Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Sharp

Sharp admires Konerko's loyalty to Sox

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
2:38
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CHICAGO -- Patrick Sharp wouldn't mind ending his career with the Chicago Blackhawks just as Paul Konerko did with the Chicago White Sox.

Sharp, who has been with the Blackhawks since 2005, said Tuesday he's appreciated Konerko's loyalty to the White Sox. Konerko retired this year after 16 seasons with the White Sox. Sharp believes he and the Blackhawks have a similar bond.

Sharp
Konerko
"Absolutely, [I'd like to end my career here]," Sharp said. "Kind of similar to Paulie, I started in the minors in the NHL with a different organization and [have] been here since 2005. Enjoyed every year. There's been ups, there's been downs. But I certainly feel that same kind of loyalty to the organization. I know they've been loyal to me. The end of my career is hopefully a long time away, but I got no excitement, no reason to leave at this point at all.

"I think you certainly feel loyalty [with Konerko]. That's tough to come by in today's professional sports. It's a business now. That's the way things are. But the way Paulie has been loyal to the Sox and been willing to take a lesser role at the end of his career to help the younger players along for the betterment of the team and the organization, you don't see that every day in sports. I think that just speaks to the type of person and teammate he is."

Sharp went to watch Konerko play numerous times over the years at U.S. Cellular Field and also got to know him personally. Sharp said he respects Konerko on and off the field.

"I think he was a very underrated player whether it's his numbers, whether it's his consistency," Sharp said. "He came to the park every day and he was kind of just a rock in that lineup. Knowing him somewhat on a personal level, you could tell he was a good teammate, he cared about the Sox and wanted to do whatever he could to make that team win. It's a pretty impressive career he put together in this city."

Sharp believes Chicago's baseball landscape will be different for him now without Konerko.

"I'm a huge baseball fan," Sharp said. "I cheer for both Chicago teams. But Paulie is a guy that I've gotten to know away from the sport, spent some time with him. He's a great guy. He's got a great family. In some parts, it's sad to see him go. It's tough to go down to the Cell and see a Sox game without Paulie playing. On the other hand, you have to celebrate his career, what he's done for the city, what he's done for the organization, and I wish him the best of luck in the future."

Brad Richards makes United Center debut

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
10:58
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CHICAGO -- Brad Richards was reminded again Monday why he made the right decision in signing with the Chicago Blackhawks in the offseason.

Richards got his first taste of playing for the Blackhawks before the home crowd Monday. He and his new teammates scrimmaged before a packed house at the United Center.

“Really impressive,” said Richards, who played his previous three seasons with the New York Rangers. “For a red-and-white game, an intrasquad, I haven’t been a part of something like that. So it makes you feel better for choosing to come here. All the stories are true that the fans are amazing. We all know the building’s amazing when you play here, but it’s nice to have the jersey on with them. It’ll be better obviously when it’s a real game.”

The scrimmage was another opportunity for Richards to get to know his new linemates, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad. None of them scored, but they created a number of chances. Richards did feel bad about catching Kane with a stick to the face.

“We’re just trying to build chemistry on our line,” Richards said. “Had some good looks again, our line. We just, especially myself, could have put a few in the net, but didn’t. Save those for important games. Try not to hit Kaner in the face. Try not to do that too much more. Build chemistry and just work with these guys and get to know and learn them out there.”

Face injuries: Kane and Patrick Sharp took sticks to the face during the scrimmage. Sharp was hit by Matt Carey.

Kane and Sharp each went to the locker room after being struck. Both eventually returned to the ice.

“They both got souvenirs,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “Nice to see them return.”

Scrimmage result: The White Team defeated the Red Team 5-1 in the scrimmage. Goals were scored by Marcus Kruger (two), Jeremy Morin, Jonathan Toews, Cam Barker and Mark McNeill. Morin and Ben Smith each had two assists.

The most productive line of the game was Morin, Kruger and Smith. Kruger and Smith played together throughout last season on the fourth line. Morin is vying for a spot on that line.

“That line had a good night offensively,” Quenneville said. “When they score, it’s almost a bonus, and a lot of nights the differential in winning the game when you get some production from that group. It’s a nice situation when you do get scoring from them.”

Bowman: Cap issue will play itself out soon

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
5:24
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman reiterated Thursday he’s confident the Blackhawks will get under the salary cap before the start of the regular season.

The Blackhawks are around $1.3 million over the $69 million cap and would have to shed more cap payroll if they wanted to include Teuvo Teravainen or any of their other prospects on the NHL roster.

