Chicago Blackhawks: Toronto Maple Leafs
Special to ESPNChicago.com
Due to scheduling quirks and last season's lockout, tonight's game at the Air Canada Centre marks the Blackhawks' first visit to Toronto since March 5, 2011. That's a far cry from the days when the Hawks would make at least five regular-season trips to Toronto, plus maybe a few more in the playoffs.
Andrew Shaw has had this date circled on the calendar for months. The Blackhawks center hails from nearby Belleville, Ontario, and will be playing in Toronto for the first time in his NHL career. Shaw said he is keeping his concentration on the ice rather than the extra attention he'll be receiving from the stands.
"The entire family's here, friends, there's a lot of people here watching," Shaw said. "You've just got to focus on the game and hope that we come out with two points."
The game is also a bit of a homecoming for Hawks coach Joel Quenneville, who is from Windsor, Ontario, and was originally drafted by the Maple Leafs in 1978. Quenneville played two seasons with the Leafs and said he spoke with ex-teammate (and Hockey Hall of Famer) Darryl Sittler earlier Saturday.
"We had a special team in those couple of years," Quenneville said. "I was fortunate to play with some great people and great players, as well. It's always great to come to Toronto, coming to Canada, you've got everybody excited to be here, especially guys from the area."
Under the NHL's new scheduling format, the Hawks will face the Leafs twice (once at home, once on the road) per season. Chicago won the season's first meeting between the two clubs, 3-1, at the United Center on October 19.
Ring ceremony: The Blackhawks received their Stanley Cup rings in a ceremony Saturday afternoon at the Hockey Hall of Fame. The rings were distributed to the eligible players, coaches and team officials, and one ring will be donated to the Hall to be put on display.
Eastern dominance: The Blackhawks are unbeaten in regulation against Eastern Conference teams this season. Chicago enters Saturday's game with a 9-0-2 mark against the East, a record marred only by shootout and overtime defeats to the Lightning.
Kane close to Crosby: Sidney Crosby notched an assist in the Penguins' 3-2 win over the Devils Friday night, extending his lead in the NHL scoring race to two points over Patrick Kane. Crosby has 44 points in 33 games, while Kane has 42 in 34 games. Kane is bidding to become Chicago's first Art Ross Trophy winner since Stan Mikita in 1967-68, the last of seven scoring titles won between Mikita and Bobby Hull over a nine-year span.
“That’s something we’ve kind of gotten used to over the last couple years when you lose some of our good friends on the team,” Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said recently. “It’s always sad to see someone go like that.”
Dave Bolland was one of the players the Blackhawks had to bid farewell to after last season. Bolland was dealt in July to his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs to free up cap space. He had been with the Blackhawks organization since being drafted in 2004 and won two Stanley Cups with them. He was often seen as a vital role player, especially in the physical playoffs, and left his mark on Blackhawks history by scoring the Stanley Cup-clinching goal against the Boston Bruins last season.
On Saturday, Bolland will make his first return trip to the United Center as an opponent. He and his former Blackhawks teammates expect an emotional night.
“Going back to Chicago is always a big one, being with them for so long and being with them for two championships,” Bolland said on a video on the Maple Leafs’ website. “To go back there and to go back to the old stadium will be nice.
“It will be a bit of novelty to go up against [Jonathan] Toews and Kane and Duncs [Duncan Keith] and Sharpie [Patrick Sharp] and Seabs [Brent Seabrook,] some of the guys that I was really close with over there. To be with all those guys over eight years, it’ll be pretty funny lining against them and going into the corner with them.”
Sharp had similar feelings.
“It’s exciting to have him come back and play,” Sharp said. “It’s going to be a physical game with him. I know the Hawks crowd is going to give him a nice applause that he deserves. It’ll be exciting to see him in a different uniform.”
“Initially, I was thinking no way,” Kostka said. “It just doesn’t seem to add up.”
