawks had gone 2-for-25 on the power play during a recent eight-game stretch, Quenneville felt like his team was enduring some bad luck more than anything else.

“I look back, our power play’s been not bad,” Quenneville said on Sunday. “The production isn’t there, but in games we’re getting the momentum. It’s continuing on. We’re generating chances, zone time. Now we just have to find a way. It’d help some guys offensively, as well.”

The Blackhawks now have scored a power-play goal in their past two games. Patrick Sharp scored on a one-timer from the left circle in a 2-1 win over the Calgary Flames on Sunday, and Patrick Kane scored near the net for the winner on Tuesday.

Kane and Sharp have accounted for much of the Blackhawks’ power-play production this season. Each has a team-high four power-play goals. Kane has a team-high 13 power-play points and is followed by Jonathan Toews (10 points) and Brent Seabrook (eight points).

Sharp’s recent return from a lower-body injury could spark the power play. He has been the team’s most efficient player on the power play with seven points in 18 games this season. He missed 14 games with his injury. He had either a goal or assist on the Blackhawks’ first six power-play goals of the season.

Sharp was responsible for snapping a four-game power-play drought with his goal on Sunday.

“I don’t know what the slump was, but it’s always nice to score on the power play,” Sharp said. “It makes a big difference in the game when the power play can get one or two. Whether we score, we want to move around and get good opportunities.”

The Blackhawks’ issue at times is looking for a perfect shot instead of a decent shot. An example of that was when they had two 5-on-3 opportunities against the Boston Bruins last week. During a total of 1:55 of 5-on-3 time, they had 23 successful passes in the offensive zone and two shots, one of which was on net. The Blackhawks have 179 shots on goal on 122 power plays this season for a 1.5 shot average.

When the Blackhawks have taken shots, they have found production from different parts of the ice. They have scored seven goals from point shots, six off rebounds, four others from around the net, three from the left circle and two from the right circle.

The Blackhawks moved the puck a lot down low on the power play the past two games. Toews set up both goals with passes from near the right corner. Quenneville said it wasn’t anything they are looking to do every game, but instead it’s specific to those situations.

“You watch around the league, whether it’s shot originality, maybe taking it to the net is not a bad option,” Quenneville said. "It depends on what the options are, depends on how far their coverage is out. A lot of teams may have three high looks. Every game is different, every shift is different."

The same could be said about the Blackhawks' power play this season. They're still searching for consistency.
Here’s a review of the first episode of EPIX's Road to the Winter Classic, which premiered Tuesday evening:

-- The quality of a documentary often depends on what unfolds in front of the cameras. EPIX’s cameras and microphones caught one of the more dramatic moments of the Chicago Blackhawks' season after Jonathan Toews was hit into the board head-first against the Boston Bruins on Dec. 11.

There had been speculation about whether the Blackhawks followed the proper medical protocol to examine Toews because he remained on the ice and took part in the team’s power play after the hit. He was later examined and kept out of the game. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said the proper protocols were followed. Toews also backed how the staff handled the situation.

EPIX’s first episode told the complete story. In the episode, Toews was shown slow to get up after the hit and said he was “fine” multiple times as the team’s trainer approached him. Toews remained on the ice, took a faceoff and quickly picked up a penalty.

As Toews was in the penalty box, EPIX’s microphones caught audio of Quenneville being told Toews had to be examined. Quennneville was told, “We have to take Toews out after the penalty.” Quenneville responded, “Yeah? What’s wrong with him?” Quenneville was told, “He took a header to the boards. We have to observe him and check him out.”

When Toews returned to the bench, he was then told he had to be examined in the medical room. Toews said, “Why?” Toews was told, “Got to check your head out.” Quenneville then said, “You got to do it, Johnny? You got to do it.”

EPIX’s crew then followed Toews through the tunnel and into the medical room. Filming was off limits while he was being examined. The cameras then showed him taking off his equipment after it was decided he would not return to the game.

-- The media and fans normally get to see one side of Quenneville when he’s away from the bench and off the ice. Tuesday’s episode gave us a look at what he’s like on it.

It’s no surprise Quenneville, like most coaches, likes to swear on the bench, but it was still interesting to hear all the expletives go flying. He also likes to say "peanut butter" after goals. Here are some of his best quotes from the episode:

* “Kaner, what a [expletive] shot. Peanut butter.”