Bowman believed the Blackhawks would be able to locate a trade partner in the coming weeks.

“I think leading into training camp most guys want to get going,” Bowman said Thursday before the Blackhawks open training camp at Notre Dame. “Like I said, everyone sort of has a plan that they like how things go. Then a week from now, your plan might have to be changed because players you expected to do something [don’t do something.]

“A lot of teams have some high hopes for some of the young players and then you get them in games and you realize, well, they’re a young player, they’re not going to be able to do what I thought they might. It’s a bit of a waiting game at this point. We’ve had a lot of discussions over the last weeks or months, but until guys get on the ice not a lot changes from July until now. I think we’ll see that play itself out over the next couple weeks here.”

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Hawks storylines (No. 8): Aging players

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
11:06
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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. 15): Numbers game

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
10:10
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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.

Here are some numbers to keep in mind as the season unfolds for the Blackhawks (all statistics were found on stats.hockeyanalysis.com or behindthenet.ca):

Kane's production with teammates


Nearly every center who found his way onto the Blackhawks roster last season got a chance to skate with Patrick Kane. Some had more success than others. Andrew Shaw clicked with Kane, and Kane had seven goals, seven assists and a 59.7 Corsi percentage during 197:05 of 5-on-5 ice time with Shaw. On the other hand, Kane struggled with Michal Handzus with one goal, seven assists and a 50.9 Corsi percentage while on the ice 310:16 with the veteran center. Kane's line to start this season is expected to include Brandon Saad and Brad Richards. Kane had seven goals, nine assists and a 56.3 Corsi percentage with Saad.

Puck possession


The Blackhawks have been a dominant puck-possession team over the past five seasons. They have ranked in the league's top-6 in Corsi percentage in 5-on-5 situations throughout that span. They were second with a 55.5 percentage last season, their highest percentage since being at 56.5 percent during the 2009-10 season.

Morin's potential

Jeremy Morin played in just 24 games last season, so his sample size isn't that large. But in that short span, he was statistically impressive. Morin led the Blackhawks with an average of 12.22 shots per 60 minutes, 1.421 goals per 60 minutes and 3.13 points per 60 minutes. If Morin gets some consistent ice time and a larger role this season, which is something Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville have mentioned, he may just be headed toward a breakout offensive season.

Defensive responsibility


One of the main reasons defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are often able to utilize their offensive abilities is because defensemen Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson are given more of the defensive load. Oduya and Hjalmarsson started less in the offensive zone than any of the Blackhawks' defensemen last year. Oduya started 48.6 percent in the offensive zone and Hjalmarsson was at 48.3 percent. To compare, Keith started 56.4 percent in the offensive zone and Seabrook was at 56.3, and defensemen Nick Leddy, Michal Rozsival and Sheldon Brookbank all started more than 60 percent of the time in the offensive zone.

Goals against


The Blackhawks held opponents to just 1.77 goals per 60 minutes in 5-on-5 situations during the 2013 season, best in the league. But aside from that season the Blackhawks have been an average defense team in recent years. They ranked 26th in the NHL with a 2.52 goals-against average in 2010-11 season, 26th with a 2.49 goals-against average in the 2011-12 season and were 15th with a 2.23 goals-against average last season.

Toews & Sharp

Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp made each other better players last season. They had a 59.7 Corsi percentage in their 777.32 of ice time together. When apart, Toews dropped to a 57.5 Corsi percentage and Sharp dropped to 52.9. There's a good chance Sharp, Toews and Marian Hossa could be together on the top line again this season.

Fourth-line usage

Brandon Bollig, Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith, the trio which was often the Blackhawks' fourth line last season, all ranked among the bottom seven players in the league in offensive zone start percentage. Bollig started in the offensive zone 11.4 percent, Kruger 13.4 percent and Smith 16.9. It will be interesting to see whether Quenneville uses his fourth line in such a defensive manner again. Kruger was on the fourth line the season before and saw more offensive zone starts. He was at 30.4 percent during the 2013 season.

Kane, Toews have Hawks positioned well

July, 9, 2014
Jul 9
12:45
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Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have shared their NHL journey ever since they first took the ice together for the Chicago Blackhawks and combined their talents to produce a goal on Oct. 10, 2007.

It marked the beginning of their success together. The ending is still nowhere in sight.

[+] EnlargePatrick Kane, Jonathan Toews
Jonathan Kozub/NHLI/Getty ImagesThe careers of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will be tied together for eight more years.
Kane and Toews continued to align their NHL careers Wednesday by both agreeing to eight-year contract extensions which a source says are for $10.5 million per year, keeping them Blackhawks through the 2022-23 season.

