Chicago Blackhawks: 2013-14 Regular Season

Hawks looking to put together full season

October, 8, 2014
Oct 8
3:53
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks nearly reached the Stanley Cup finals again, but they didn't have the regular season they wanted last season.

They set out to disperse any notion of a Stanley Cup hangover early in the season and achieved that with a strong start. They were actually pretty good throughout the first half of the season, going 27-7-7 after 41 games.

[+] EnlargeChicago Blackhawks
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesJonathan Toews says the Hawks have to try to regain the pace they had during the lockout season.
But the second half of the season was a different tale. They went 8-4-7 from New Year's to the Olympic break and then 11-10-1 from the break to the start of the playoffs, finishing third in the Central Division and fifth overall in the Western Conference. They weren't exactly coasting in the playoffs.

The Blackhawks aim for improvement this season. Winning another Stanley Cup is again their ultimate goal, but they want their path there to be smooth throughout the season.

"It does matter, the regular season, I think," Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell said. "To get in the playoffs is our first goal and maybe win our division. Our division is so tough nowadays. We had 107 points and finished third in our division, so it's going to come down to the start and the whole regular season. It's important to us.

"It's better to have more later rather than early. It's not always how you start, it's how you finish. I believe in that. Hopefully we can have a good start and finish the same way."

Captain Jonathan Toews believes the Hawks need to have a sense of urgency beginning with the season opener on Thursday against the Dallas Stars.

"It always seems to be a race from the All-Star break to the end of the regular season," Toews said. "Whereas it might feel like that race is going to start right off the hop this year. We'll be ready for that. It's just getting one inch at a time and we're going to have to work for every single game. We're almost going to be looking for that pace we had day in and day out throughout the lockout year."

One major reason for that rapid pace is how good the Central has become in recent years. The Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues finished ahead of the Blackhawks last season, and the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars weren't too far behind. The Blackhawks went 13-13-3 in the Central last season.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville belives that challenge will only be tougher this season.

"I believe it's stronger," Quenneville said. "St. Louis is better, Dallas, Colorado's young. For sure, it's going to be better. Conference probably feels it's better as well. Points are going to be hard this year, and making the playoffs will be a big accomplishment, so let's get off to a good start."

The Blackhawks especially struggled last season to pick up points in one-goal games. Their .425 winning percentage in one-goal games ranked them 27th in the league. They went 17-8-15 in those games. During the 2012-2013 regular season, they were second best in the league with a .704 winning percentage in one-goal games and went 19-3-5.

Toews is aware the Blackhawks weren't as good at finishing off close games last season.

"It's something we'll definitely have to reaffirm over and over in our locker room throughout the year. I think there were situations in the playoffs or even regular season when we didn't quite seem to have that, I don't know if you want to call it a veteran mindset in the locker room that we had the previous year where we could just hang on to one-goal leads and go out there and protect a lead for an entire third period and just be calm and relaxed and keep playing our game no matter what the score was.

"... We might have gotten away from it a little bit last year, but I think it's a thing we can reinforce that that's one thing we can be better at. We're going to be in a lot of tight games, let's learn how to play better with leads and make sure we don't give teams chances (or) at least a feeling they can come back in some of those games. It's up to us to really keep that pace high for 60 minutes."

Report: Hawks parting ways with Handzus

June, 16, 2014
Jun 16
3:56
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
The Chicago Blackhawks will not attempt to re-sign forward Michal Handzus, according to a report.

According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Blackhawks have notified Handzus he is not in their future plans. The Blackhawks acquired Handzus from the San Jose Sharks during the 2013 season and re-signed him to a one-year contract after he helped them win the Stanley Cup. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

[+] EnlargeMichal Handzus
Joel Auerbach/Getty ImagesMichal Handzus isn't in the Hawks' plans next season, according to a report.
37-year-old Handzus said on June 3 he was unsure whether he would be returning to the Blackhawks, playing elsewhere or possibly retiring.

“I don't know what will happen next year, but I still have the desire,” Handzus said of his future. “We'll see if I make it or not.

“It kind of makes you hungry. You’re disappointed right now. I know I haven’t played the way I would like to and am capable of. I still have the hunger and still love the game. I’ll just work really hard in the offseason. I know I can get my body in shape. We’ll see. I always said the last three years I’d do year by year. I don’t know what will happen next year, but I still have the desire. We’ll see if I make it or not.”