* “Hey, boys, we can play a lot better. Not [expletive] happy.”

* “We want to outscore them tonight. Let’s [expletive] out-check them.”

* “Shoot the [expletive] one-timer, swing it here, swing it, [expletive] off.”

* “Hit the [expletive] guy. He’s got no other [expletive] options.”

-- One of the funnier conversations in the episode came between Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw. Shaw ragged Bickell for the bruises on his face, and Bickell returned it by taking shots at Shaw’s haircut.

-- There were some touching moments in the episode. That was especially the case when Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz was filmed taking his son who has Down syndrome to the zoo. Brad Richards was also filmed with his wife and new son in their home at Trump Tower.

-- One geeky insider moment came when Quenneville skated by goaltender Scott Darling during a practice and told him he was starting the next day. You always wonder how those conversations happen. That one occurred quickly and with just a few words. How the Capitals clap and make sounds when Trotz announces the team’s starting lineup is another one of those moments.

-- The documentary is done well and lives up to the standard set by HBO’s sports documentaries. It’s certainly worth watching. For Blackhawks fans, there will be a lot of stuff you have already heard and seen before in the game action and what's said in the sit-down interviews, but all that insider material is worth it. Shaw will likely be featured more in future episodes. He spent Tuesday after the morning skate giving a rundown and small description of every player in the dressing room. It wouldn't be a surprise if some of that makes it into a episode.

Blackhawks reassign Scott Darling to AHL

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17
12:30
AM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
The Chicago Blackhawks reassigned goaltender Scott Darling to the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL on Tuesday.

The Blackhawks were expected to reassign either Darling or Antti Raanta because Corey Crawford is set to return from a lower-body injury this upcoming weekend. Darling and Raanta both played well and helped the Blackhawks to a 7-1-0 record since Crawford injured himself leaving a concert on Dec. 1.

Darling went 3-1-0 and stopped 124-of-132 shots for a .939 save percentage since being recalled on Dec. 2. He is 5-2-0 with a 1.97 goals-against average and .937 save percentage for the Blackhawks this season. He is 8-2-1 with a 2.05 goals-against average and .929 save percentage for the IceHogs this season.

Raanta started the last two games for the Blackhawks. He made 26 saves on 29 shots in a 5-3 win over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Tuesday he expects Crawford to start against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday or the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday. Crawford is 12-5-1 with a 1.87 goals-against average and .929 save percentage this season.

Blackhawks find a way to win again

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
11:51
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Ben Smith wasn’t expecting any style points for how the Chicago Blackhawks pulled off their 5-3 win over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.

A prime example of that was the Blackhawks scoring the game winner when the puck bounced off a Wild defenseman’s skate and skidded into the net. They also relinquished a two-goal lead in the final 20 minutes before fighting to get it back.

At the end of the day, though, what Smith and the Blackhawks will remember about Tuesday is the result. They found another way to win despite still being without Corey Crawford and having to play without top defenseman Duncan Keith, who was sick and missed his first game of the season.

[+] EnlargeBlackhawks
Bill Smith/Getty Images"Guys have to step up, fill jobs and find a way to get the job done," said Ben Smith, who had a goal and an assist in Tuesday's win.
“Guys have to step up, fill jobs and find a way to get the job done,” said Smith, who finished off the Wild with an empty-net goal in the game’s final minute. “Tonight, we did that. It wasn’t perfect throughout the game. Find the way to get the job done with who’s out there. We’re definitely excited about getting two points tonight.”

Playing without Keith was a new and unique obstacle for the Blackhawks. They have been searching for a consistent sixth defenseman since Trevor van Riemsdyk was injured last month, and four defensemen have all seen time in there. With Keith out, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was forced to play an even more inexperienced defenseman group.

Quenneville fiddled with the pairings after being displeased with them in the first period and ended up putting Johnny Oduya with Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson with Michal Rozsival and Tim Erixon with David Rundblad. Like the game, the group wasn’t without a few errors, but the six defensemen picked up Keith’s minutes and got the job done.