Their arrival in 2007 represented hope for an Original Six organization which had fallen on hard times for nearly a decade. They haven't disappointed since.

Over the past seven seasons, Kane and Toews have played in nearly 500 regular-season games together. After four consecutive sub-.500 seasons prior to their rookie season, the Blackhawks have since gone 309-163-68 with them. The two players have combined for 933 regular-season points, including 375 goals.

As good as they've been in the regular season, they've been even more clutch when it's mattered most in the playoffs. They returned the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2009 after five seasons of failing to do so and immediately helped them to the Western Conference finals. A year later, they both raised their first Stanley Cup and ended the franchise's 49-year championship drought. They've since led the Blackhawks to a second Stanley Cup and made them a perennial contender.

From Day 1, they have accomplished it all together and never looked to outshine or outdo the other. While they already have money and fame, they could have even more. All it would have taken is one slightly larger ego, and they may have never agreed to identical five-year, $31.5 million contract extensions the first time around and certainly not their newest contracts.

Kane and Toews are being paid like superstars, but they could have certainly asked for more and would have had their share of more significant offers to choose from if they had waited to go onto the free market after next season. They left money on the table, allowing the Blackhawks some cap flexibility. The Blackhawks may have to eventually let some core pieces go and turn to their prospects who are NHL ready, but they should be Stanley Cup contenders for the foreseeable future.

The Blackhawks' main objective with that additional money will be re-signing Brandon Saad to a new contract. Saad will be a restricted free agent after next season, and there has to be some fear another team will come along with an offer sheet if he's allowed to get that far. Considering he's 21, has shown improvement in each of his first two seasons and the cap is expected to rise, Saad could fetch somewhere between $4-7 million a season.

Kane and Toews permitted their careers to be harmonious, realizing their opportunity in Chicago is rare and can ultimately elevate them to a special place in NHL history.

Kane, at 25 years old, and Toews, at 26, didn't attach themselves together through their athletic primes and into their 30s to make a run at just one or two more Stanley Cups in Chicago. They're out to deliver to the Blackhawks what Michael Jordan once bestowed upon the Chicago Bulls.

Like Jordan, to honor Kane's and Toews' shared success and shared commitment to the Blackhawks, the organization will undoubtedly unveil matching statues of them outside the United Center whenever they decide to retire. It'll be a fitting end to their NHL journey, as they'll have a permanent place on Madison together side by side.

Second-line center trade tricky for Hawks

June, 25, 2014
Jun 25
5:51
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Patrick Sharp Claus Andersen/Getty ImagesThe Blackhawks could use a strong second-line center, but seem unlikely to deal Patrick Sharp
The Chicago Blackhawks are still in need of a second-line center. There are reportedly some respectable second-line centers who could be acquired for the right trade.

Let’s assume the Blackhawks aren’t going to hand the keys to second-line center over to Teuvo Teravainen, Andrew Shaw or someone else already in the organization. Teravainen may need time to get comfortable in the NHL. Shaw’s second-line success in the playoffs may not be enough to be confident he’s the man for the job. So, there are reasons why the Blackhawks may want to obtain a proven top-6 center.

With all that laid out, the next question is: What would the Blackhawks be willing to give up to bring in someone like the Vancouver Canucks' Ryan Kesler, the Ottawa Senators' Jason Spezza or the San Jose Sharks' Joe Thornton? Some of the names thrown around amidst trade rumors for those players have been Blackhawks forwards Patrick Sharp, Teravainen and Brandon Saad.

Sharp’s agent Rick Curran of The Orr Hockey Group quickly shot down Wednesday any rumors of his client being shipped off by the Blackhawks this offseason. Curran said he was assured by Blackhawks general Stan Bowman that Sharp wasn’t going anywhere.

“There’s absolutely no truth to it,” Currant said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “They’re not trading him. He’s the last guy on the list who they would trade. He’s not available.

“Believe me, I’ve spoken to Stan a couple times, as recently as a few days ago. There’s absolutely no truth to it.”

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman wouldn't address Sharp's situation on Thursday.

“I’ve never commented on rumors, and I’m not going to start today,” Bowman said during a conference call. “I don’t think it’s a helpful process for anybody.”

Bowman has been vocal about keeping his core together and making a run at multiple Stanley Cups with Sharp and a number of other veterans. Even as he's gotten older, the 32-year-old Sharp has continued to produce at a high rate for the Blackhawks.

Saad and Teravainen don’t exactly fall into the core group and aren’t veterans, but they have been considered two pieces to Bowman’s big-picture puzzle.

