Chicago Blackhawks: Michal Rozsival

Blackhawks' 20-game season review

November, 23, 2014
Nov 23
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Corey CrawfordJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesCorey Crawford has played some of the best hockey of his career through the first 20 games.


The Chicago Blackhawks are almost a quarter of the way through the season after playing 20 games. Here are 15 things we have learned about them so far:

1. The Blackhawks don’t have an amazing record at 12-7-1, but it’s not bad considering their early scoring troubles and they are still right there among the Central Division leaders. They’re in third place in the Central behind the Nashville Predators (13-5-2, 28 points) and St. Louis Blues (13-6-1, 27 points). The Blackhawks are trending upward. They’re on their first three-game winning streak of the season and have won five of their last six games. One area they have already corrected from last season is their overtime/shootout record. They were 3-8 last year and are 4-1 this season.

2. The Blackhawks can still fill the net. They went through an unlucky stretch early in the season, when they were leading the league in shots but didn’t have the results to show for it. That’s changed in the last few weeks. Their shooting percentage is getting back to normal. They have scored 32 goals over the last eight games. They still lead the league in shots (36.7 per game) and their scoring average is up to 2.95, which is tied for seventh. Their shooting percentage is still a few percentage points below their average the last few years, so expect the goals average to increase some more over time. The Blackhawks were third in shots-per game (33.1) and second in goals-per-game (3.18) last season.

3. Corey Crawford is playing at an elite level. He has a 1.90 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in 14 games. He ranks fifth in the league in save percentage. His start to the season is comparable to what he did in the shortened 2012-13 season, when he was consistent throughout the season and finished ranked sixth in the league in save percentage. It’s the only time he’s finished in the top 10 in save percentage. He has held opponents to two goals or less in 10 of his 14 games this season. He’s especially improved against the power play. He had a .864 power-play save percentage last season and it’s currently at .905.

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Van Riemsdyk's injury impacts Hawks' defensive depth

November, 19, 2014
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks' greatest concern entering the season was their defenseman depth.

The Blackhawks lost a dependable defenseman when they traded Nick Leddy in order to get under the salary cap before the season. It left them with two unproven young defensemen in Trevor van Riemsdyk and David Rundblad and an aging veteran in Michal Rozsival.

Van Riemsdyk exceeded the organization’s expectations to start the season and his play as of late made it easier for the Blackhawks to move on from losing Leddy. With van Riemsdyk’s success, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was able to rotate between Rundblad and Rozsival as his sixth defenseman and create stability throughout the pairings.

Now, with van Riemsdyk out for 3-4 months with a fractured patella, the Blackhawks have some question marks again on the defensive end. Rozsival and Rundblad haven’t appeared in the same game this season, and Adam Clendening, who was recalled on Tuesday, has never played an NHL game.

Quenneville didn’t sound concerned about it Wednesday.

“Whoever plays we want them to be consistent, get involved in the attack, defend,” Quenneville said. “A game like last game, Rozsival ended up [on the ice more] with five [defensemen], gets to be used a little bit more. In those situations, make sure whoever your partner is play the right way that we play as a team and contribute as best you can defensively and offensively.

“We’ll let it work itself out. Their play will dictate how much and how it evolves.”

Quenneville also doesn’t want to lean more on defensemen Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson than he already has.

“I hope not,” Quenneville said. “It’s not the plan. Kind of like we want to make sure those guys get ice time. There’s going to be getting some important shifts as well when you go on the road and you don’t have the matchup going into faceoffs.”

Rozsival, 36, is likely to carry a larger work load as he did last game when van Riemsdyk was injured. Rozsival played a season-high 19:55 against the Dallas Stars on Sunday. He’s averaged 16:42 in nine games this season.

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W2W4: Predators at Blackhawks

October, 18, 2014
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CHICAGO -- Here’s what to watch for when the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks play at the United Center on Saturday:

• The Blackhawks are 2-0-1 and have picked up at least a point in their first three games. They’re coming off a disappointing 2-1 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames. The Blackhawks outshot the Flames on goal 50-18.

• Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival will make his season debut Saturday. He missed the first three games with an upper-body injury. Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg will miss a fourth consecutive game with a lower-body injury. Versteeg participated in the team’s morning skate and is ahead of schedule after suffering an injury Oct. 7. He was originally expected to miss three weeks.

• The Blackhawks' defensive pairings will be different from the first three games. The pairings are expected to be Duncan KeithBrent Seabrook, Johnny OduyaNiklas Hjalmarsson and Trevor van Riemsdyk – Rozsival. The lines will be Patrick SharpJonathan ToewsMarian Hossa, Brandon SaadAndrew ShawPatrick Kane, Bryan BickellBrad RichardsBen Smith and Daniel CarcilloMarcus KrugerJeremy Morin.

• Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford has allowed two goals in each game this season. He has a 1.90 goals-against average and stopped 69-of-75 shots for a .920 save percentage.

• One of the Blackhawks’ focuses against the Predators will be being more direct with scoring opportunities. They felt they were too “cute” with the puck against the Flames and lacked quality chances.

“We counted the chances we could’ve had, probably 10 of the 15 were A-plus, another five would’ve been real chances that didn’t even qualify as scoring chances,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “Whether too cute, not bearing down or not aware, and some of the pressure from them, give them some credit as well. A lot of times in that area, you don’t need style points to score goals. We need to finish, and I think that’s a little disappointing at that end of the game because we did so many other good things. We should’ve been rewarded somewhere.”

• The Blackhawks have scored a power-play goal in each of the first three games. They are 3-of-16 on the power play and 10-of-11 on the penalty kill. The Predators are 1-of-12 on the power play and 10-of-12 on the penalty kill.

• The Predators improved to 3-0-1 with a 2-0 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Friday. Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne made 31 saves in the shutout. Filip Forsberg leads the Predators with five points. The Predators haven’t allowed more than two goals this season and are second in the league with a 1.30 goals-against average.

• Former Blackhawk Viktor Stalberg made his season debut Friday. He missed the first three games with a lower-body injury.

Rozsival getting closer, will miss Flames

October, 14, 2014
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival will not play against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday because of an upper-body injury, coach Joel Quenneville said on Tuesday.

Rozsival
Rozsival, who has missed the first two games of the regular season, suffered the injury during the preseason. He practiced with his teammates for a second consecutive day on Tuesday. Quenneville said he was aiming for Rozsival to play against the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

"It's kind of like with any player," Quenneville said after practice at Johnny's IceHouse West on Tuesday. "When they're ready, they're ready. I think sometimes some guys we say are more than ready. We're generally always more than ready with about any situation. Playoffs we don't really discuss it. Sometimes they'll play. It's a long season. Whether you're old or young, let's make sure we correct it and it's not going to be an ongoing issue."

Rozsival reported Tuesday he is close to being ready to play in a game.

"I feel great," Rozsival said. "It was another good day on the ice with the team. I'm getting closer to be 100 percent, so I'm happy with the progress."

Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa did not practice on Tuesday. Quenneville said he was resting and would be fine to play on Wednesday.

Forward Kris Versteeg might begin skating again later in the week. He suffered a lower-body injury on Oct. 7 and was expected to miss about three weeks.

Defensemen ready to fill Leddy's skates

October, 5, 2014
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CHICAGO -- Kyle Cumiskey, David Rundblad and Trevor van Riemsdyk all understood what it meant for them when the Chicago Blackhawks traded defenseman Nick Leddy over the weekend.

Leddy had locked down a defenseman spot in the Blackhawks lineup for much of the last four seasons, and that spot was opened again when he was dealt to the New York Islanders on Saturday.

Cumiskey, Rundblad and van Riemsdyk now have a chance to fill that void as all three defensemen were still on the team’s active roster as of Sunday afternoon. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Sunday he could begin the season with eight defensemen.