What Kostka didn’t get was where he fit in the Blackhawks’ equation. The Blackhawks were already returning all seven of their defensemen from last season’s Stanley Cup championship team, and they also had a couple prospects on the verge of the NHL.
Yet, Kostka signed a one-year deal with the Blackhawks in July because his agent, Justin Duberman, and Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman convinced him that he had a legitimate shot of making the team.
Duberman and Bowman can now tell Kostka, “We told you so.” Kostka beat out defenseman Ryan Stanton for the Blackhawks’ eighth and final defenseman roster spot over the weekend.
“It means a ton,” Kostka said of making the team. “It was a stressful few weeks, that’s for sure, with my goal coming here and stick out of camp and give myself an opportunity to play for this team. They were coming off a pretty good year last year, so coming into it I was hoping to put my best foot forward, and I feel like I did.
“Chicago was the one team I felt I was going to get my best opportunity despite how deep they already were. I was kind of chuckling to myself after I signed. Of all of the places, I didn’t think this would be one of them. But I was thrilled to get the opportunity and thrilled to move forward.”
Kostka had a few interested teams in the offseason because of his play with the Toronto Maple Leafs last season. He played 35 regular-season games and one playoff game with the Maple Leafs.
As much as Kostka appreciated his opportunity with the Maple Leafs, he didn’t feel like his entire skill set was being utilized. He wasn’t given much offensive freedom in Toronto, and that was something he thought he could get more of in Chicago.
“I take pride in playing an all-around game,” Kostka said. “I think the one thing that was really attractive here is it’s a puck-moving team. We got awesome forwards and just basically get them the puck and get into the play. That’s a style of game I Iike to play. I think it’ll mesh with the team.
“It was a bit of an adjustment to how things were in Toronto, a more defensive-minded team. And so, it’s a breath of fresh air coming in. I think I gel a little bit more with this style of play than maybe in a more shutdown role I had in Toronto.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville began mentioning Kostka early in training camp as someone who caught his eye. As the camp progressed, Quenneville became more impressed and eventually decided to choose Kostka over Stanton, which also meant putting Stanton on waivers and losing him to the Vancouver Canucks on Monday.
“Kostka’s one of those defenseman who is useful as far as both sides of the puck,” Quenneville said. “I think he gives us nice offense from the back end. He’s versatile. He can defend well. He’s got quickness. He’s very handy with the puck.
“He just adds more depth to our team. Losing Stanton says something. It’s something we didn’t envision. But at the same time, getting [Kostka] regularly in there at some point you get a better assessment of what he’s capable of. Offensively, he really complements our style of play.”
Just as his agent thought he would.
ESPNChicago.com's Blackhawks reporter Scott Powers will count down this season's top 50 storylines over the next week leading into training camp.
Here's the first installment:
50. Bollig, the enforcer
The Blackhawks will likely be auditioning for five roster spots during training camp. One of those positions will likely go to Brandon Bollig. Some may argue enforcers aren't really needed on a team, but Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has often liked to have someone who isn't afraid to drop his gloves and step up for his teammates. With Jamal Mayers and Daniel Carcillo gone, there aren't many of those type of players remaining on the roster. Bollig led the Blackhawks with five fights last season. He will be looking for his first career point this season. He has zero points in 43 career NHL games.
49. Sellout and attendance streak
The Blackhawks are aiming to lead the NHL in attendance for the sixth consecutive season. They have sold out the United Center for 187 consecutive regular-season games dating back to the 2008-09 season. They averaged a paid attendance of 21,775 during their 24 home games last season.
The 18-year-old Hartman, who is 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, had 23 goals, 37 assists and a plus-29 rating in 56 games for the Whalers last season. He was ranked No. 23 among ESPN’s top-50 2013 draft prospects.