Saad is 21 years old and has already proven capable of being a top-6 forward. If he can figure out his consistency issues and play more often like he did in the Western Conference finals, he has the chance to be another game-changer for the Blackhawks.

Teravainen is only 19 and has only played in three NHL games, but the hype for him has escalated ever since the Blackhawks took him in the first round in 2012. If he’s anywhere near where expectations have been placed, Teravainen could be one of the league’s more entertaining and productive offensive players.

The Blackhawks simply aren’t going to give up Saad and Teravainen even if there is an advantage in the real short term of doing so. But that doesn’t mean the Blackhawks are out of the running for one of those second-line centers.

The Blackhawks possess some valuable prospects who could be packaged with a veteran to entice another team. They might be able to work out a trade if they include one of their up-and-coming defensemen, the rights to Kevin Hayes, a 2010 first-round pick who they aren’t likely going to sign, and even someone like Jeremy Morin, who has proven he can score at the NHL level, and include someone on the current roster to help provide cap relief. If the Blackhawks can get a little creative, they can hold onto their present and future core pieces and still upgrade at second-line center.

Hawks player reviews: Patrick Sharp

June, 16, 2014
Jun 16
10:00
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Patrick SharpBill Smith/NHLI via Getty ImagesPatrick Sharp couldn't carry his strong regular season into the playoffs.

Patrick Sharp, Forward


2013-14 cap hit: $5,900,000 | Age: 32 | Season stats: 34 goals, 44 assists, plus-13

Season recap: Sharp had the most all-around offensive season of his career. His 78 points were a career-high, and he consistently produced throughout the regular season. His playoffs weren't as smooth. He scored twice in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals, but had three goals over the first 18 playoff games.

Season highlight: Sharp scored a hat trick and had an assist against the Colorado Avalanche on his 32nd birthday on Dec. 27.

Season lowlight: Sharp has normally excelled in the playoffs, but that wasn't the case this season.

Final grade: A.

Inside the numbers: Sharp led the Blackhawks with 12.1 shots on goal per 60 minutes (minimum 25 games), via extraskater.com.

Notes: Sharp was second on the team with 18 multi-point games.

Quotes: "I think at this point of the year everybody's got something going on [with injuries]," Sharp said after the season. "I'm not going to make any excuses for the way I played at different stretches of the playoffs. It'll be nice to have a little bit of a longer summer than last year to be ready to go next year."

What's next: Sharp is getting into his 30s, but he's continued to play at a high level. He has three years left on his contract. The line of Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa was especially effective this season. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville could return to that line next season.

Blackhawks get their cuts in at Wrigley

June, 6, 2014
Jun 6
4:09
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
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CHICAGO -- It took a few days but the Chicago Blackhawks came out of hibernation to take some batting practice at Wrigley Field after their crushing Game 7 overtime defeat to the Los Angeles Kings last Sunday in the Western Conference Finals.

Patrick Sharp, Bryan Bickell, Michael Handzus and Sheldon Brookbank shagged fly balls during batting practice and took some swings themselves before the Cubs played the Miami Marlins on Friday.

"Hit a couple to the warning track," Sharp said. "Thought I could hit one out, wind must be blowing in."

The Hawks know they've raised the bar in the city -- something the Cubs are trying to do -- and getting to a conference final is no longer good enough. They're fine with those kinds of high expectations. Now they just have to keep meeting them.

"Mentally you're pretty down," Bickell said. "You want to go to the finals and win the Cup again."

Initially Sharp wasn't sure if he'd watch the finals between the Kings and New York Rangers, but he didn't miss Game 1 on Wednesday.

"It was tough to watch," he said. "It's painful to watch, but I love the game and I'll be watching for sure."

Sharp reiterated his intention to keep quiet about any injuries.

"I said at the end of the season everyone has something going on at this time of year," he said. "To bring that kind of stuff up sounds like I'm making excuses."

So for now the Hawks will lick their wounds coming off a long season, but they vow to return and finish business as they did in 2010 and 2013.

"For the team we had, we were expecting to win this year," Bickell said. "We just fell short against those Kings."

Five reasons Hawks didn't defend Cup

June, 2, 2014
Jun 2
2:25
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The Chicago Blackhawks' quest to repeat at Stanley Cup champions came to a halt on Sunday as they fell to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals.

Here are five reasons the Blackhawks landed short of winning another Stanley Cup:

1. Blackhawks general manger Stan Bowman's decision to keep most of last season's Cup-winning team together didn't work: Nineteen players returned from the Stanley Cup roster, and the thought was the same group could win another Cup together. That didn't play out as they hoped.