“Losing Dunc tonight, that’s obviously a big hole, a Norris Trophy-winning defenseman,” said Seabrook, who had a goal, two assists and played 23:06. “You don’t just replace those. It was nice to see a group effort from our forwards to our defense to our goaltending to step up and play well and get a win.”

The Blackhawks’ goaltending has emerged since Crawford injured himself while leaving a concert on Dec. 1. Since he’s been out of the lineup, the Blackhawks have gone 7-1-0 with Antti Raanta and Scott Darling filling the net. Raanta improved to 5-2-0 on the season by stopping 26 of 29 shots on Tuesday.

The Blackhawks lead the Central Division with a 22-9-1 record and 45 points largely because their stars come to play in most games –- Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane combined for two goals and four assists Tuesday -- but it’s also because they have overcome whatever adversity that’s come their way.

“Our group has a lot of enthusiasm, a good consistent approach,” Quenneville said. “A four-line rotation hasn’t changed regardless of who’s been in the lineup or out. The guys are paying attention to detail, more so on the defensive side of the things. When we do that, we can generate a little bit more.”

And they generated just enough to win again Tuesday.

Kane's late goal lifts Blackhawks past Wild 5-3

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
10:42
PM CT
video

CHICAGO -- Patrick Kane scored a tiebreaking power-play goal with 3:28 left, and the Chicago Blackhawks bounced back to beat the Minnesota Wild 5-3 on Tuesday night for their 13th win in 15 games.

Kane's centering attempt from behind the net -- intended for Patrick Sharp -- struck the skate of Minnesota defenseman Jonas Brodin and carried into the net.

Chicago's Jonathan Toews had a goal and two assists. Marian Hossa and Brent Seabrook also scored, and Ben Smith added an empty-net goal for the surging Blackhawks, who won without top defenseman Duncan Keith who was sidelined by an illness.

Nino Niederreiter scored on a penalty shot, and Marco Scandella fired in a screened goal in the third period for the Wild, who came back from a 3-1 deficit to tie it. Thomas Vanek had a first-period goal.


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Rapid Reaction: Blackhawks 5, Wild 3

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
10:25
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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video


CHICAGO -- Here's a quick look at the Chicago Blackhawks' 5-3 win over the Minnesota Wild at the United Center on Tuesday.

How it happened: The Blackhawks' Patrick Kane scored the game-winning goal on a power play with 4:28 remaining in the third period when his shot bounced off Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin's skate and traveled into the net. Chicago built a 3-1 lead after outscoring Minnesota 3-0 in the second period, but the Wild fought back and tied the game with consecutive goals in the third period. Brent Seabrook, Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews accounted for the Blackhawks' first three goals. Ben Smith added an empty-net goal in the game's final minute. Thomas Vanek, Nino Niederreiter and Marco Scandella provided the Wild their goals. Chicago goaltender Antti Raanta stopped 26 of 29 shots in the win. Niklas Backstrom had 33 saves. The Blackhawks killed off all three of the Wild's power plays.

What it means: The Blackhawks extended their home winning streak to seven games. They have won 10 of their past 11 games and improved to 22-9-1, with a division-leading 45 points. Chicago also handed the Wild their first regulation loss in the Central Division this season. The Wild were 6-0-1 in the division heading into Tuesday night's game. The Wild fell to 19-12-1 on the season.

With the Blackhawks' No. 2 goaltender role still on the line, Raanta was up for the challenge again. He was solid throughout the night as Chicago improved to 7-1-0 since Corey Crawford's injury. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville will have a difficult decision between Raanta and Scott Darling for Crawford's backup.

Player of the game: Toews had his second consecutive multi-point game. He had two primary assists in the Blackhawks' win over the Calgary Flames on Sunday. He has 12 goals and 16 assists in 32 games this season.

Stat of the game: The Blackhawks outshot the Wild 21-8 in the second period.

What's next: The Blackhawks don't play again until Saturday when they travel to face the Columbus Blue Jackets.
video

John Buccigross, Barry Melrose and Scott Burnside react to the latest round of players diagnosed with the mumps, examine the lack of buzz about the upcoming Winter Classic and try to figure out what's gotten into the red-hot Maple Leafs.
video

Sunny, crisp and cool, but not too sunny, and definitely not raining, Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis reported of the weather in the nation's capital.

Ah, it must be Winter Classic time, as the hockey world now collides with meteorology.