“Today's game requires a high level of grit and this American forward is the epitome of character,” ESPN’s analysis of Hartman included. “He does all the little things: blocks shots, takes a hit to make a play and will fight when the situation presents itself. He has underrated skill and with natural physical maturity he will find a way to play. He is the type of player coaches want to put into the lineup.”
During the draft, the Blackhawks traded forward Dave Bolland to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the No. 51 and No. 117 overall picks in the 2013 draft and a fourth-round pick in the 2014 draft.
The Blackhawks also acquired the No. 74 and 134 overall picks in the 2013 draft from the Winnipeg Jets for forward Michal Frolik. The Blackhawks also traded the No. 117 and 151 overall picks in the 2013 draft to the San Jose Sharks for the No. 111 overall pick in the 2013 draft and a fifth-round pick in 2014.
The Blackhawks drafted Linkoping Jr. (Sweden) defenseman Carl Dahlstrom with the No. 51 pick. The 18-year-old Dahlstrom, who is 6-foot-3 and 191 pounds, had five goals, eight assists and a plus-12 rating in 37 games for Linkoping last season.
The Blackhawks drafted USA U-18 forward John Hayden, who was born in Chicago, with the No. 74 selection. The 18-year-old Hayden had 15 goals and 14 assists in 45 games with the U.S. national team last season. He is a Yale University recruit.
The Blackhawks added a second Swedish defenseman in Robin Norell with the No. 111 pick. The 18-year-old Norell, who is 5-foot-10 and 176 pounds, had 10 goals, seven assists and a plus-16 rating in 30 games for Djurgarden U-18 (Sweden) last season.
The Blackhawks’ other draft picks included 18-year-old USHL forward Tyler Motte at No. 121, 18-year-old USHL forward Luke Johnson at No. 134, 18-year-old USHL forward Anthony Louis, who is from Winfield, Ill., at No. 181 and 18-year-old Swedish defenseman Robin Press at No. 211.
Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman was participating in his fourth draft since being named to the position in 2009. His past first-round selections were forward Teuvo Teravainen at No. 18 overall in 2012, forward Mark McNeill at No. 18 overall and forward Phillip Danault at No. 26 overall in 2011 and forward Kevin Hayes at No. 24 overall in 2010.
Two players drafted by Bowman have played in the NHL so far. Forward Brandon Saad was drafted in the second round, No. 43 overall in the 2011 draft and was a Calder Trophy finalist during the 2013 season. Forward Andrew Shaw was drafted in the fifth round, No. 139 overall in 2011 and has appeared in 85 games for the Blackhawks the past two seasons.
The Blackhawks’ 2013 Stanley Cup roster included six former first-round selections, five second-round picks, two third-round picks, five fourth-round picks, two fifth-round picks, two sixth-round picks, one seventh-round pick and four undrafted players.
The former first-round selections included Patrick Kane (No. 1 in 2007 by the Blackhawks), Jonathan Toews (No. 3 in 2006 by the Blackhawks), Michal Frolik (No. 10 in 2006 by the Florida Panthers), Marian Hossa (No. 12 in 1996 by the Ottawa Senators), Brent Seabrook (No. 14 in 2003 by the Blackhawks) and Nick Leddy (No. 16 in 2009 by Minnesota Wild).
In what could’ve been billed as an Original "stinks" matchup, Chicago ended its three-game losing streak with a 5-4 win over Toronto on Wednesday night. The Leafs lost their sixth straight and are mired in a 1-9-1 slump.
Needless to say, Toronto coach Ron Wilson isn’t looking too good. He declined a pregame interview on Canadian TV. The Leafs haven’t made the playoffs since the 2003-04 season and don’t look to be breaking that streak this season.
Sixth place never felt so good.
“Yeah, yeah, you know how it is in Toronto, or anywhere in Canada, but especially Toronto,” Blackhawks star Patrick Kane said. “We don’t have to worry about that. We’re worried about ourselves in here.”
Let's take a look-see how the Blackhawks defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4.