[+] EnlargeMichal Handzus
Joel Auerbach/Getty ImagesMichal Handzus was a minus-8 and had just three points in the playoffs.
Bowman re-signed veterans Michal Rozsival and Michal Handzus after they contributed to the Cup run, and they weren't the same players this season, especially in the playoffs. Rozsival was solid throughout the playoffs last season. He was a plus-9 and had a 57.4 Corsi percentage (shot differential) in 23 playoff games. In the playoffs this season, Rozsival was a minus-1 and had a 52.9 Corsi percentage. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville saw enough of Rozsival's struggles in the second round that Rozsival was a healthy scratch for two games.

Handzus' drop in play was more significant. He had 11 points, was a plus-7 and provided a stable second-line center in the playoffs last season. He couldn't replicate that performance this time around. He had three points, was a minus-8 and was the team's fourth-line center by the end of the playoffs. He had a 48.7 Corsi percentage in the playoffs last season and dropped to 36.3 this season.

Bowman traded away Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik and didn't resign Viktor Stalberg in the offseason. Bowman said he wanted to make room for some of the organization's prospects. Players such as Jimmy Hayes, Jeremy Morin, Brandon Pirri and Ben Smith were all expected to contribute. Smith was the only one who stuck in the lineup. Morin and Pirri showed their upside during stretches this season, but Quenneville wasn't convinced overall and went with his veterans. Hayes and Pirri were traded during the season, and Morin was a healthy scratch for a majority of the playoffs.

Losing Bolland and Frolik wasn't much of a factor in the regular season. A fourth line of Brandon Bollig, Marcus Kruger and Smith was fine throughout the season. The Blackhawks' penalty kill also figured out how to succeed without Frolik. But in the playoffs, the absences of Bolland and Frolik were noticeable. The Blackhawks weren't as deep of a team, and Quenneville became heavily reliant on three lines. Stalberg was in Quenneville's doghouse last season, but he still played at least seven minutes a game throughout the playoffs. In Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals last season, every forward except for Stalberg played 10-plus minutes of even-strength ice time.

By comparison, Handzus, Bollig and Kris Versteeg, the team's fourth line on Sunday, all played fewer than seven minutes of even-strength ice time. Handzus played 6:52, Versteeg 3:34 and Bollig 2:28. It wasn't like that for just one game, either. Bollig averaged 6:24 in 15 playoff games and played as little as 1:50 in one game. Versteeg played a total of three shifts after the second period in the last two overtime games. Handzus' even-strength ice time was diminished throughout the playoffs. Morin and Joakim Nordstrom played less than seven minutes in five of their combined nine playoff games.

2. The Blackhawks didn't add any pieces during the season that paid off in the playoffs: Handzus was that piece last season. This season Bowman considered re-acquiring Versteeg as the Blackhawks' major in-season move in November. Versteeg was part of the Blackhawks' 2010 Stanley Cup team, and they saw him as a versatile forward who could fill their third-line wing spot and provide consistent offense.

Versteeg didn't live up to those expectations. His play fluctuated during the regular season, and he had 10 goals and 19 assists in 63 games for the Blackhawks. He began the playoffs on the Blackhawks' top line, but he ended it barely playing, finishing with one goal, two assists and was a minus-5 in 15 playoff games. He was also among the team's worst possession plays and had a 41.7 Corsi percentage. He could remember being a healthy scratch just once prior to the playoffs this season, and it happened to him three times by Quenneville in the playoffs. Versteeg has said he came back too soon from a knee injury, which happened last season, so the Blackhawks have to hope a full offseason will do him and his knee good for next season.

Peter Regin, acquired from the New York Islanders in February, formed one of the team's better lines with Bryan Bickell and Morin, but Quenneville didn't stick with it entering the playoffs. Regin played in five playoff games.

3. The Blackhawks began and ended another season with questions about their second-line center: Handzus gave them enough in the playoffs last season, but his play didn't hold up over the course of this season. More importantly, he wasn't much help to Patrick Kane, who scored one goal in 5-on-5 situations with Handzus in the regular season, according to stats.hockeyanalysis.com. They were together for 310:16. Kane had 16 goals while with other teammates in 5-on-5 situations.

