Hi all, hope everyone is having a good Thursday. Practice and availability ran late today, so I'm behind on my writing. I plan to do about 30 minutes here today. As always, feel free to email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if I miss your question or you have anything else to ask me. Thanks
Scott,Sure seems like topic pick Kevin Hayes is going to bolt the Hawks for better opportunities with less talented/deep organizations. Whats your take?
Doc, I would probalby assume that. When I talked to his agent earlier this week, he said Hayes hadn't made a decision yet and wasn't against signing with the Blackhawks. The Blackhawks have until Aug. 15 to sign him, so there is some time to persuade him. One source thought there was a good chance the Hawks could still trade his rights if they can't sign him.
Although they would never admit it, do you think the hawks are happy to play the wild instead of the avs?
Jesse, I would think so. The Blackhawks have home-ice advantage over the Wild. Kuemper could be hurt for the Wild. I know the Wild won the series, but I still think the Avs are the better team. Duchene would have only gotten better with more time back.
Who do you think is the biggest threat for the Hawks in this next series?
Tommy, the Wild do a good job of taking away ice and limiting scoring opportunities. They held the Avalanche to 12 shots on goal in Game 4. The Blackhawks need to find ways to create rush opportunities. Zach Parise is also clicking right now.
So, any reason why we should believe this series with the Wild will turn out any differently than last year?
Matt, I think the last thing you can do in the NHL playoffs is assume an outcome. Yes, the Blackhawks have the advantage on paper, but bouncing pucks can do unpredictable things.
Do you think that our stellar penalty kill fueled our momentum through those last four games? Will the outcome of this series depend on a continuation of that? We can't pile up the penalties like we did against the Blues.
Patty, I would agree with the penalties. The Blackhawks were lucky all those penalties didn't come back to haunt them against the Blues. The PK can't be expected to play at that level throughout the playoffs, but I could see it being a factor again.
Any chance we see Morin this round? I would much rather see him playing than Versteeg.
Dave, it's doubtful. Now that Versteeg is on the fourth line, Morin is less likely to replace him there. The Blackhawks would have to really struggle offensiveliy in the first few games or an injury would have to occur for Morin to play.
Will the Blackhawks power play improve in this series against the wild?
Rickard, the Wild weren't great on the penalty kill during the regular season, so there may be some chances.
Hi Scott, what do you make of Brandon Saad's play so far? I know he hasn't been lighting up the scoreboard, but I think this could be a series where he really breaks out in a great way (against the Wild). Do you foresee something like this happening?
Tyler, Saad had some good games against the Wild during the regular season, so maybe there's something there. His play did improve as the Blues' series went on. He also struggled to score in the playoffs last season. He does have some assist production this season.
Hey Scott,Have you heard any rumors on the resigning of Raanta, Ben Smith, or Morin?Where would you also see them lining up next year assuming Tuevo is on the roster and all 3 get resigned?
Dustin, haven't heard anything yet. I would assume they sign Morin and Smith. Even if they don't play Morin, they could trade him for a draft pick. Raanta, I'm not sure about. He was fine when he was getting consistent starts, but he's been pretty inconsistent as Crawford's backup. I don't know if the Blackhawks are convinced they can rely on him as the No. 2.
Hey Scott! I think re-signing Raanta is a must this offseason! I have never felt comfortable with Crawford in net as a starter and I really thought he was going to blow it for us vs St Louis. Also I'd love to see Ben Smith as a top-6 forward. He's got serious talent and a lot of drive! What do you think?
Brian, I disagree. Crawford was a major reason why the Blackhawks won the last series. His numbers have been pretty solid since he returned from his injury in January. He's proven he can win a Stanley Cup, and I think he's playing at a level now that could win the Blackhawks another Cup. On the other hand, I'm not even sure the Blackhawks are convinced Raanta can be a trustworthy No. 2. As for Smith, he's likely going to run into a numbers game as a top-6 forward with the Blackhawks. Teravainen will take that second-line center spot next year. Smith will likely be headed back to the fourth line.
Any news on kuemper's injury? Or should the hawks expect to face "Mr. Universe" on friday
Eric, no news yet. The Wild have media availability later today, so we should have a better idea then.
What is Coach Q planning on doing for line combinations? Is Versteeg still the odd man out with Nordstrom playing on that 4th line? Considering the way he ended the regular season, is there any chance that Q gives Morin an opportunity?
Nick, Versteeg looks to be back in the lineup. It looks like it's going to be Bickell-Toews-Hossa, Sharp-Smith-Kane, Saad-Kruger-Shaw, Bollig-Handzus-Versteeg.
Does Brookbank see the ice (absent an injury/suspension) this series? I thought he was very effective in Seab's absence.
Brian, no, I think the only way he plays is if there's a suspension or injury. I also thought he held his own, but I don't see who he could he replace. Leddy and Rozsival have played well against the Wild this season.