How it happened: The Maple Leafs took a 3-1 lead in the first period and Andrew Shaw explained how that happened after the period ended 3-2: “They’re playing desperate hockey. They want to go in the playoffs and so do we. And we need the win tonight.” Desperate hockey is right. The Blackhawks used a second-period goaltender change -- Corey Crawford was benched for his second straight start -- and second-period goals by their top two remaining stars, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa, to eke out a win over the miserable Leafs. New defensemen Johnny Oduya was on the ice for all three first-period goals, and Joel Quenneville broke up his pairing with Brent Seabrook in the second. The Blackhawks were trailing 3-1 before Marcus Kruger scored with 30 seconds left in the first. In the second, Patrick Kane scored on a nifty poke past Jonas Gustavsson, and 3 minutes later Kane set up Marian Hossa for what turned out to be the game winner. Emery, who started the last two games, stopped the seven shots he faced in the second and his first 15 in the third, before a Mike Brown goal with 2 seconds left. Crawford only stopped seven of 10 shots, which I'm told is not a good percentage. Hossa scored an empty-netter with 15.9 seconds left.
What it means: Chicago came into the game seventh in the Western Conference playoff race but ended a three-game losing streak. Toronto lost its sixth straight contest. The Leafs have only one victory since winning three straight in early February. Oduya, who represents Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman’s only significant trade-deadline move, had a rough start. But rookie tough guy Brandon Bollig did get into a fight with Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn, which helps make up for John Scott’s exodus to New York. The up-and-down season of Crawford continued.
What’s next: The Hawks play a 6 p.m. game at Ottawa on Friday night.
Most importantly for the flagging Blackhawks, they took the lead with two goals. Chicago led Toronto 4-3 after two periods Wednesday night.
Patrick Kane scored to tie the game, poking in the Hawks’ third goal as Leafs defenseman Joey Crabb tried to ride him past Jonas Gustavsson. Andrew Brunette was positioned at the left post, blocking the Toronto goaltender.
Marian Hossa’s goal gave the Hawks the lead. Toronto’s Matt Frattin missed an opportunity to steal the puck from Hossa, who was skating right to left. He fired an easy goal at the right post.
The Chicago Blackhawks’ lackluster special teams continued to underwhelm in the first period Wednesday night, as Chicago went 0-1 on the power play and gave up a momentum-turning goal Toronto on the penalty kill.
Slumping Toronto, fresh off a 5-3 loss to Florida on Tuesday at home, controlled the puck and skated off to a 3-2 lead after a wild first period.
The Blackhawks’ big trade deadline addition defenseman Johnny Oduya was less than impressive, he was on the ice for all three Maple Leafs goals, along with his partner Brent Seabrook. He also had a stick explode on Toronto's side, but that might've been a highlight for him.
Chicago had 11 shots and Toronto had 10.
TORONTO -- You’ll have to pardon anyone who makes comparisons to last year’s Chicago Blackhawks championship team. Yes, this is a different roster, going about it in a different way, but after their eighth win in a row, 5-3 over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, it sure is starting to feel like a season ago.
“The more wins you get the more confidence as a team we’ve gotten,” Duncan Keith said. “We know going into games we have an expectation to win and get the two points. Its shows in the way we start games.”
Was that a quote pulled from November of 2009, when the Hawks also had a season high eight game streak or did that come from Saturday’s game after the Hawks jumped out to a 3-0 lead before 20 minutes was complete?
He said it after Saturday’s contest but you get the point. So much was made of the Hawks' depth a season ago, it’s starting to show in this team. It was yet another night where contributions came from more than the stars. Each line had at least a goal. All five tallies were scored even strength. That’s balance.
“We have four lines rolling right now and we’re spreading the ice time out better which helps them [the stars] out a lot and its keeping them fresher,” Viktor Stalberg said.
No forward played as much as 20 minutes and none played less than eight.