[+] EnlargeTeuvo Teravainen
Steve Babineau/NHLI/Getty ImagesIs Teuvo Teravainen the answer at second-line center for the Hawks next season?
Pirri was expected to start the season as the second-line center, but an injury during training camp derailed that. Quenneville used Pirri there later in the season, but it didn't last. Andrew Shaw, Regin, Kruger and Smith also saw time at second-line center. Brandon Saad was even given a crack at it in training camp. Quenneville remarked how much he liked Shaw alongside Saad and Kane during the Kings' series. Shaw could be valued too much as the team's consistent third-line center and his career 43.9 faceoff percentage may be reason to believe he won't stay there.

Teuvo Teravainen could be the solution. He's the organization's top prospect, and his offensive ability would be ideal for Kane. Inexperience is a concern with the 19-year-old Teravainen as is his size (5-foot-11, 169 pounds).

4. The Blackhawks weren't as consistent defensively and in the net during the playoffs: The Blackhawks allowed an average of 2.02 goals against in 23 playoff games last season. They gave up 2.90 goals against this season.

The Blackhawks' possession numbers were also down from last season. Their Corsi close percentages (shot differential with the game tied or within a goal in 5-on-5 situations) last season were 56.8 against the Minnesota Wild in the first round, 54.6 against the Detroit Red Wings in the second round, 51.2 against the Kings in the Western Conference finals and 57.0 against the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals, according to extraskater.com.

Their percentages in the playoffs this season were 50.1 against the St. Louis Blues in the first round, 49.7 against the Wild in the second round and 47.8 against the Kings in the Western Conference finals. The Blackhawks just weren't the same puck-possession team.

No one pointed the finger at Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford for his play against the Kings, but he wasn't the same goaltender who led them to six consecutive series victories. He had a few off games before, but they never stacked up, and he always bounced back. He allowed four or more goals in 5-of-37 playoff games prior to facing the Kings. He gave up four or more goals in five of seven games against the Kings and allowed 26 goals and saved 187 of 213 shots for an .878 save percentage. He had allowed 26 goals and had a .931 save percentage through two series this season. He had a 1.84 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage in the playoffs last season.

5. The Blackhawks may never admit it, but they may have been tired and beaten down in the end: The Blackhawks clinched the Stanley Cup on June 24, 2013, and then had a summer of Cup celebrations. They were back on the ice in early September for training camp, returned to an 82-game regular-season schedule, had 10 players participate in the Olympics and were again making another late playoff run. That's a lot of hockey, and they seemed unable to put together complete-game efforts as consistently as they did last season. They also went through grueling series with the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild before taking on the Kings.

Blackhawks denied chance to repeat

June, 2, 2014
Jun 2
12:58
AM CT
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks never pretended repeating as Stanley Cup champions would be easy.

They also never doubted they couldn't do it.

Even as their season took them on different turns and their play wasn't as consistent as it was on their way to last season's Stanley Cup, the Blackhawks never stopped believing they could be champions again this season.

[+] EnlargeJonathan Toews
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhJonathan Toews is no stranger to NHL and international success, but he found himself on the losing end for one of the rare times against the Kings.
On Sunday, the Blackhawks' season-long plan of becoming the first team to repeat in nearly 20 years was ceased when the Los Angeles Kings eliminated them from the playoffs with a 5-4 overtime win in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals.

The Blackhawks struggled to come to terms with that just afterward.

"It's tough," Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp. "It stings right now, that's for sure. Don't really know what else to say other than that. I thought we had a heck of a game tonight. Just one goal short."

Losing as the Blackhawks did in overtime only worsened the feeling.

"Really disappointing," Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. "You don't get this far, to Game 7, one shot, one goal away from going to play for the Cup. It's just really disappointing, I don't know what else to say."

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews felt that same way for himself, his teammates and the Blackhawks' fans.

"When you get the chance to win a Stanley Cup and you win another one, you see how great it feels and how amazing it feels to be part of a group like that, that gives everything and you get the result that you want, especially when a city like Chicago rallies around you," Toews said. "So to come up short, it's not fun, especially when we know what we're missing out on."

Keith and Sharp recently said their season wouldn't be a success unless they repeated as champions. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville wasn't as hard on his team. He saw positives in what the Blackhawks did this season.

"Well, we were pretty close to getting to the big dance," Quenneville said. "You look at how close we were, how competitive it was. It's a tough league. It's a tough thing to do, to win the Cup. I couldn't be prouder of our guys the way we competed in some tough situations, down 3-1. One shot away from going to try to do it again.

"We're in a tough division, some tough teams, some tough games. Overcoming all those obstacles after what happened last year and this year, you know, I've lost some tough games, but nothing like tonight."

