Chicago Blackhawks: 2013 NHL Playoffs

This season will be critical for Crawford

August, 22, 2013
8/22/13
5:39
PM CT
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Corey CrawfordAP Photo/Nam Y. HuhWill the Blackhawks let another Cup-winning goalie in Corey Crawford walk after this season?
Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has been one of goaltender Corey Crawford's biggest supporters.

Bowman continued to back Crawford when others were demanding a change in net. Bowman's confidence in Crawford paid off last season when Crawford played better than he ever had and helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup.

Crawford will be Bowman's and the Blackhawks' guy again this upcoming season, but his future is less certain. Bowman will have to answer two vital questions this season to determine that future. Is Crawford a top-10 goaltender? If so, can the Blackhawks afford to pay him as one?

What Crawford does this season should supply the answer to the first question. It's difficult to gauge whether Crawford, who will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, is one of the league's premier goaltenders.

Crawford was undoubtedly one during the 2013 season. He was tied for second in the league with a 1.94 goals-against average, tied for fifth with a .926 save percentage and was fifth with a 67.9 quality start percentage among goaltenders with at least 15 starts (a stat created by Hockey Prospectus to determine a goaltender's consistency). His 1.84 goals-against average and .932 save percentage in the playoffs were further proof of his stellar season.

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Smith likely to get shot at Frolik's PK spot

August, 12, 2013
8/12/13
2:47
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Ben Smith Dave Sandford/NHLI/Getty ImagesJoel Quenneville had enough confidence in Ben Smith that he played him in the Stanley Cup finals.
Michael Frolik's individual numbers weren't anything special for the Chicago Blackhawks last season.

Frolik was tied for fourth on the team with 98 shots on goals in the regular season, but scored just three goals in 45 games. His accuracy improved in the playoffs, but it won't be his offense the Blackhawks will be looking to substitute this upcoming season with Frolik now gone to the Winnipeg Jets. The Blackhawks possess a number of players capable of filling Frolik's role on the fourth line.

Where the difficulty lies is finding someone to duplicate what he did for the team's penalty kill last season. Frolik embraced his place on the special teams and became a vital piece to why the Blackhawks were among the league leaders in penalty-kill percentage during the regular season and playoffs.

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Bickell's 'amazing' year continues

July, 30, 2013
7/30/13
3:09
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell may never experience a summer as memorable as this one.

[+] EnlargeBryan Bickell and Brandon Bollig
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesBryan Bickell's summer of fun included singing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" with Brandon Bollig on July 5 at Wrigley Field.
Bickell began the summer by becoming a playoffs star with 17 points in 23 playoff games which only trailed Patrick Kane for the team lead. He scored the first of the two goals in 17 seconds to defeat the Boston Bruins in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals and clinched the second championship for the Blackhawks in the past four years. He was then rewarded with a four-year, $16 million extension. His hometown of Orono, Ontario recently put up two gateway signs to proudly claim Bickell as their own.

And Bickell still has more to come. He will get married on Saturday and will have his day with the Stanley Cup in late August.

"It's been an amazing year from the season we had to winning the Cup then getting the extension," Bickell said at the Blackhawks convention last weekend. "It's going to be a year to remember. Then getting married, having another Cup party; it's unbelievable. It still hasn't sunk in. I know we're almost halfway through the summer and just really excited and happy to be here."

The only downside of Bickell's summer was when he required surgery after the season to repair a torn tendon in his left thumb. He's not sure when he torn the tendon, but he expects to be ready when training camp opens Sept. 12.

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Power play still an issue for Blackhawks

July, 29, 2013
7/29/13
2:31
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Joel QuennevilleJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesAn improved Blackhawks' power play would go a long way in helping coach Joel Quenneville hoist the Stanley Cup again next summer.
CHICAGO -- Winning the Stanley Cup eased the type of questions the Chicago Blackhawks front office and coaching staff faced at the team's fan convention, but they still couldn't avoid having to answer once again about a power play that has now struggled for two consecutive seasons.

The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup last season despite being one of the NHL's most ineffective power-play teams. They ranked 19th in the NHL with a 16.7 power-play percentage in the regular season and 13th in the playoffs with an 11.4 percentage. In the 2011-12 season, they were tied for 25th in the regular season with a 15.2 power-play percentage and were 16th in the playoffs at 5.3 percent.