“We’ve been getting rewarded a lot lately,” Stalberg said of his line. “We’ve been getting about one goal a game in the last little stretch. It feels good and a as group we’re playing pretty well.”
Talk about a coach’s dream? Joel Quenneville doesn’t have to do much thinking when it comes to rolling his lines. They’re all playing well and producing.
“We put ourselves in a real good spot,” he said. “We liked the four lines and everyone contributing. Five in seven days was a good test for us. We’re happy with the win and excited about going to Florida.”
A day or two on the beach is much deserved. You won’t find many teams sweep a five-in-seven stretch including three sets of back-to- backs mixed in among the eight overall.
“Guys were excited to play here,” Toews said. “We wanted to keep the momentum going we’ve built this week.”
Mission accomplished. The beat (and win streak) goes on.
TORONTO -- Here's a quick look at the Hawks' 5-3 win over the Maple Leafs on Saturday.
How it happened: Near domination from start to finish left no doubt the Hawks would win their eighth straight. It started with a second-shift-of-the-game steal and goal by Marian Hossa. Two more scores in the opening period set the tone for a relaxed finish. When Toronto cut the lead to 3-1 in the second, the Hawks responded with two more before the middle 20 minutes were up. In the first 40 minutes, 10 of 12 Hawks’ forwards had points and each line had at least a goal. Corey Crawford outplayed his counterpart, James Reimer, moving smartly and staying with plays until the very last second and then making the save. That included a penalty shot stop on Mikhail Grabovski in a key moment in the third period when the Leafs has a chance to get back in the game. A few minutes later he stoned Mike Brown, at point blank, to complete another great night. The Hawks looked a little gassed in the third period giving up two goals but their big, early lead, helped them to another win.
What it means: The Hawks beat a surging Leafs team and beat them bad. Toronto had played nine consecutive one-goal games but that streak ended. The distribution in scoring the Hawks have gotten in the latter half of the win streak is reminiscent of a year ago and makes this run as impressive as any the championship team earned. In fact, their eight wins in a row ties the most the 2009-2010 team won -- in November of that season. Jonathan Toews continued his great play with his seventh goal in five games. He has points in nine consecutive contests, tops in the NHL. Others are nearly as hot. Hossa’s two points give him 11 in the last seven. It’s the same point streak he had to open the season. Patrick Kane has points in five straight. The Hawks are 10-3-1 in the back end of back to back games this year and 24-4-4 over the last two seasons.
What’s next: A trip to South Florida and a well deserved day off in the sun is next on the agenda. They’ll get back to work on Monday, before taking on the Dale Tallon led Panthers, Tuesday evening.
The Hawks maintained their three-goal first intermission lead, and added to it, with a late goal by Bryan Bickell after a 2-on-1 break with Dave Bolland. Bickell put in the rebound for his 16th of the season.
The Hawks have a goal from all four of their lines. Marian Hossa, Michael Frolik, and Jonathan Toews all scored in the opening period. Ten of 12 Hawks’ forwards have at least a point in the game. Troy Brouwer and Marian Hossa have two apiece.
The Hawks continued a recent trend of fast starts scoring on their second shift of the game when Marian Hossa intercepted a pass in the Leafs zone and squeaked one by goalie James Reimer for his 18th of the season.
Just three minutes later another turnover led to a two-on-one break between Troy Brouwer and Michael Frolik. Frolik finished the scoring chance for his second as a Hawk. For good measure, the Hawks added a late tally when Hossa, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane hooked up for a pretty goal. After Hossa got the puck to Kane he feathered a pass to Toews as he crashed the net for his seventh goal in five games and 27th of the year.
The Hawks could have had more but failed on an extended 5-on-3 power play midway through the period.
The visitors didn’t give up many scoring chances in the opening 20 minutes but did give up a 2-on-1 in the first minute of the game. Nick Leddy got his stick on a shot attempt, deflecting it out of play. It was arguably the Leafs’ best scoring chance of the period.
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