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Hawks banking on others replacing Leddy

October, 4, 2014
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The good news for the Chicago Blackhawks today is they’re finally under the salary cap. It's something they've been waiting awhile for.

The bad news is they’re now without one of their top defensemen.

Whether the Blackhawks made the right move in trading defenseman Nick Leddy to the New York Islanders for prospects on Saturday will ultimately be determined by how this season unfolds.

If the Blackhawks are successful and make another run at a Stanley Cup, the trade will be forgotten. If the Blackhawks fail in that quest and their defensemen are a reason for that, the Leddy trade and other moves by Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman will go into question.

The Blackhawks had to trade someone before the season began because they exceeded the salary cap when they signed center Brad Richards to a one-year, $2 million contract in July.

Basically, the Blackhawks swapped Leddy for Richards in the end. But there were other moves that led to the Blackhawks going over the cap and Leddy being the player dealt.

The first move was Bowman signing defenseman Michal Rozsival to a two-year contract extension after the 2013 season. Rozsival has a $2.2 million cap hit. He played a key role on their 2013 Stanley Cup championship team, but he hasn’t been able to maintain that consistency. He was a healthy scratch in the playoffs last season and looked a few steps slow during the Blackhawks’ preseason game Wednesday. He also had a modified no-trade clause, according to capgeek.com.

The second move was Bowman trading for defenseman David Rundblad last season. Rundblad was a player Bowman had wanted for some time, and he jumped at the opportunity to trade a second-round pick for him and another prospect. Rundlbad’s cap hit is only $785,000, but his acquisition meant Bowman was planning on Rundblad being another top-six defenseman. Leddy became more expendable when Rundlbad was added.

Leddy wasn’t the perfect defenseman. That was seen when Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville drastically cut his minutes and made him a healthy scratch in the playoffs the last two seasons. But he was a reliable defenseman. He carried the puck as well as any of the Blackhawks defensemen, contributed on the power play and anchored that third defensive pairing while often having to deal with a rotating partner.

The Blackhawks now enter the season with some uncertainties about their third pairing. Rozsival will be a part of it, but he will still need days off. His age, 36, has caught up with him. He’s played in 69 regular-season games over the last two seasons.

Rundblad will also be in the mix. He has some offensive upside, but he’s yet to prove himself consistently in the NHL. He hasn’t played in more than 17 NHL games in a given season. Quenneville has to learn to trust him.

Kyle Cumiskey also looks like he’s going to get a chance on the NHL roster. Cumiskey showed a lot of offensive ability in the preseason. He can skate, gets up in plays, can handle the puck and will shoot it. He has NHL experience, having played in 132 games for the Colorado Avalanche, but he’s been in Sweden the last two years. He has a chance to fill Leddy’s shoes, but the proof will be in his play.

Trevor van Riemsdyk may also start the season in the NHL. He’s been the surprise of the camp after signing as a college free agent in March. He’s displayed an ability to make smart decisions and be defensively reliable. The question is whether he can take on the NHL this early in his career.

The Blackhawks also have a number of defenseman prospects, including Adam Clendening, Klas Dahlbeck and Stephen Johns, on the verge of the NHL. All are close to being NHL players, but may need another season in the AHL to be truly ready.

With all of their options, the Blackhawks may have enough in their pantry to get by without Leddy in their lineup. The upcoming season will reveal whether that’s fact or fiction.

Mashinter, Oduya, Rozsival out with injuries

October, 3, 2014
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks defensemen Johnny Oduya and Michal Rozsival as well as forward Brandon Mashinter will not play in the team's final preseason game Friday against the New York Rangers due to injuries.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Oduya has a lower-body injury and could return to the team on Sunday. Rozsival has an upper-body injury and is expected to miss at least a week. Mashinter suffered an undisclosed injury against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday.

"I thought he was progressing in camp," Quenneville said of Mashinter. "Unfortunately, last game he got a little bit of an injury there. It’s kept him off the ice the last few days. We’ll see. I think at one point he’s got a chance to play here."

Quenneville isn't concerned about his defensemen's injuries heading into the team’s regular season opener next week.