Last season's Blackhawks and the 2010-11 Boston Bruins have proven you can win a Stanley Cup without a successful power play. But it's still an area the Blackhawks hope to improve next season.

"Special teams is always important," Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said on a panel during the convention. "I think we had a great penalty kill last year really from beginning to end. I think our power play is the one area where we had spurts where it was very successful. I think we'd like to get that like the penalty kill, to have that to be a dominant force."

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Saad to get chance at second-line center

July, 27, 2013
7/27/13
2:58
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Brandon SaadDave Sandford/NHLI via Getty ImagesBrandon Saad established trust with the coaching staff during a strong rookie season.
CHICAGO -- As a rookie, Brandon Saad filled a void for the Chicago Blackhawks as a top-line winger.

In Saad’s second season, he’ll get the chance to be the second-line center the Blackhawks have been desperately searching for in recent seasons.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Saturday he planned to give Saad a chance to win the spot when training camp begins in September.

“[Saad] is probably the guy we’re thinking maybe grab that spot, would be an option,” Quenneville said while talking to the media during the Blackhawks convention. “It’s something we talked about as a staff late in the year. It’s something going into the season we could be exploring.

“We had him out there on our own end with [Jonathan Toews] and [Marian Hossa]; a lot of times we’d just leave him out there knowing if we lose a faceoff or Johnny gets tossed he can go in there for the draw. That was in place almost all year, so you’re comfortable with that scenario.”

Quenneville wasn’t afraid to throw the 20-year-old Saad into the fire as a rookie last season. After Daniel Carcillo suffered an injury in the season opener, Quenneville place Saad on the top line beside Toews and Hossa. Saad flourished there and was a finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy after producing 10 goals and 17 assists in the regular season.

Quenneville didn’t think Saad would have any trouble stepping into another large role as the second-line center next season.

“I think down low in our end [it’s] something we can explore,” Quenneville said. “I think offensively you know he’s going to be fine in the middle because he’s got the puck, knows what to do with it. Defensively, I think we can get him up to speed. I thought [Andrew Shaw] got up to speed in a relatively short amount of time. It’s something we’re likely going to try.”

Quenneville tried an assortment of players there during 2013. Dave Bolland was given first crack, but he couldn’t hold onto the job because of injuries and inconsistencies. Marcus Kruger and Andrew Shaw also saw time there in the regular season. Michal Handzus possessed the spot for most of the playoffs.

If Saad doesn’t win the job, Quenneville said Shaw, Kruger, Handzus, Brandon Pirri and Drew LeBlanc could also be options.

“At the end of the day, I mean I don’t really care who’s going to grab it, but it’s a nice spot for somebody,” Quenneville said.

More mature Kane staying 'out of trouble'

July, 26, 2013
7/26/13
6:53
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane hasn’t stopped letting himself enjoy his second Stanley Cup of his career, but he has become smarter about where and how he does it.

At the 2012 Blackhawks convention, Kane had to answer questions about a public display of partying during a Cinco De Mayo celebration in Madison, Wis. and admitted he was embarrassed by it. On Friday at the opening of the 2013 convention, the 24-year-old Kane felt he had matured and was more aware of his surroundings when he went out and had fun.

“Try to relax, try to enjoy it,” Kane said of his summer plans. “You know try to keep myself out of trouble, I guess, and keep myself maturing as a person. It seems to be easier these days as I get older. You’re obviously going to have your fun.

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After surgeries, Handzus to be ready for camp

July, 26, 2013
7/26/13
6:40
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Michal Handzus said Friday he required two surgeries following the Stanley Cup, but he expected to be ready for the opening of training camp in September.

Handzus, who was acquired from the San Jose Sharks at the trade deadline last season, had three goals, eight assists and a plus-7 rating during the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup run. It was revealed after the season he had played with a broken wrist and a torn MCL during the Stanley Cup finals.

“I had two surgeries, but I’m healing and it’s coming along,” Handzus said prior to the opening ceremonies of the Blackhawks convention on Friday. “Right now, wrist, I still can’t do anything. It’s in a cast for one more week. After four weeks, I’m going to start to do something. It’s a little bit slower. My knee, it’s pretty much I’m rehabbing right now.

“[The doctors] are saying [I’ll be ready for training camp.]”

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Blackhawks, Kruger still in talks

July, 10, 2013
7/10/13
5:03
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The Chicago Blackhawks and forward Marcus Kruger are still negotiating a new contract, according to Kruger's agent on Wednesday.