Rapid Reaction: Kings 5, Blackhawks 4 (OT)

June, 1, 2014
Jun 1
10:26
PM CT
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CHICAGO -- Here’s a quick look at the Los Angeles Kings’ 5-4 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals at the United Center on Sunday:

How it happened: Game 7 didn’t disappoint. After six wildly entertaining games, the Blackhawks and Kings put together another memorable one in Game 7. The series was put to bed when Alec Martinez scored the game-winning goal at 5:47 of overtime. The beginning and middle of the game were nearly as dramatic. The Blackhawks got their home crowd roaring with goals by Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews in the game’s first 8:36. It would take more than that to put the Kings away. They responded with goals by Jeff Carter and Justin Williams to tie it. Twelve seconds after Williams’ goal, Patrick Sharp put Chicago back ahead. The teams combined for five first-period goals. The Kings answered again with a Tyler Toffoli goal to tie it at 10:31 of the second period. The Blackhawks regained the lead when Sharp blasted in a power-play goal at 18:25 of the second period. The Kings fought back one more time. Marian Gaborik tied the game at 4-4 at 12:43 of the third period. The Blackhawks were 2-of-5 on the power play, the Kings were 0-for-2. Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford had 27 saves on 32 shots. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick stopped 37 of 41.

What it means: The Kings clinched the series and advanced to the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in three seasons. L.A. became the first team in Stanley Cup playoffs history to take three consecutive series by winning a Game 7 on the road. The Blackhawks failed in their attempt to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. The Detroit Red Wings are the last team to accomplish the feat (1996 and 1997). The Kings improved to 7-0 in elimination games in the playoffs this season. The Blackhawks-Kings series was not short of goals. The teams combined for 51 goals over the seven games. Chicago forward Patrick Kane’s two assists in the loss gave him nine points over the past three games. Williams’ goal gave him seven goals in seven career Game 7s.

Player of the game: Gaborik continued to be a difference-maker for the Kings. He scored his third goal of the series and 12th of the playoffs.

Stat of the game: The Kings trailed three different times in the game.

What’s next: The Kings move on to play the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup finals. Game 1 will be in Los Angeles on Wednesday. The Blackhawks’ season is over.

Sharp hoping goal sparks him

May, 25, 2014
May 25
8:04
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp focused not on scoring against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, but on doing things that have often led to him scoring.

"I felt like [in Game 3], individually, I was around the net a little more, hanging onto the puck down low," Sharp said after practice on Sunday. "Whether you're creating chances or getting chances yourself, it's always nice to have those feelings. I try not to judge myself the way I'm playing off goals and assists, but at this time of year, those things are important. I want to give my best to help the team that way."

Sharp admitted prior to Game 3 he was frustrated by having only two goals after 14 playoff games. He’s been accustomed to scoring throughout his career. In the playoffs last season, he had eight goals through 14 games.

Sharp has tried to stick with what’s worked in the past throughout his recent slump. He was especially active in Game 3 on Saturday and attempted nine shots, which included a team-high four shots on net.

Sharp was rewarded for his play when he redirected a shot into the net in the final five seconds of the third period on Saturday. It was his first goal in five games.

"It’s always nice to score," Sharp said. "It’s obviously better to score in a win. But felt a lot better waking up this morning knowing I was around the net a little bit more and was able to bounce one in. Hopefully, we can keep scoring and I can get one in a win tomorrow."

Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane was optimistic Sharp’s production would begin to meet his level of play after picking up the goal.

"It’s nice to see pucks going into the net," Kane said. "Whether it deflects off you or you can tip it out of the air, you can score off a shot -- any way you see a puck go in the net, obviously it makes you feel good. He’s had chances. He’s been playing well, and, obviously, it’s nice to see him get one, too. I’m sure he was happy about it."

Blackhawks not finding offensive balance

May, 25, 2014
May 25
12:27
AM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
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Jonathan Quick, Marian HossaJeff Gross/Getty ImagesMarian Hossa and Jonathan Toews, right, haven't gotten much help after their line departs.

LOS ANGELES -- The Chicago Blackhawks have often leaned on their offensive depth to get them past opponents, particularly in the playoffs.

The Blackhawks have relied upon everyone from their stars to their role players, and from their first to their fourth lines to give them production in the past.

The Blackhawks aren’t getting that across-the-board help through three games against the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference finals, and that is part of the reason why they’re facing a 2-1 series deficit.

“We have four lines that can score and we’ve got to show it,” Blackhawks forward Michal Handzus said after Saturday’s 4-3 loss in Game 3.