“Johnny’s going to be fine, and Rozy is not that bad, so it’s not we’re looking too long in either one,” Quenneville said after the team's morning skate in Chicago.

5 observations from Blackhawks-Canadiens

October, 2, 2014
Oct 2
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CHICAGO -- Here are five observations from the Chicago Blackhawks’ 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday:

1. Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival had a game to forget. His play led to two Montreal goals within a 1:54 span in the third period. He first got beat to a loose puck by Rene Bourque at the net.
[+] EnlargeMichal Rozsival
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesWith a rough outing Wednesday, Michal Rozsival had two giveaways in a preseason loss to the Canadiens.
Bourque hit the post with a backhanded attempt but got the puck back seconds later and scored. Less than two minutes afterward, Nathan Beaulieu skated past Rozsival to the net and knocked the puck in off a pass. Rozsival had a few instances where he was knocked off or beat to the puck. He had two giveaways in the loss.

“I thought he had a real tough third period,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “I didn’t mind his first 40 minutes.”

2. There’s not much more Blackhawks forward Jeremy Morin can do to earn a regular spot in the lineup. He played in his fifth preseason game of the year and again was aggressive all over the ice. He often was around the puck and created chances for himself and his teammates. He hit Duncan Keith in the left circle for one of the Blackhawks’ best looks of the night. Morin also had six shots, including four on goal. He’s not a big body like Brandon Mashinter, but Morin has the type of toughness Quenneville is searching for on the fourth line.

3. The Blackhawks’ third line of Bryan Bickell-Andrew Shaw-Kris Versteeg had another positive outing. They had some sustained offensive possessions and were able to create a number of chances. The line combined for 16 shots, including 10 shots on goal. Shaw scored the Blackhawks’ lone goal on a breakaway. Versteeg again showed some regained quickness.

“I thought Steeger had a good game,” Quenneville said. “Shawzy had a nice goal. Bick and that line generate, and a lot of time they are in the offensive zone. They have good puck presence, good puck support and good play recognition. I thought they had a good game.”

4. Blackhawks defenseman Kyle Cumiskey and Trevor van Riemsdyk are keeping themselves in the roster conversation. Cumiskey had a few defensive miscues, along with Rozsival, but Cumiskey was especially sharp offensively. He got involved in rushes and nearly helped the Blackhawks to a few goals. Van Riemsdyk again showed a solid overall game. He played with Johnny Oduya. It will all depend on whom the Blackhawks trade to get under the salary cap, but both players could still be in the mix for roster spots. Quenneville said he’d like to have his roster finalized by Sunday.

5. The Blackhawks’ power play is a work in progress. After just starting to work on it the last few days, the Blackhawks were 0-for-4 on the power play on Wednesday. They had one shot on goal in 5:14 of power-play time. As in the past, the Blackhawks failed to shoot the puck enough for Quenneville’s liking.

Quenneville did take some positives from it.

“I thought we did some good things beside not shooting it,” he said. “We practiced it this week, so it’s a start. I think there’s some positive things tonight. Hopefully we can get better off of it and get some production to reflect it.

“It’s early in the preseason, and we just practiced it for the first time going into today’s game. We’ll look to get a little confidence going into the regular season.”

Hawks storylines (No. 8): Aging players

September, 16, 2014
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ESPNChicago.com's Scott Powers counts down the days to the opening of Blackhawks training camp on Sept. 19 with a look at 20 storylines facing the team this season.

Age appeared to catch up with Michal Handzus and Michal Rozsival last season.

Rozsival
Hossa
Both had played roles in the Chicago Blackhawks' run to the Stanley Cup during the 2013 playoffs, and neither could return to that form in the 2014 playoffs. Handzus was demoted to the fourth line, and Rozsival was a healthy scratch for two playoff games last season.

The Blackhawks have six players in their 30s heading into the 2014-15 season.