The 23-year-old Kruger is a restricted free agent and was tendered a qualifying offer by the Blackhawks.

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Goalie coach Waite leaves for Canadiens

July, 4, 2013
7/04/13
12:46
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Goaltending coach Stéphane Waite has left the Chicago Blackhawks after 10 years to join the Montreal Canadiens, the teams announced on Thursday.

Waite was named the Blackhawks goaltending coach during the 2003-04 season and helped the Blackhawks to two Stanley Cups during his tenure. He was credited by Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville and goaltender Corey Crawford for Crawford’s development this past season.

Crawford and Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery shared this past season the William M. Jennings Trophy, given to the goaltenders on the team with the fewest goals allowed during the regular season. The Blackhawks allowed 102 goals in 48 regular-season games. Crawford had a 16-7 record with a 1.84 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage during the playoffs.

“We would like to thank Stéphane for his 10 years of service with the Blackhawks organization and the quality of work he put in with many goaltenders over that period of time,” Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said in a statement. “We wish him and his family the best in his new position.”

Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin had plenty of familiarity with Waite before hiring him. Bergevin spent time as a Blackhawks assistant coach and assistant general manager while Waite was with the Blackhawks.

“Stéphane Waite has over 30 years of experience as a goaltending coach, including the past 10 seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks organization,” Bergevin said in a statement. “He contributed to two Stanley Cup championships with the Blackhawks during his tenure working closely with two different goaltenders, namely Antti Niemi and Corey Crawford. We are very pleased to welcome Stéphane in our organization. He has a vast experience, and a thorough knowledge of our local market and we are convinced that our goaltenders will benefit from his expertise and his work ethic.”

Mayers considers retiring as a champion

June, 27, 2013
6/27/13
7:11
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Jamal Mayers said Thursday he is considering retiring after winning his first Stanley Cup in a 15-year career.

"I realize where I am in my career," Mayers said. "It's reached the ultimate it's almost climbing the mountain and seeing over the top. It may have changed things a little bit for me. I think that will play itself out in the next couple of weeks. If I do walk away, I can walk away as a champion and not many people can say that.

"I feel like I can still skate and in today's game you have to be able to skate to keep up with these young kids. Because I feel like I can still skate, I feel like I can still play. But there's also a lot of consideration with family and it's not just about me. We'll have to make that decision in the next little while, but I think now it will make it a little bit easier if I do walk away."

The 38-year-old Mayers will become an unrestricted free agent next week. He has played 978 games, including the playoffs, for five teams. He has been with the Blackhawks since 2011.


Mayers had two assists and a plus-2 rating in 19 regular season games this season. He did not appear in the playoffs, but he was touted by teammates for his leadership during their Stanley Cup run.

Mayers was one of the first players to receive the Stanley Cup after the Blackhawks won Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals on Monday.

"Johnny (Toews) gave me a heads-up that morning that if we won that would be the case," Mayers said. "I had to skate away from him; I got pretty choked up even just thinking about it."

Stalberg prepared to look elsewhere

June, 27, 2013
6/27/13
5:32
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Viktor StalbergDave Sandford/NHLI/Getty ImagesSome questioned Joel Quenneville limiting Viktor Stalberg's ice time in the playoffs.
CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Viktor Stalberg said Thursday he would likely play next season wherever he could get the most consistent playing time.

Stalberg will become an unrestricted free agent next week after spending the last three seasons with the Blackhawks.

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Emery would 'love' to return to Hawks

June, 27, 2013
6/27/13
5:00
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery and general manager Stan Bowman left open the possibility Thursday of Emery returning to the team next season.

Emery will become an unrestricted free agent on July 5. He made $1.15 million in 2013. He has been with the Blackhawks since 2011.

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Will Cup hero Bolland be on the move?

June, 27, 2013
6/27/13
3:19
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
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BollandElsa/Getty ImagesWill Dave Bolland's Cup-winning goal in Game 6 end up being his last as a Blackhawk?
CHICAGO -- Could the player who scored the winning goal for the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals be headed out of town? Sources tell ESPN.com's Pierre Lebrun the Hawks are shopping veteran center Dave Bolland.

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"We've had some plans in place for a long time; we are going to have some changes," Hawks general manager Stan Bowman said on Thursday.

One of those changes could see Bolland and his $3.375 million contract on the move. Bolland scored a rebound goal with 59 seconds remaining of Monday's Game 6, giving the Hawks a 3-2 advantage and an eventual second championship in four years.