What's the biggest difference the Hawks can expect to see this year compared to last year with this Minnesota team?
Chris, Quenneville thought had some more skill and pace to their game than last season.
I find myself looking forward to these more and more. I think one of the most important things moving forward is finding a fourth line. Why were they so limited last series and why the hesitancy to give guys like Regin and Morin a chance?
Keith, a lot of it is the defensive responsiblity for that fourth line. Morin's defensive game has improved, but he's still much better off in the offensive zone. Quenneville has also limited those fourth-line minutes. I could see him doing more of that throughout the playoffs. Even if Regin and Morin were playing, they would only probably be seeing five minutes a game.
Hi Scott...thanks for all your great work this season. I wanted to respond to a a comment that you made following the STL series...that Handzus might be a co MVP of the series. I almost fell off my chair when I read that. His penalty killing was average at best when your FO % on the PK is less than 40%. He blocked shots well, which is great, but his presence in the lineup KILLS our 4 line model, because 5 on 5 there is nowhere to put Handzus except with Bollig and that's a train wreck waiting to happen. Ben Smith can replace Zus on the PK and Morin 5 on 5 so that the Hawks can roll 4 lines...that or Bollig MUST come out of the lineup. You can't have both.
Brad, Handzus led the Blackhawks in penalty-kill ice time in that first series. I would say he was a factor in their PK success. As for the fourth line, Quenneville seems fine with diminishing their minutes and elevating everyone else's. It's become a three-line model. Handzus' role will largely be on the PK, and Versteeg and Bollig will be used sparingly. I'm not saying it's right, but it's what Quenneville has gone to in the playoffs.
Hi Scott, Crow has beaten Howard, Quick, Rask, and Miller over the last four playoff series. Also won the cup last year and probably should have won the Conn Smythe. When do you think he starts getting a little more recognition? Not saying he is a top goalie or anything, but it seems as though everyone is quick to jump all over him.
DJ, yeah, I don't think Crawford gets enough credit. He isn't in that elite goaltender category, but he's good enough to win the Blackhawks multiple Stanley Cups down the road.
James, I could see him getting a few more minutes early in the season and that's line play will depend on how much Quenneville gives it later on.
Matt, sorry, I'm not that familiar with the area. The Blackhawks are also returning home between Game 3 and 4 in Minnesota, so I probably won't be doing much outside of hockey there.
To those questioning if the Wild will put up a better fight than last year, the Wild turned over about half of their forward roster from what we saw last year. They are way better now. Still not as good as the Hawks, but this won't be a series they can sleepwalk through like they did last year.
Mike, good points. I would say they're a deeper and more skilled team than last season. Parise, Pominville, Suter, etc. still lead the team.
Coach Q tends to have a short leash in the playoffs when it comes to under performing. Are there any players you've noticed that might be one step away from his dreaded playoff doghouse?
Jacob, I think Versteeg could find himself out of the lineup again if he struggles. I think Bollig will stay in even if he's only playing a few minutes, and Handzus will be kept in for his penalty kill play.
Was worried about a possible early exit from playoffs with Colo. in first round but now that we're past the Blues, the path to the finals looks easier, not easy. Are you surprised the way things have fallen after 1st round?
Greg, no, I don't think completely surprised. I thought both Central series would be tight, and they were. I thought not having Duchene could hurt the Avs. Varlamov played worse than I expected. The Blues-Blackhawks series could have gone either way. Aside from that final third period, I thought they were neck and neck.
Kevin, Handzus is one tough dude. I'm sure we'll find out he was playing with multiple injuries at the end of the season.
SP, who has played poorly against the Wild this year? Bad games or bad match-ups?
Tom, I was looking through some of the possession numbers last night. It seemed like a couple of the Blackhawks' top players had a few bad games agains the Wild. Bickell and Leddy were two of the more consistent players. The Wild were often outshot by the Blackhawks in the five games. I'll have to dig deeper later today.
I like the Hawks in 6, however, if they are unable to roll 4 lines maybe not. I understand about playing your best players in certain situations but it will be crucial the deeper they go in the playoffs. Thoughts?
Chris, I think the Blackhawks would prefer to roll four lines, and Quenneville may attempt to get back to that in this series. I also think if you move the minutes around enough that it's not completely necessary. I don't think anyone was overworked in the first round. We'll see how it plays out going forward. It's definitely something to keep an eye.
Does Versteeg come back this series? Or does Morin get a shot? Just no Nordstrom please. Hawks are going to have go back to rolling 4 lines this series or will be tired out by the next round (assuming they get past a tough Wild Team).
Nick, Versteeg does likely come back. If he struggles, I would think Nordstrom gets the call again just because it's that fourth-line role.
Thanks for everyone for all the questions. Please feel free to email me at email@example.com if I missed anything or you want to discuss anything else. I'll be back here again next week. Take care