Big Week of Preseason Action, Focus on Speed, Mrazek's Road Ahead, Khaira's Comeback, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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Big Week of Preseason Action, Focus on Speed, Mrazek’s Road Ahead, Khaira’s Comeback, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have (counts on fingers) four (4!) preseason games in the next seven days. Yay for hockey! Tomorrow night they kick off their preseason with the Blues at the United Center before traveling to Detroit on Wednesday. Saturday night the Red Wings are in Chicago before the Hawks head up to Milwaukee to see Alice Cooper I MEAN play the Minnesota Wild in their “home away from home” game on Sunday.

  • Patrick spoke with Lukas Reichel during the first week of training camp. He’s undoubtedly the top Blackhawks forward prospect in camp (or with a contract for that matter) and he’s done a lot in the past 12 months to raise his stock in the organization and prepare himself physically and mentally for the NHL game. But will he open the season in Chicago or Rockford? The four games this week will likely play a huge role in helping the organization make that determination.
  • Two young guys we haven’t seen at all yet in training camp have been Paul Ludwinski and Colton Dach. Each of them left the prospect showcase against Minnesota and were in concussion protocol for the first week of camp. They were on the ice together on Monday morning getting in some light skating.
  • One of the big takeaways from the first week of the Blackhawks’ training camp is head coach Luke Richardson experimenting with some line options, but the focus for him — and those who hired him — remains playing the game fast. Speed, speed, speed.
  • Everything Richardson has done in his drills is about moving the puck quickly, exiting the defensive zone quickly, attacking the net quickly, skating fast and being hard to play against. We heard that was the organization’s plan during Richardson’s introductory press conference, but now we’ve seen him work with his players to begin doing it.
  • Richardson talked about some of the guys he’s liked, and how their (you guessed it) speed will be weaponized to start the season.

“You’ve got (Sam) Lafferty maybe getting a bigger role,” Richardson said. “(Andreas) Athanasiou’s speed, I think the speed that came in, (Max) Domi’s speed, that’s going to help this team play like that. And the guys that maybe aren’t known as blazing-speed guys, they can learn to play fast.”

  • Scott Powers at The Athletic talked to Petr Mrazek, the Blackhawks’ No. 1 goaltender to open the season, about what he’s doing to stay on the ice and improve this season. According to Mrazek, he spent a lot of time this summer stretching. Yup, getting limber.

“Those were things I haven’t done before in the summers,” Mrazek told Powers. “That was something we changed. … I feel like I’m getting back to being flexible like I was younger. The parts of my body that were hurting before the summers and seasons are gone.”

  • Ben Pope at the Chicago Sun-Times wrote a nice piece on Jujhar Khaira on Sunday, looking at his road back from both the awful concussion that scared all of us early in the season and then the back issues that ended his first season in Chicago prematurely.
  • Richardson has talked about Khaira being a good skater and a defensively responsible forward. With the forward depth being a mess of question marks as we get into preseason games this week, it will be interesting to see what roles Khaira is used in by the coaching staff.

‘‘I had a full offseason,” Khaira told Pope. It was just [about overcoming] roadblocks. I would get to a certain point, then I’d have to battle through it for a week. Then I’d take another step forward, then get through that, then another step forward. It was never anything where I took a couple of steps back. It was always steps forward, but some maybe took a little bit longer than others. It was what I expected and what I knew I had to go through.’

  • So, what’s new with Alex DeBrincat? According to Ian Mendes of The Athletic, DeBrincat isn’t ready to sign a long-term deal with the Senators — yet. He makes $9 million this season in actual dollars ($6.4 million cap hit), which is why a qualifying offer to DeBrincat would be at the $9 million range for next season. There’s a chance that, even after giving up a top-ten pick for DeBrincat, he takes the QO and then heads to UFA in the summer of 2024. There’s also a chance he likes where he’s at in Ottawa and inks a long-term deal at some point. That point is not yet, though.
  • Connor Murphy explained to Phil Thompson why making an obvious change on defense is going to help the team. Richardson preaching speed and simplifying the systems is all about creating offense from the defense, so the zone will theoretically help the Blackhawks make that quicker transition.
  • Finally, I took my middle son to the Bears game on Sunday. They won, which was nice. But man, that was an ugly performance across the board. Apparently the Bears’ front office can see what I could from section 256 all day on Sunday: their receivers don’t create much/any separation. So they might go shopping before the trade deadline.

Author: Tab Bamford

Tab is the Lead Blackhawks voice for BN. He is the author of two books about the Blackhawks, most recently "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter at @The1Tab