"(I) would love to be back here next year but whatever happens, happens," Bolland said in response to the rumors. "This is the NHL and trades happen, but I would love to be back here. I love Chicago."

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Banged-up Bickell plays tough in finals

June, 25, 2013
6/25/13
1:48
AM CT
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 Bryan BickellAP Photo/Charles KrupaBryan Bickell celebrates his game-tying goal with Jonathan Toews and Michal Handzus.
BOSTON -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has gotten to the point that he has nearly perfected the art of sidestepping questions.

One he skillfully avoided throughout the Stanley Cup finals was why he waited until Game 4 to reunite the line of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell. The trio had accounted for three goals and four assists in the Blackhawks’ Western Conference finals series-clinching Game 5 win over the Los Angeles Kings.

It seemed only logical to keep the line together as the Blackhawks rolled into the Stanley Cup finals to face the Boston Bruins. Quenneville opted to split them up, though, and explained it as wanting more balance throughout the team.

But Quenneville wasn’t telling the truth then, and he came clean about it after the Blackhawks clinched the Stanley Cup with a 3-2 win over the Bruins in Game 6 on Monday.

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Rozsival, Handzus revel in finally winning

June, 25, 2013
6/25/13
1:18
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Custance By Craig Custance
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BOSTON -- Michal Rozsival can always sleep before a game. It’s the same routine all players have. Morning skate, team meal and a quick nap.

But even at 34 years old and a long way from breaking into the league in 1999, there are still surprises. Instead of sleeping, Rozsival spent Monday afternoon in his hotel room, staring at the ceiling.

Thoughts of what it might feel like to raise the Stanley Cup later that night crept into his head. Then he immediately tried to erase it.

"I didn’t want to get too ahead of myself," he said.

It was just so close to finally happening that it was impossible not to dream. Rozsival and Michal Handzus are two key veteran contributors to the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup win, and they put in the most mileage before finally getting to hockey’s peak.

Rozsival has played 783 career regular season games and 74 playoff games before finally winning it all on Monday. For Handzus, it’s been even longer. He broke in with the Blues in 1998-99 and is closing in on 1,000 regular-season games, currently having played 950.

Handzus has had playoff runs in the past with the Blues and Flyers, but nothing like this.

Hockey players are as superstitious as they come, and in the time leading up to Game 6, the Blackhawks were careful not to talk too much about winning the Cup. They knew beating the Bruins one last time would be the hardest win of their season.

But on Monday morning, captain Jonathan Toews allowed a quick meeting with Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith to determine which player after Toews would be handed the Stanley Cup should the Hawks end Boston’s season that night. It was a quick conversation.

Handzus got the nod and the Cup first after the captain.

"You want to win for guys like that, that have been in the league a long time," Toews said. "They’ll do anything for their teammates. They’ll do anything for the team. Those are guys you want in your group."

They were both quietly effective additions for general manager Stan Bowman. Rozsival lasted all summer long in free agency before finally signing with the Blackhawks in September. In a time when general managers wildly overspend, it might have been the best $2 million spent all summer.

And while other teams made much bigger splashes at the trade deadline, Bowman quietly acquired Handzus from the San Jose Sharks for a fourth-round pick. It wasn’t Jarome Iginla; it wasn’t Jaromir Jagr. It wasn’t even Derek Roy.

It was the kind of subtle move that wins championships. The Blackhawks thought they were getting a center who could win faceoffs and pitch in on the penalty kill.

By the time the finals were played, he was centering a line with Marian Hossa and Sharp.

"Unbelievable," Hossa said. "I don’t think anybody could hope for a better fit to our organization ... he was unreal."

Until you win, you never know what’s going to run through your mind as the Cup is being passed. For Handzus, he thought of his family. Of his late father, who would have loved this moment. Of the family who was here to witness the celebration. His wife, Zuzana, and their 11-month-old son, Tomas. Handzus cut an interview short to find them, hug his wife and grab his son, wearing a tiny red Blackhawks jersey.

"I have to go to them," he said.

They shared in the sacrifice, they share in the celebration.

"You know how hard he works all the time. Every day. He gives up everything," Zuzana said. "We’re so happy this finally happened."

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Patrick Sharp
PTS GOALS AST +/-
78 34 44 13
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsP. Sharp 34
AssistsD. Keith 55
+/-M. Hossa 28
GAAC. Crawford 2.26