Rozsival likely will be one player the Blackhawks watch closely again this season. He turned 36 on Sept. 3 and has been part of a defenseman rotation the past two seasons. He played in 27 of 48 regular season games in 2013 and in 42 of 82 games last season.

Marian Hossa, who will turn 36 in January, is the next oldest Blackhawk. He returned from a back injury suffered in the 2013 Stanley Cup finals to play in 72 regular season games last season. He proved last season to again be one of the NHL's top two-way forwards. He has suffered a variety of injuries since turning 30, so the Blackhawks always will have to be concerned at some level about him, but last season was a good sign for the near future.

Brad Richards, 34, has been slowed down in recent years, but showed last season he still has something left in the tank. He likely won't be at a 90-point level again, but he is still capable of contributing offensively at even strength and on the power play. He had 20 goals and 51 points and proved durable, playing in a total of 107 games, including the playoffs.

Johnny Oduya, who will turn 33 in October, is again expected to be paired with Niklas Hjalmarsson and they likely again will receive the toughest defensive assignments.

Patrick Sharp, who will be 33 in December, hasn't allowed his game to be hampered by age. He scored 34 goals and recorded a career-high 78 points last season. He had the most points among all of the league's players 30 or older. He also finished first in the Blackhawks' fitness testing during training camp last season.

Duncan Keith, who turned 31 in July, is also still playing at a high level. He was voted the Norris Trophy winner after continuing to lead the Blackhawks defenseman in points and ice time.

Hawks storylines (No. 10 ): Third D-pairing

September, 15, 2014
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Nick Leddy is expected to be a fixture as the Chicago Blackhawks’ No. 5 defenseman again. What’s up in the air is which players will fill the No. 6, No. 7 and even possibly No. 8 defenseman roles for the Blackhawks this season.

Unless Leddy is traded, which his agent recently said he doesn’t expect, Leddy could be paired with a different defenseman on any given night as he did last season. He found himself partnered with Michal Rozsival, Sheldon Brookbank, Mike Kostka and David Rundblad last season.

[+] EnlargeMichal Rozsival
Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY SportsMichal Rozsival's play declined last season and he was a healthy scratch for two playoff games.
The possibilities right now for Leddy are to be paired with Rozsival and Rundblad. Brookbank wasn’t re-signed in the offseason and Kostka was picked up on waivers in March.

Rozsival was solid throughout the Blackhawks’ playoff run in 2013, but his play declined last season and was made a healthy scratch for two games in the playoffs. He just turned 36 and his age has slowed him down in the recent years. He played in 27-of-48 regular-season games in 2013 and in 42-of-82 games last season. If he remains on the roster, the Blackhawks would likely rotate him again.

Rundblad was acquired by the Blackhawks near the trade deadline for a second-round pick last season. Although Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said just before acquiring Rundblad that having eight defensemen on the roster was too challenging, the Blackhawks were again given eight defensemen when Rundblad joined the team.

Rundblad, 23, appeared in five regular-season games last season, but he’s expected to be given a greater chance this season. Bowman coveted Rundblad for some time and did give up a high pick for him.

“I think he’s an example of a young player who’s ready for an opportunity,” Bowman said in June. “He’s in that age bracket where he’s 23, 24 years old. I think he just needs an opportunity for us. He’s got a ton of talent. He’s got a little more familiarity with our system now. It’s tough when he came in at the trade deadline, he didn’t get a lot of games, but everything is new in terms of how we play, what the coaches are looking for. Now he comes into training camp he’s way ahead of where he was back in March, so I would expect that to be a benefit for him. He understands the style of our team, what our coaches like and what they want him to do and I think he’s going to have a comfort level, so it’s good for a player like that to come in and have a chance.”

The Blackhawks also have four defensemen who could make the NHL jump from the AHL this season if needed. Adam Clendening, 21, has been one of the AHL’s most offensive defensemen the past two seasons. Klas Dahlbeck, 23, is a stay-at-home defenseman who has improved his offensive game. He practiced with the Blackhawks throughout the playoffs last season. Stephen Johns, 22, joined the organization last season after playing four years at Notre Dame. He’s a physical defenseman. Kyle Cumiskey, 27, spent the last two seasons in Sweden after playing in 132 NHL games earlier in his career.