(Read full post)

Bickell plans on 'big summer' to improve

June, 6, 2014
Jun 6
1:36
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- The Stanley Cup playoffs drive Chicago Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell to play at another level.

The Blackhawks would like Bickell to be just as motivated for the regular season.

Bickell is undoubtedly a different player when it comes to the playoffs and the proof is in the statistics.

[+] EnlargeBryan Bickell
Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty ImagesBryan Bickell would like to spread some of his playoff production out of the regular season too.
Over the past four seasons in the playoffs, Bickell ranks fourth in the NHL in goals. The list is led by the Los Angeles Kings' Jeff Carter with 24 goals followed by the Boston Bruins' David Krejci with 22 goals, the Kings' Justin Williams with 21 goals, Bickell with 20 goals and the Blackhawks' Patrick Sharp with 19 goals. Bickell averaged 0.42 goals per game during that span.

In those same four regular seasons, Bickell finished tied for 174th with 46 total goals. He averaged 0.18 goals per game.

It's unlikely Bickell can keep up his playoff numbers over an entire regular season, but the Blackhawks would like him to meet them somewhere in the middle. At $4 million a season, the Blackhawks want Bickell to show up for more than just the playoffs.

That was the message Bickell received recently from the Blackhawks after following the same pattern as last season. Bickell was ordinary in the regular season this season with 11 goals and four assists in 59 games and a star in the playoffs with seven goals and three assists in 19 games.

"I think this is a big summer for me to get in shape and to be more of a regular-season guy, not just a playoff guy," Bickell said Tuesday.

Bickell admitted recently he plays harder in the playoffs than the regular season, but that was because he didn't think his body could hold up over a full regular season if he played in the same fashion. He said he is searching for something in between.

"You know to play 82 games like that, it's going to take a toll," Bickell said. "I think I need to show more spurts. Ideal, [I'd play] better like that in the regular season than I did this year. I know I've had a couple meetings [with the Blackhawks]. Personally, I need to have a big summer. I have a newborn coming, so I'll probably lose some sleep that way. Just physically and mentally, I think hopefully I can be ready for next season."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has balanced the past two seasons being positive about Bickell's playoff performances and seeking more from him in the regular season.

"We've seen in this year's playoffs he's kind of very comparable of where he was last year," Quenneville said May 16. "So, it's tough to say why. But as a staff and probably as an individual, we'd like to see, he'd probably like to be more consistent. We'd like to see more consistency out of him.

"But then again, you play like this in the playoffs, the most important time, and you rise to that challenge and you make an impact or an imprint on games the way he has, it's a great strength that you're able to play at this level and bring that type of player you're looking for that can bring that physicality, bring that size, bring speed and a nice set of hands. Put it all together now, we'll take it, but certainly we'd like to see it a little bit more in the regular season."

A longer offseason should benefit Bickell, especially in strengthening his knees even more. He suffered a right knee injury in the playoffs last season and a left knee injury this season. The injury this season, which occurred Nov. 19, kept him out of the lineup for nearly a month.

Bickell reported Tuesday that both knees are better and don't trouble him as the season progressed.

"Knees were good," Bickell said. "It's kind of weird I didn't have any knee problems until a couple years ago. All of a sudden, both knees went. I think they're back to normal. They feel normal. I'm ready to get those braces off."

Let the summer of Bryan Bickell commence.

Blackhawks still high on Morin's potential

June, 4, 2014
Jun 4
5:10
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Who had the best possession numbers for the Chicago Blackhawks this season?

Not Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa or any of the other well-known names throughout the Blackhawks lineup. It was Jeremy Morin.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Morin
Derek Leung/Getty ImagesJeremy Morin becomes a restricted free agent on July 1.
Morin had a smaller sample size playing in just 24 regular season games, but his statistics provide a glimpse of what he might be able to do if given a full-season opportunity with the Blackhawks. He led the team with a 62.6 Corsi percentage (shot differential) and 12.6 shots on goal per 60 minutes, according to extraskater.com.

Morin's full-time NHL chance was expected to come this season, but he was bounced back and forth between the Blackhawks and the AHL. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was just never convinced to keep him in the lineup.

Morin especially showed what he was capable of just prior to the playoffs when he scored goals in four of five games in April, but it wasn't enough to crack the playoff lineup. He appeared in two playoff games, both in the second round, and played less than 13 minutes in total.

Despite not showing confidence in Morin at times this season and healthy scratching him for much of the playoffs, Quenneville is encouraged by Morin's play.