But we might be finally seeing the first signs of thaw when it comes to buzz for the 2015 Winter Classic, which will be held at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., on Jan 1.

Buzz. Not much more subjective a term than that.

Fair or not, the perception around the hockey world is that there is a distinct lack of buzz surrounding the NHL's marquee regular-season game.

On social media, much of the early discussion surrounding the tilt between the host Washington Capitals and the Chicago Blackhawks has been around the seemingly slow build of enthusiasm for an event that has been a major draw for NHL sponsors, hundreds of thousands of fans at the event and a huge television audience.

Anecdotal? For sure.

Meaningful? Hard to tell, although, to be fair, the NHL is just now swinging into major event mode.

The NHL's distinctive ice-making truck rolled into D.C. on Monday. Images of it were widely circulated, reminding folks that, yes, the Winter Classic is indeed alive and well.

Part of the issue facing the league is that the event has become so successful and created such distinct memories that the challenge to raise the bar ever higher every year becomes daunting.


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Zemgus Girgensons leads ASG vote

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
3:08
PM CT

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Latvia is in love with Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons, who remains the runaway leader in the NHL All-Star Game fan vote.

The second-year player had nearly 1.1 million votes Tuesday. That's nearly double the total of each of the next two forwards: Chicago's Patrick Kane (586,310) and Jonathan Toews (573,198).

Girgensons' total is more than half the 2 million population of his native Latvia, where the NHL says he's attracted more than 80 percent of his votes.

The only limit on voting is fans can use the same device no more than 10 times a day.

The 2012 first-round draft pick leads Buffalo with nine goals and is second with 17 points.

Dallas forward Tyler Seguin leads the NHL with 23 goals and 38 points, but ranks ninth among forwards with 214,183 votes.

Voting ends Jan. 1. The game will be played at Columbus, Ohio, on Jan. 25.


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W2W4: Wild at Blackhawks

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
12:36
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Here’s what to watch for when the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild play at the United Center on Tuesday:

• The Blackhawks have won nine of their last 10 games and are on a six-game home winning streak. They lead the Central Division with 43 points and have a 21-9-1 record.

• The Wild haven’t won or lost consecutive games over their last 10 games. They won their last game and will be looking for their first two-game winning streak since winning back-to-back games on Nov. 16 and Nov. 20. The Wild are 16-11-1 with 33 points.

• This will be the first of five games between the Blackhawks and Wild. They last met in the Western Conference semifinals last season. The Blackhawks eliminated the Wild in six games.

• Blackhawks goaltender Antti Raanta will make his second consecutive start. He’s 4-2-0 with a 1.85 goals-against average and .944 save percentage this season. Darcy Kuemper will likely start in net for the Wild. He is 11-9-0 with a 2.45 goals-against average and .906 save percentage this season.

• The Blackhawk will be without defenseman Duncan Keith due to an undisclosed illness. Keith leads the Blackhawks in ice time, and other defensemen will be relied upon against the Wild. Defenseman David Rundblad returns to the lineup after being a healthy scratch the last five games. Defenseman Tim Erixon will play in his second game after being acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday.

• The Blackhawks’ lines will remain the same again. Their lines during the morning skate were Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa, Kris Versteeg - Brad Richards - Patrick Kane, Bryan Bickell - Andrew Shaw - Patrick Sharp, Daniel Carcillo - Marcus Kruger - Ben Smith.

Zach Parise leads the Wild 23 points. Nino Niederreiter leads them with 13 goals. Kane leads the Blackhawks with 14 goals and 29 points.

• The line of Bickell-Shaw-Sharp has had the team’s best possession numbers the last two games. Sharp has been back four games since missing a month with a lower-body injury.

• The Blackhawks rank first in the league with a 90.9 penalty-kill percentage and 18th with a 17.6 power-play percentage. The Blackhawks have killed 28 of their last 30 penalties and have scored a power-play goal in two of their last 27 opportunities. The Wild are third with an 87.4 penalty-kill percentage and tied for 26th with a 13.0 power-play percentage

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Patrick Kane
PTS GOALS AST +/-
32 15 17 8
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsP. Kane 15
AssistsP. Kane 17
+/-K. Versteeg 15
GAAC. Crawford 1.87