Hawks player reviews: Michal Rozsival

June, 17, 2014
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Michal RozsivalMike DiNovo/USA TODAY SportsMichal Rozsival will likely rotate with another defenseman for the sixth spot again next season.

Michal Rozsival, defenseman

2013-14 cap hit: $2,200,000| Age: 35 | Season stats: 1 goal, 7 assists, plus-7

Season recap: Rozsival was given a similar role to the previous season in that he played about half of the regular-season games and was relied upon more in the playoffs. Unlike 2013, though, Rozsival wasn’t as consistent in the playoffs this season and was a minus-1 over 17 playoff games. He was a plus-9 in the playoffs last season.

Season highlight: Rozsival had an assist and was a plus-3 against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field on March 1.

Season lowlight: Rozsival struggled against the Minnesota Wild in Game 4 of the second round and was scratched the next two games.

Final grade: C.

Inside the numbers: Rozsival started 43.6 percent of the time in the offensive zone during the regular season, according to extraskater.com. He led the team’s defensemen in that category.

Notes: Rozsival played in his 900th career NHL game on Dec. 3.

Quotes: “I think Rozy is one of those guys, experience-wise, you like him in your lineup,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “Defensively sound, offensively got real good patience and play recognition. So he gives you a real good intangible that you like to see.”

What’s next: Rozsival has another year left on his contract. He’ll likely rotate with another defenseman for the sixth spot again next season. If any of the Blackhawks’ prospects are ready next season, they could end up replacing Rozsival in the lineup at some point.

Hawks' defense part of reason for deficit

May, 27, 2014
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CHICAGO -- Blackhawks defensemen Michal Rozsival and Nick Leddy were caught watching as the Los Angeles KingsTanner Pearson jumped on a loose puck and fed Tyler Toffoli in the slot for a crucial goal in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.

Toffoli skated past Blackhawks defensemen Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson for a loose puck in Chicago's zone and scored to break a 2-2 tie in Game 3.

Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith had the puck taken away from him by Kings forward Anze Kopitar, and defenseman Brent Seabrook was slow to get to the net to stop Marian Gaborik from scoring the second goal in Game 4.

While Chicago's penalty kill has been accountable for five goals in the past three games, that hasn’t been the Blackhawks’ only issue in their three consecutive losses, which have put them behind 3-1 in series. They also have had a few breakdowns they’re not accustomed to seeing from their defensemen.

“We’ve let in some uncharacteristic type of goals in this series that we probably haven’t seen all year or in the playoffs, for sure, that we think are preventable,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said on Tuesday. “We shore that up, and we’ll keep ourselves in the game and find a way.”

The Blackhawks allowed eight even-strength goals over the past three games. They had given up 21 even-strength goals over the first 13 playoff games. In the series, Oduya has been on the ice for six even-strength goals, Seabrook for four, Hjalmarsson for three, Rozsival for three, Leddy for two and Keith for one.

Not all of those goals were the defensemen's fault, but Seabrook said there’s definitely room for improvement on the back end.

“Absolutely, I think, like I said, I’ve got to be better,” Seabrook said Tuesday. “It doesn’t just start with the penalty kill. It’s in every facet of the game. I think we’ve all got to be out there doing things that are going to make us win a game, and I think some things happened last game that are uncharacteristic, but I’d say you’ve got to give L.A. credit. They’re forcing us into different situations, but we’ve got to be better and we will be better.”

Oduya and Hjalmarsson have had the best Corsi numbers (shot differential) among the defensemen despite starting in the defensive zone more than the others, according to extraskater.com. Oduya has a 57.0 Corsi percentage (the Blackhawks have 61 shots for and 46 against with him on the ice in 5-on-5 situations in the series). He’s followed by Hjalmarsson (55.3 percent), Rozsival (50.5), Seabrook (50.0), Leddy (48.5) and Keith (47.8). Leddy and Rozsival start the most in the offensive zone.