"I just think Mo really, I think he progressed this year," Quenneville said on Tuesday. "He didn't get much of a chance in the playoffs, but I think that Mo has a good ability to score goals. He's got the unpredictability offensively that, it's a nice trait to have.

"It's the unpredictability of being consistent and defensively being reliable that, putting that all together is what we're looking for. And he gets that, the last couple of those things tightened up, you know, I think Mo could grow as a player and all of a sudden his opportunity could be enhanced. But there's potential there. I like the way he competes and offensively he's got some nice traits as well."

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman says patience is necessary for the organization's prospects, and he believes Morin is about ready.

"Every year, we've seen one or two young guys come in," Bowman said on Tuesday. "This year, it was Ben Smith. In the past, it's been [Nick] Leddy and [Marcus] Kruger and [Brandon] Saad and [Andrew] Shaw and you have to have that every year. Next year, I think Jeremy Morin will have that chance to do that as well. He's sort of knocking on the door of a player that gives you a little bit of everything.

"The one thing he needs is to get the opportunity. That's the one thing for us: you get a guy who spent a couple years developing, they have confidence and they're ready for that next challenge. It works better that way than taking a kid who's played 15 games in the AHL, put him in the NHL and if they don't have success right away they start to question themselves, change their game and may never get it back. We don't want to go that route."

The discussions between Morin's side and Bowman should be interesting next month. Morin becomes a restricted free agent on July 1, so he can't easily flee the Blackhawks and join a team where he'd be definitely given a larger role. Morin watched as the Blackhawks traded fellow prospect forwards Jimmy Hayes and Brandon Pirri to the Florida Panthers last season, and both saw significant NHL ice time afterward.

But Morin is also in a place in his career where he'll need assurance that he'll play next season if he's going to re-sign with the Blackhawks. With the forwards set to return to the Blackhawks next season, there aren't many spots for Morin. And after turning 23 in April, he doesn't want to endure another season like his last one.

Handzus disappointed, not ready to retire

June, 3, 2014
Jun 3
7:00
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Michal Handzus doesn’t want his career to end on this note.

A season after playing a major role in the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup, he factored into why they didn’t this season. He had 11 points and was a plus-7 in the playoffs in 2013. He had three points and was a minus-8 in the playoffs this season.

Handzus will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He was acquired by the Blackhawks in a trade with the San Jose Sharks in April of 2013 and re-signed to a one-year contract in July 2013. He turned 37 years old in March and has been in the NHL since 1998.

[+] EnlargeMichal Handzus
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports"I don't know what will happen next year, but I still have the desire. We'll see if I make it or not," said Michal Handzus of his future in the NHL.
“It kind of makes you hungry,” Handzus said on Tuesday. “You’re disappointed right now. I know I haven’t played the way I would like to and am capable of. I still have the hunger and still love the game. I’ll just work really hard in the offseason. I know I can get my body in shape.

“We’ll see. I always said the last three years I’d do year by year. I don’t know what will happen next year, but I still have the desire. We’ll see if I make it or not.”

Handzus was accountable for his play this season and felt he let his teammates down. He thought having a short offseason and having surgeries on his knee and wrist after last season factored into this season's performance.

“You don’t want to make excuses,” Handzus said. “Obviously not having the summer workouts that I usually do, it’s a big part, especially with my body and my skating. I need to have summer workouts. Obviously we had to have surgery last year. I couldn’t do anything pretty much the whole summer. It didn’t help me. I was working hard in the season to get back. It’s not an excuse, but it didn’t help.

“But I just didn’t play well. It’s the disappointing part. Like I said, it was a special group, and I wasn’t helping. Individually, it’s a very big disappointment.”

The Blackhawks are not expected to re-sign Handzus, and he said they haven’t had any discussions.

Handzus said he’d remember his time with the Blackhawks fondly if he doesn’t return.

“Obviously the best time,” Handzus said. “When you win a Cup somewhere, it’s obviously special and it’s always going to be special in my heart. Best group of guys I’ve been with for my career. It’s a great group. I think it’s a special group. A lot of fun last year and a lot of fun this year, too.

“Obviously right now we’re disappointed how it ended, and it kind of stinks, but a special group of guys and really good guys and really great organization. I had a blast.”

Future Kane linemates in Shaw, Saad?

