Playoffs Begin, Kane Jokes, Sorensen Talks Development, Mrazek An Honorary Islander? And Other Blackhawks Bullets
Last night we saw half of the first-round series in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs begin with some fantastic action. The LA Kings were able to keep Connor McDavid off the scoreboard and won in overtime. Carolina handled their business in a predictably low-scoring games with the Islanders. And the Boston Bruins kept rolling against a hot Florida Panthers team even though Patrice Bergeron was out of their lineup because of an illness that’s been running through their room.
- Of course the two Western Conference games went to overtime last night because caffeine sales in Chicago were hurting. It took more than 12 minutes into the second overtime for Ryan Hartman to win Game 1 for the Wild against the Stars. There was a huge hit in the game that might impact the rest of the series.
- Patrick Kane will play in his 137th career playoff game — but his first in a jersey that doesn’t bear the Indian head. Jake McCabe, on the other hand, will finally skate in his first career playoff game. Lots of former Blackhawks in action as the other half of the playoff series get rolling. Here’s the schedule for Tuesday night’s Game 1s around the league:
- You know what’s funny? Kaner taking a shot at out-of-town media covering his first-round series against the Devils. Love to see it.
- The Blackhawks’ season is over, but many of the organization’s top prospects are still playing. The Rockford IceHogs begin their quest for the Calder Cup on Wednesday night in Rockford against Iowa. We’ve got the schedule for the three-game series for you.
- IceHogs head coach Anders Sorensen talked with Scott Powers of The Athletic on Monday about a number of topics. He published the interview in a Q&A format on Tuesday morning, and one specific question and answer was especially interesting for me and likely for fans out there who are still scratching their heads about the implementation of the new Blackhawks’ front office’s plan to let prospects intentionally spend time developing in the AHL (like Lukas Reichel and Alex Vlasic this season and more to come). Here’s the full question and Sorensen’s answer:
The question I get the most from fans is about how have things changed in development. There was a span where there weren’t a lot of players coming up from Rockford. Now with Lukas Reichel and Alex Vlasic, two players who could have probably played in the NHL sooner, the decision was made to keep them down longer. What do you feel like has changed with Kyle Davidson taking over?
I think that’s probably the biggest thing I’ve noticed, like you said, if you want to use a term overripen. Guys are overripe. Guys like Lukas and Vlasic and other guys as well, Isaak Phillips, these guys probably could have played more in NHL this year, but the decision was to keep them down and keep working on their game, understanding there’s value in that. And I think we saw that, especially with both Lukas and Vlasic coming up at the end of the year here, how well they played. And I think a lot of is attributed to them, just leaving them in the same spot for a while, and really working on different parts of their game that they needed to improve on. Because once you get to NHL, it gets a little bit tougher, the schedule is way different, the practice time is less, so there’s not as much time to develop. I still think you can develop when you’re in NHL, but there’s definitely maybe a little bit (more) time constraints there. So I think using that, I think that’s the biggest thing that they’ve implemented.
- This nugget from Elliotte Friedman in his written “32 Thoughts” column on Monday made me laugh:
The wildest story on Long Island this week is one Islander fan buying an official team jersey, putting “Mrazek” and the number 34 on it, then sending it to Chicago — making the goalie “an honourary Islander.” Mrazek was the goalie in the Blackhawks’ 5-2 win over Pittsburgh last week that gave the New Yorkers a path to the postseason.
- I was part of a panel of columnists, analysts, radio hosts and former players who made their predictions over at The Fourth Period. Some of my friends from NHL Network Radio on Sirius/XM had different predictions to mine, so let the chirping on Twitter begin. Feel free to tell me how wrong I’m going to be with these.
- The Boston Marathon was run on Monday, and there was one runner who stood out in the field. Zdeno Chara, the Bruins legend and future Hall of Famer, ran a full 26.2 miles in a very respectable time. He’s obviously taken a few pounds off from his playing days but this is pretty remarkable to see. Good for Chara!
- Finally, since we’re all focused on prospect development on the hockey side of this fine establishment, when a young player does well on another squad it gets my attention. And last night Hayden Wesneski had a terrific night in Oakland. My fantasy team thanks him!