Quenneville thought what it came down to was his defensemen needing to play better around their own net.

“I think where pucks going through us or not recognizing the coverage that’s around the net,” Quenneville said. “They got some guys that they make some blind plays. Around the net, they got quick sticks, and they got some good shooters as well. I think we got to make sure we’re going to be defending around our net better than they are at their net. It could be the difference.”

Hawks endure another tough loss

April, 19, 2014
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ST. LOUIS -- The Chicago Blackhawks left St. Louis with a serious case of the blues.

Twice in three days, the Blackhawks were on the verge late in the third period of defeating the St. Louis Blues by a goal and taking home-ice advantage away from them in the Western Conference first-round playoff series, and twice, the Blues delivered a punch to the Blackhawks’ gut by scoring a game-tying goal late in the third period and prevailing in overtime.

[+] EnlargeCorey Crawford
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesNo one placed the blame for the Hawks' loss on Corey Crawford, except for the goaltender himself. "We're not going to win if I'm going to play like that," he said. "Just got to be better."
Both losses possessed plenty of similarities for the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks were first devastated by the Blues in Game 1 when St. Louis erased a 3-2 lead with 1:46 remaining in the third period and then won the game in triple overtime on Thursday.

The Blackhawks were even closer to victory on Saturday. After fending off a 5-on-3 power play for 46 seconds and a 5-on-4 power play for 3:59 -- which also included the Blues removing their goalie and adding another attacker -- in the final five minutes of the third period, Chicago's 3-2 lead was decimated when the Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko scored with 6.4 seconds remaining in the period. The Blues finished the job with a goal by Barret Jackman 5:50 into a first overtime.

The Blackhawks dealt with so much penalty-killing time because Bryan Bickell was called for kneeing at 13:55 and Brent Seabrook received five minutes for charging and a game misconduct at 15:09. Chicago killed off 17:47 of a possible 17:48 of the Blues’ power plays in the game.

"We did a great job killing," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "It was an outstanding job, and you’re right there, six seconds away. The other game was tough losing at a buck and change, but tonight was brutal."

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Six Blackhawks to watch in playoffs

April, 15, 2014
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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.

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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' Brookbank putting team first

April, 12, 2014
Apr 12
3:26
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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Sheldon BrookbankAP Photo/Gene J. PuskarSheldon Brookbank has rotated in and out the Hawks' lineup as the team's sixth defenseman.
Sheldon Brookbank has been the ultimate utility player for the Chicago Blackhawks this season.

He’s rotated in and out the lineup as the team’s sixth defenseman. He’s played a top-4 defenseman role when needed. He’s played forward when Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has wanted to send a message to another forward or didn’t have enough healthy forwards on the roster. Brookbank has been on the ice for as little as 4:33 or as much as 25:27 depending on the game this season.

It’s not exactly what Brookbank imagined he’d being doing for the Blackhawks when he signed a two-year deal with them in July of 2012. It’s not always been easy, especially being a healthy scratch for much of the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup run last season, but the 33-year-old Brookbank prides himself on being a team player and that’s what he’s attempted to be.

“It has been a little tough,” Brookbank said recently. “I’ve always tried to think team first. That’s the way I kind of look at it. I obviously want to play top 6 and play every night. That’s what I strive for. We had close to a perfect season last year, so there’s no arguing the recipe didn’t work or whatever.

“I mean I didn’t really know 100 percent what to expect [when I signed with the Blackhawks.] Obviously I thought I’d be playing more. That’s for sure. But like I said, our team is that deep and we won the championship. If that’s what I am on a championship team, then I’ll take it.”

It’s that approach that has earned Brookbank the respect of his teammates.

(Read full post)

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TEAM LEADERS

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Jonathan Toews
PTS GOALS AST +/-
18 9 9 1
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsJ. Toews 9
AssistsM. Hossa 12
+/-N. Hjalma... 7
GAAC. Crawford 1.98