June, 3, 2014
Jun 3
6:08
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- The one positive Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville may be able to take from losing to the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference finals is possibly discovering permanent linemates for Patrick Kane.

Quenneville turned to a line of Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw and Kane in Game 5 against the Kings, and the trio immediately clicked. Over the series’ last three games, Kane had nine points, Saad had six points and Shaw had four.

Consistency in linemates, especially a center, would be a change for Kane. He shared his line with nearly every Blackhawks forward, including six different centers, this past season.

“Maybe we found that center with [Shaw] and [Saad] and him as a line, but I just think whether it’s two of those guys or one of the two with him, they could be linemates for a while,” Quenneville said on Tuesday. “I just think Kaner gives you that luxury as a team and as a staff that you’ve got to use him in so many different situations because he gives you so much. And having that one centerman, we’ll see, but I think the luxury of our team is when you don’t play him together with [Jonathan Toews], we have so much more concerns for our opponents and two real dangerous lines.”

Kane was hopeful he, Saad and Shaw would stay together, but he wasn’t going to tell Quenneville how to do his job.

“That’s kind of out of my control, to be honest with you,” Kane said when asked if he’d like more consistency with a specific center. “We know with our team, there’s a lot of different combinations that can work. There are certain situations where Joel obviously like to switch up the lines. No matter who you’re playing, you’re going to try and do the same thing night in and night out, try to get the puck, create chances and produce every night. That’s something I don’t really worry about too much.

“I think we saw a little success at the end of the year with myself, Shaw, Saader. They’re both two young enthusiastic guys who want to do well and play hard. We found some success there. Just talking to them guys, I think it’s important to have a strong summer and make sure if we’re playing together when we come back we’re ready to go right off the bat.”

Shaw and Saad were also optimistic they could continue to play together next season. Shaw even planned on it.

“Who wouldn’t?” Shaw said. “They’re both great players, both easy to play with. So I look forward and I’m excited to start the season with them next year.

Saad felt the same.

“We gelled pretty quick there,” Saad said. “Who knows if we play a full season how well we can do. I’m hoping, but I guess we’ll see come training camp.”

Bowman: No big roster changes coming

June, 3, 2014
Jun 3
5:11
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive


CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman hasn’t changed his mind about his core group.

Bowman said Tuesday he doesn’t plan on making many changes to the Blackhawks’ roster in the offseason after his team lost in the Western Conference finals to the Los Angeles Kings this season and failed to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.

“I don’t think we’re going to have wholesale changes. That certainly isn’t warranted at this point,” Bowman said. “Our team performed very well in most areas of the game. Ways to improve would be certain players are going to be looking growth from within. We’ve still got lot of young players that play big roles on our team, and I think you saw that this year.”

Nineteen of the 26 players on the Blackhawks’ playoff roster are signed for next season. Bowman said he hoped to re-sign restricted free agents Jeremy Morin, Ben Smith and Antti Raanta. Unrestricted free agents Sheldon Brookbank, Michal Handzus, Peter Regin and Nikolai Khabibulin are not expected to be re-signed. Prospect Teuvo Teravainen is also expected to be included in the Blackhawks’ mix next season.

Bowman thought a few new players could be added before next season, but he expressed that the Blackhawks’ identity wasn’t going to be altered.

“There will be some new faces coming next year,” Bowman said. “I think the most important thing for us is to maintain that same style of play. It’s been successful for us obviously the last few seasons. Looking forward, we’re not going to deviate because that’s what the core of our team does well. We’re going to try and accentuate that , whether it’s with bigger players or making a couple additions here or there. There are a lot of options.”

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was also confident the team’s current group could continue to compete for Stanley Cups. Seven current Blackhawks played key roles in their Stanley Cup championships in 2010 and 2013, and 16 current players were significant contributors to just the 2013 title.

“To be honest with you, I love our group,” Toews said. It’s a great group of guys and the guys that have been here for a while and will be here for another extended period of time, those are the guys that are the leaders in our room, the main reasons we’ve had so much success the last few years.

“And I think we’ve just done such a great job with some of those other guys, especially young guys that have a lot of that potential to bring that similar character and same similar leadership to our team are learning a lot from going through series like we just did and even winning a championship last year.

“Like I said, there’s so much potential with the group we have right now. Even the guys that have done it before, this feeling of losing -- even if you won two Stanley Cups already -- to feel this is something completely different and you learn from it and grow from it, so I think as a group we’re all going to do that. I think there’s a long ways for us to grow and get better.”