Chicago's top line has done its job: Bryan Bickell, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa have been solid offensively and defensively. They have kept Marian Gaborik, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown in check, and they’ve been creating offensive chances for themselves.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Kruger, Alec Martinez, Tanner Pearson
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonMarcus Kruger and his mates on the fourth line took a beating in the Hawks' Game 3 loss.
The possession numbers indicate that the Blackhawks’ top line has had the puck much more than the Kings' in the series. Bickell has a 64.1 Corsi percentage; the Blackhawks have had 41 shots for and 23 shots against with him on the ice in 5-on-5 situations in the series, according to extraskater.com. Hossa has had a 61.6 Corsi percentage (45 shots for, 28 against) and Toews has had a 60 Corsi percentage (48 shots for, 32 against.)

Chicago has scored eight goals in the series. Two have come on the power play, one short-handed, one with the goalie pulled and four at even strength. Chicago's top line has accounted for two of the four even-strength goals.

The Blackhawks’ other lines haven’t been keeping up. Ben Smith on the fourth line scored a goal in Game 2, and defenseman Duncan Keith scored with the second line on the ice in Game 1. The three other lines’ possession numbers have fluctuated as well.

Chicago's second line of Patrick Sharp, Handzus and Patrick Kane struggled the most in Game 3. Handzus had a team-worst 27.7 Corsi percentage (five shots for, 12 against), followed by Sharp at 30.4 percent (7 for, 16 against) and Kane at 30.8 percent (8 for, 18 against). For the series, Handzus has a 36 Corsi percentage (18 for, 32 against), Sharp a 30.9 (21 shots for, 47 against) and Kane has a 43.5 (30 shots for, 39 against).

The Blackhawks’ third line did fare better with Andrew Shaw in the lineup Saturday; it had been among the team's worst possession lines during the first two games. When together, the fourth line of Brandon Bollig, Marcus Kruger and Smith turned in a Corsi below 50 percent in Game 3.

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said he would reexamine his lines after Saturday’s loss, but he wasn’t sure whether they needed much fine-tuning.

“We'll look at our lines,” Quenneville said. “We look at basically nine periods there, seven of them pretty good, pretty effective as far as what we've been doing, as far as chances, generating what we're looking to do. They've had two big third periods on us. That's the difference in being down 2-1.

“We can look at the lines. I don't know if we got to shake them up too much.”

Rapid Reaction: Kings 4, Blackhawks 3

May, 24, 2014
May 24
9:56
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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LOS ANGELES -- Here’s a quick look at the Los Angeles Kings’ 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals at Staples Center on Saturday.

How it happened: The Kings rallied from another deficit to defeat the Blackhawks. Down 2-1, the Kings fought back and scored two goals in the second period to take the lead. Jeff Carter netted the equalizer off a pass from Tanner Pearson at 8 minutes, 8 seconds; Tyler Toffoli then put the Kings ahead when he skated past two Blackhawks defensemen for a loose puck and scored on a breakaway at 14:19. Drew Doughty extended the lead to 4-2 in the third period. Jonathan Toews accounted for the Blackhawks' first two scores. He stole the puck on a Kings power play and bagged a short-handed goal at 5:26 of the first period to give Chicago a 1-0 lead. After Slava Voynov scored a power-play goal for Los Angeles, Toews put the Blackhawks back in front when he knocked in a rebound at 13:19 of the first. The Blackhawks cut the Kings’ lead to one late with a goal by Patrick Sharp with 4.2 seconds remaining in the third period. Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick made 24 saves on 27 shots. Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford stopped 28 of 32 shots. The Kings were 1-for-3 on the power play, and the Blackhawks were 0-for-4.

What it means: The Kings took a 2-1 lead in the series and continued to hold home-ice advantage. The Blackhawks dropped the road opener of a series for the 10th consecutive time, a streak dating back to 2010. The Kings improved to 4-3 at home in the playoffs this season. Los Angeles was able to capitalize on its power play for the second consecutive game. The Kings scored two power-play goals in Game 2 and another in Game 3. The Blackhawks had allowed a total of four power-play goals in the playoffs prior to Game 2. L.A. held Chicago without a power-play goal for the first time in the series.

Player of the game: Carter scored a goal and had two assists in the win. He has four goals and three assists over the past two games and eight points in the series.

Stat of the game: The Kings outshot the Blackhawks 18-7 in the third period.

What’s next: The series remains in Los Angeles for Game 4 on Monday.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Patrick Sharp
PTS GOALS AST +/-
4 2 2 0
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsP. Sharp 2
AssistsJ. Toews 3
+/-J. Oduya 5
GAAC. Crawford 1.66