Rapid Reaction: Kings 5, Blackhawks 2

May, 26, 2014
May 26
10:46
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive

 
LOS ANGELES -- Here’s a quick look at the Los Angeles Kings' 5-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals at Staples Center on Monday:

How it happened: The Kings jumped on the Blackhawks with three goals in the first period and built a 4-0 lead before Chicago was able to score. Jake Muzzin opened the Kings’ scoring with a power-play goal at the 9-minute mark of the first period. Two minutes, 13 seconds later, Marian Gaborik finished a pass from Anze Kopitar and the Kings went ahead 2-0. Dustin Brown scored another power-play goal for the Kings at 15:56 of the first period. Drew Doughty gave the Kings a 4-0 lead with a second-period goal. Brandon Saad put the Blackhawks on the board at 14:03 of the second. Bryan Bickell pulled the Blackhawks within two goals at 9:27 of the third before Los Angeles scored an empty-net goal with 1:02 to play. The Kings were 2-for-3 on the power play and shut out the Blackhawks on three opportunities of their own. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick made 22 saves on 24 shots. Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford stopped 16 of 20 shots. Kings forward Jarret Stoll won 16 of 24 faceoffs.

What it means: The Kings won their third consecutive game and took a 3-1 lead in the series. A team has fought back from a 3-1 deficit to win a series 24 times since the NHL expanded all rounds to best-of-seven in 1987. The Blackhawks rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Detroit Red Wings in the second round last season. The Kings have scored 14 goals in the past three games. The Kings took advantage of special teams again. Gaborik scored his 10th goal of the playoff and his first against the Blackhawks.

Player of the game: Doughty had a goal and an assist. He led the Kings in ice time and was one of the reasons why the Blackhawks were held to two goals.

Stat of the game: The Kings scored on two power plays. They have scored five power-play goals in the past three games. The Blackhawks had allowed four power-play goals in their previous 13 playoff games this season.

What’s next: The series returns to Chicago for Wednesday night's Game 5. The Blackhawks are 7-1 at home in the playoffs this season; the Kings handed them their lone loss in Game 2.

Hawks, Kings to meet again in West finals

May, 16, 2014
May 16
10:49
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive


The Chicago Blackhawks will play the Los Angeles Kings in the NHL's Western Conference finals for the second consecutive season.

The Kings clinched their second-round series over the Anaheim Ducks with a 6-2 victory Friday in Game 7. Los Angeles defeated the San Jose Sharks in seven games in the first round. The Kings have advanced to the Western Conference finals the past three seasons.

The Blackhawks will have home-ice advantage over the Kings. Game 1 of their series will be at the United Center at 2 p.m. CT on Sunday. Chicago defeated L.A. in five games in the Western Conference finals last season.

The Blackhawks advanced to the Western Conference finals by clinching their second-round series against the Minnesota Wild in Game 6 on Tuesday. They defeated the St. Louis Blues in six games in the first round. Chicago has reached the Western Conference finals four times in the past six seasons.

The Blackhawks swept the regular-season series against the Kings, defeating them 3-1 in Chicago on Dec. 15, 1-0 in Chicago on Dec. 30, and 5-3 in Los Angeles on Feb. 3.

Bickell carrying confidence into playoffs

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
3:13
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive


CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell has come to better understand over the years why he has success or why he struggles at times.

Often, Bickell can pinpoint the primary factor being his confidence. If he's confident, he's normally playing well. If he lacks it, his play pays the price.

[+] EnlargeBryan Bickell
Bill Smith/Getty ImagesBryan Bickell hopes to turn the page on an inconsistent regular season with another big playoff performance.
The good news for the Blackhawks is, after enduring more lows than highs throughout the regular season, Bickell has regained his confidence just in time for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Bickell was among the team's leaders in possession over the past six games after he returned from an injury in early April. He had a 64.3 Corsi percentage (the Blackhawks had 74 shots for and 41 against when he was on the ice) in the past six games. He also had one goal, two assists and 14 shots on goal during that span.

Another important ingredient for Bickell's confidence has been Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville showing his own belief in him. Bickell averaged nearly 12 minutes a game in April.

"I'm just getting confident," Bickell said after a recent practice. "[Quenneville's] getting more confident in me to put me in different situations and me getting confident in myself to play good. I think confidence is one of my things I've been trying to work on in my career. There have been ups and downs. To have confidence now going into the playoffs is important."

A slow start to the regular season first and then a knee injury negatively impacted Bickell's confidence for stretches of the regular season. He had a couple of positive swings, including scoring in four consecutive games in late October, but he wasn't able to consistently play at that level. In January, he had one point and a minus-7 rating in 12 games. Quenneville even made him a healthy scratch for a game.

Bickell began improving his play when the Blackhawks returned from the Olympic break. He scored in two of the first four games, and Quenneville increased his minutes again. Bickell was derailed again when he suffered an upper-body injury against the St. Louis Blues on March 19 and missed six games, but he found his form again quickly in his return.

Now as the Blackhawks open the playoffs against the Blues on Thursday, Bickell hopes that confidence will lead to similar results he had last season, where he had 17 points, including nine goals during their Stanley Cup run. He scored in nine different playoff games, including Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals when he had the game-tying goal in the third period against the Boston Bruins.

(Read full post)

Six Blackhawks to watch in playoffs

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
2:11
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Bryan BickellCal Sport Media/AP ImagesBryan Bickell's emergence in the playoffs will be key to the Blackhawks' chances.
Here are six players aside from the Chicago Blackhawks' stars who will need to step up their production in the playoffs:

Bryan Bickell, forward


The Blackhawks don't likely win the Stanley Cup without Bickell's emergence in the playoffs last season. He had an ordinary regular season with nine goals and 14 assists in 48 games last season. In the playoffs, he was a different player. With nine playoffs goals, he accounted for 14 percent of the Blackhawks' scoring during their Cup run. He was also second on the team with 17 points and second with a plus-12 rating. More was expected of Bickell this regular season after his playoff performance and a new contract, but he was deterred by a slow start and a knee injury. He finished with 11 goals, four assists and a minus-6 rating in 59 games. His play has improved in the past month. He's had a Corsi percentage (shots for vs. shots against) of 56.5 percent or higher in nine of his past 10 games, according to extraskater.com. He's also had three or more shots on goal in four of the past seven games.

Nick Leddy, defenseman


Leddy had a rough go in the playoffs last season. He had zero goals, two assists and a minus-8 rating in 23 playoff games. He fell out of favor with Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville late in the Stanley Cup finals and played just 2:37, 6:53 and 3:25 in the final three games of the series. He regained Quenneville's faith this season. He had seven goals, 24 assists, a plus-10 rating and averaged 16:22 of ice time in 82 games. He's also had a 57.1 Corsi percentage. He'll likely be paired with Michal Rozsival in the playoffs again.

Michal Rozsival, defenseman


Rozsival was in and out of the lineup throughout the regular season and was a permanent fixture in the playoffs last season. That likely will be the case again this season. The Blackhawks now hope he can be as consistent as he was in the playoffs last season. Among the players who played 20-plus playoff games last season, he was fifth on the team with a 57.4 Corsi percentage (Blackhawks had 382 shots for, 284 against when he was on the ice) in 5-on-5 situations. He averaged 19:16 of ice time during the playoffs. This season Rozsival has played in 42 games. Between an injury and additional rest, he's played in nine games since he returned from the Olympics. He hasn't played more than two consecutive games since prior to the Olympic break and has played in more than two consecutive games during just two spans this season. He has been solid when he's played this season. He has a 58.8 Corsi (620 shots for, 435 shots against), which is 2.7 percent higher than when he's not on the ice.

[+] EnlargeBlackhawks
Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY SportsThe Blackhawks need Brandon Saad to take a big step in his second playoffs.

Brandon Saad, forward


Not much was expected of Saad in the playoffs last season because he was still a rookie. From a possession standpoint, he held his own. When he was on the ice in 5-on-5 situations in the playoffs, the Blackhawks had 330 shots for and 207 against. But he didn't produce much, with one goal, five assists and a minus-1 rating in 23 playoff games. A season later, the Blackhawks need Saad to be better than that. He was often a key contributor to the Blackhawks throughout this season. He was sixth on the team with 40 points, which included 19 goals. To produce in the playoffs, he's going to need to find more consistency to his game than what he's provided lately. Since suffering an injury in mid-March, he hasn't scored in the past 10 games and had a minus-9 rating during that span. His possession numbers have also dropped. He's had a 60 Corsi percentage or higher in 30 games this season, and 28 of those occurred prior to his injury.

Ben Smith, forward


Smith was recalled at the end of last season and got into one playoff game -- Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals -- when Marian Hossa was scratched due to an injury. Smith will have a much larger role this season. Of the Blackhawks' fourth-line players, Smith is the one who provides the most consistent offense. He's seventh on the team with 14 goals and is riding a hot streak into the playoffs. He's scored goals in four of the past six games. He'll also continue to be relied upon defensively. His shifts have started 47.5 percent of the time in the defensive zone. Smith has excelled in the postseason before; he helped Boston College to two NCAA titles, and he had three goals in seven games for the Blackhawks in the 2011 playoffs.

Kris Versteeg, forward


The Blackhawks were hoping Versteeg could be the same player he was for them the last time around when they traded for him in November. That hasn't been the case. He's had positive spurts, but he's also been inconsistent. He admitted he came back from his knee injury too soon and will need another offseason to strengthen it to be closer to his old self. Since the Olympic break, he's had three goals and five assists. His possession numbers have also varied since the break. He's had 15 games with a Corsi percentage of above 50 percent and eight games below. Traditionally, he has played well in the postseason, with 14 goals, 23 assists and a plus-2 rating in 57 career playoff games.

Hawks not feeling lucky to play Blues

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
4:00
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks don't feel like they won the lottery by getting the St. Louis Blues instead of the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Blackhawks ended up with the Blues because St. Louis dropped its last six regular-season games and the Avalanche went 7-1-2 in their final 10 games. The Blues were leading the Avalanche by seven points as of April 7.

[+] EnlargeAlex Pietrangelo, Bryan Bickell
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesThe Blackhawks lost three of five games against the Blues in the regular season.
"That's what everybody wants to talk about, but we're not going to think that we have an easier team to play against," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said on Monday. "That's definitely not going to be the case. They're a team that loves to play physical against us, and we've got to expect that. There's no reason why we can't return that as well. We'll be ready to bring that type of effort.

"It's going to be a tough game, a tough atmosphere to be a part of, starting out in St. Louis. We'll be ready for it. But I don't think there's any feeling of us facing a team that's not going to give us their best. It's going to take our best to beat them."

The Blackhawks had mixed results against the Blues during the regular season. The Blues defeated the Blackhawks in their first three meetings, with two those of victories coming in a shootout. The Blackhawks got the better of the Blues in their final two games.

The Blues do have home-ice advantage on the Blackhawks, and that could be a factor in the series. The Blues won both games in St. Louis this season. They scored a goal in the final minute of the third period to defeat the Blackhawks 3-2 on Oct. 9, and they rallied from a 5-3 deficit to score two goals in the final four minutes of the third period to force overtime and win 6-5 in a shootout on Dec. 28.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville put the emphasis on stealing home-ice advantage in Game 1 on Thursday.

"Game 1 is the objective," Quenneville said. "There were a couple of tough games in their building where it looked like we were getting something out of the games -- tough losses both nights. At the same time, we did a lot of good things in both those games. It's a big Game 1. Let's be excited about it."

The Blackhawks are aiming for a stronger start to this season's playoffs than they put forward in the opening round last season. The Blackhawks were disappointed with their early play against the Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference quarterfinals last season, winning the first game 2-1 in overtime and winning the series in five games.

"I would say we had an ordinary start last year in the Minnesota series," Quenneville said. "I think we've got to be ready to be hitting the ground running against this team. We had a terrific regular season last year and it seems like playoffs were the same pace. We've got to expect this is going to be a different pace."

Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane expects the Blues to be physical, but he believes it is important for the Blackhawks to stick to their style of game. The Blackhawks defeated the Blues in their past two games by dominating the puck. The Blackhawks had a 53.6 Corsi percentage (52 shots for, 45 shots against) in their 4-0 win over the Blues on March 19 and a 61.2 Corsi (60 shots for, 38 against) in a 4-2 win on April 6.

"I don't know if that's the kind of team we are [being physical]," Kane said. "I think there's not many games throughout the year, maybe a handful if that, where we're outhitting a team. And that's because we're a team that likes to play with the puck, have puck possession and create that way.

"I think the most important thing is to try to play our game and try not to be anyone else. We're not going to try to go up against them and try to play like the St. Louis Blues or the L.A. Kings. That's not the way we play around here. Obviously we want to be physical when we get a chance, especially on their top guys. And play hard. If we meet it, great, but the most important thing is to try and score more goals than them."

Teravainen staying patient with Blackhawks

April, 13, 2014
Apr 13
5:42
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Teuvo TeravainenBill Smith/Getty ImagesTeuvo Teravainen saw action in three games with the Blackhawks in March.
ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Chicago Blackhawks prospect Teuvo Teravainen is confident he can play in the NHL now, but he understands he needs to wait his time.

The 19-year-old Teravainen played in three games for the Blackhawks after being recalled from Jokerit in Finland’s Liiga on March 21. He was reassigned to the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs on Thursday after being a healthy scratch in the Blackhawks’ previous four games. He played in his third consecutive game for the IceHogs on Sunday.

“I think I can play in that league right now,” Teravainen said of the NHL prior to playing against the Chicago Wolves on Sunday. “I have played with men in Finland for 2-3 years, so I’m ready to play there. I think I played OK, but I think it’s not enough. I can play there, but it’ll take some time getting used to this league and this North American hockey. It’s different than European hockey. Like I said, I’m just learning every day here and just trying to help this team.”

(Read full post)

What you need to know: St. Louis Blues

April, 13, 2014
Apr 13
4:04
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
MillerMark Buckner/Getty ImagesRyan Miller and the Blues stumbled down the stretch in the regular season.
Here’s a look at the St. Louis Blues prior to their showdown with the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs:

  • The Blackhawks went 2-1-2 against the Blues this season. The Blackhawks defeated the Blues 4-2 in Chicago on April 6 and 4-0 in Chicago on March 19. They lost to the Blues 3-2 in St. Louis on Oct. 9, 3-2 in a shootout in Chicago on Oct. 17 and 6-5 in a shootout in St. Louis on Dec. 28.

  • The Blues lost their final six regular-season games. They were outscored 22-5 during that span. They had a seven-point lead on the Colorado Avalanche in the Central as of April 7.

  • In their regular-season finale, the Blues were without David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Patrick Berglund, Barret Jackman, Brenden Morrow, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Pietrangelo and Vladimir Sobotka due to injuries. The Blues are expected to return Backes, Oshie, Jackman, Pietrangelo and Sobotka for Game 1.

  • The Blues rank ninth in the league with a 2.92 goals-for average. That average was at 3.15 goals after 73 games. They scored nine goals over their final nine games.

  • Blues goaltender Ryan Miller has lost his past five starts. He had a 3.60 goals-against average and stopped 107 of 125 shots for a .856 save percentage in that span. He allowed three or more goals in eight of his last 10 games. Miller started one game against the Blackhawks this season.

  • (Read full post)

    Blackhawks to face Blues in first round

    April, 13, 2014
    Apr 13
    2:04
    PM CT
    Powers By Scott Powers
    ESPNChicago.com
    Archive


    The Chicago Blackhawks finally discovered their first-round playoff opponent on Sunday.

    On the final day of the regular season, the Blackhawks were locked into playing the St. Louis Blues in the first round. The Blues will have home-ice advantage.

    The Blues-Blackhawks’ series will likely begin in St. Louis on Thursday. The Scottrade Center, the Blues’ arena, is unavailable on Wednesday because of a Miley Cyrus concert.

    The Blues (52-23-7, 111 points) finished the regular season as the No. 2 seed in the Central Division after losing to the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday. The Blues lost their final six games of the regular season. The Blackhawks (46-21-15, 107 points) finished third in the division. They completed their regular season on Saturday.

    The Colorado Avalanche (52-22-7, 111 points) clinched the Central title with the Blues’ loss. Both teams entered Sunday with a chance to win the division. The Avalanche will play their final regular-season game against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday.

    The Blackhawks had been locked into third place in the Central since Thursday and were awaiting the identity of their first-round opponent. They were anticipating the Avalanche for the last few weeks, but the Avalanche surpassed the Blues for first place on Thursday and remained there.

    The Blackhawks went 2-1-2 against the Blues this season. The Blackhawks defeated the Blues 4-2 in Chicago on April 6 and 4-0 in Chicago on March 19. They lost to the Blues 3-2 in St. Louis on Oct. 9, 3-2 in a shootout in Chicago on Oct. 17 and 6-5 in a shootout in St. Louis on Dec. 28.

    SPONSORED HEADLINES

    TEAM LEADERS

    POINTS
    Patrick Kane
    PTS GOALS AST +/-
    36 16 20 9
    OTHER LEADERS
    GoalsP. Kane 16
    AssistsP. Kane 20
    +/-K. Versteeg 15
    GAAC. Crawford 2.00