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Friday, September 29, 2017

Blackhawks Roster Breakdown: Defense

by Gatekeeper

With opening night less than a week away, the Blackhawks are down to some tough decisions with their roster. We talked at length about the options on Tuesday night's Shoutcast, but there are some real questions. I'm going to break down some of the upcoming roster decisions or at least try to lay them out in a logical manner. This doesn't mean Joel Quenneville will decide to use the logical method. Next, we look at maybe the most volatile of positions, the defense.

The Blackhawks defense became a huge point of contention the day Niklas Hjalmarsson was traded to the desert earlier this summer. As far as roster spots go, there are either slam dunks or complete question marks. Nothing in between. I will start with the top end slam dunks. Duncan Keith, Brent Seabook and Connor Murphy are all going to unequivocally be every day players for this year's Blackhawks team.

Keith is 34 years old, and logs an inhumane amount of time on ice. He also began to have knee issues last season, and missed some time as a result. Joel Quenneville is, no doubt, going to ride his horse right into the ground, and get as many miles as he can on the way. Duncan Keith, though, is still playing at a top 10 defenseman level, so we'll just have to take each coming season one at a time. Until he really drops off, fans can just blissfully and ignorantly believe it'll last forever.

Brent Seabrook gets a bum rap for all he does and just keeps dragging marginal partners around on his back, like Master-Blaster from Mad Max, season after season. Sure, he makes a hefty salary, and sure he's not 25 any more, but the guy is an anchor (not in a bad way) in helping to bring along young players. Losing Hjalmarsson was most likely a bigger loss, but Seabrook is not that far behind. Until he cannot perform as one of the top 3 defensemen on this team, he needs to be embraced. He is also not going anywhere until there is a defined replacement, and right now there isn't anyone even close. So, get the thought of trading him out of your head right now.

Connor Murphy might be the second best defender on this team in the very near future but, at the moment, he is the third. When real games are played and he's not lost in the rotation of bums, he will probably show us more than he has thus far. Murphy has been adequate when in the lineup, but the Blackhawks will certainly need more from him. That said, asking him to be Niklas Hjalmarsson is just unfair. Fans need to set open minded expectations for Murphy. He is only 24, and has already logged a full seasons worth of games more than Hjalmarsson did at the same age. Murphy has also been used differently, in Arizona. His defensive zone starts, last season, were higher than Nik Hjalmarrson's ever have been at 58.5%. As a result, and not unexpectedly, his possession numbers were lower as well. I have an open mind, and I'm going to give him at least a full season, before I cast judgement. I suggest you join in.

The next wave of players are not just one notch below the top three but, probably, two notches. This is not to say that they will be awful, because there is a lot to look forward to. So, walk with me down the middle of the road...

The first player, based on experience, is Michal Kempny. I swung and missed, like Adam Dunn at the plate, on Kempny last season. I had high hopes for him to be the next Brent Seabrook type player, and he turned into the next Michal Rozsival. His possession metrics were actually good, on paper, but he was also heavily shielded from defensive zone starts. This season, the Blackhawks have another fellow countryman on the team to help him out and, more importantly, they ditched Joel Quenneville's little buddy Mike Kitchen. Ulf Samuelsson stepping in should help Michal Kempny's confidence. He may never reach the levels of top pair, but he can be a useful bottom 3 defender.

Speaking of Kempny's fellow countryman, Jan Rutta will be an NHL rookie at the spry age of 27. Already, he has surprised many, with his strength, size, and composure. Rutta, at least in the preseason, has been more of what I expected from Kempny last season. If he continues to play the way he has, he will be the 4th best defenseman on this team before long. He has Seabrook size, and has a smart confidence in his game that is very comforting. This might be a real Stan Bowman find.

Gustav Forsling is an enigma, plain and simple. He has all the tools to become a top 4 offensive defenseman, but his brain needs some catching up. Much like last season, we have all watched him make some very nice noticeable plays, but then had a terrible play, like in the Bruins game, where he looks like a completely lost puppy. While I think that he should start in the NHL, the best thing for him might be some AHL time, once again. He needs to really tighten his game up. On the powerplay, he is an extremely useful player, but even strength he has been hit-or-miss. I have ragged on Alex Debrincat a lot, but if you look at the numbers, it's Forsling that has been the bust so far. SO FAR. This is a 20 year old kid, too. I love that the media and fanbase have not piled on him yet. Give him time to grow, and I think the end result will be much better for everyone.

A lot of people are forgetting that Cody Franson is with the team on a Professional Tryout but, unless something drastic happens, Franson is going to get a contract offer once the season begins. With question marks in Kempny and Forsling, the Franson situation is that much more important. He's a big veteran guy that can play in all situations as a bottom pair defenseman. He's a better, older, version of Trevor van Reimsdyk. The Blackhawks will be better with him than without, so get used to seeing number 11 out there this season.

Not many people know about Jordan Oesterle. We have heard that he is a puck moving defenseman, and he has certainly gotten some playing time this preseason. I have not really noticed him do anything extremely special but, maybe, that is what we shold ask from him. Don't be noticeable. If Quenneville goes with Keith, Murphy, Seabrook, Rutta, Kempny, Franson and Forsling, Jordan Oesterle will end up in Rockford. If they decide to let Forsling percolate in Rockford for a while, then Oesterle is your 7th defenseman. Otherwise, there just isn't any room for an 8th defenseman.

Michal Rozsival is still technically on the team, but he failed his physical and probably shouldn't be in the Blackhawks plans any longer, anyway. Erik Gustafsson is a decent depth player, but there are several better options in the organization.

The last player that really intrigues me is Luc Snuggerud. He had a really nice Traverse City tournament and was having a solid training camp, until he was injured against the Redwings last week. I wouldn't at all be surprised to see him get some NHL time this season, just so the Hawks know what they have. Once he's healthy, we should expect to see him get a boat load of time in Rockford, though.

Blackhawks at Detroit
4-2 Win Recap

"First Game at Little Caesars Arena"

As we inch closer to the regular season, we saw a nice win for the Blackhawks in the preseason. In their second to last game of the preseason, we saw them play a young Detroit team missing many of their big-name players. The Blackhawks were also missing key players like Kane, Saad, Seabrook, Keith, and Crawford. In their first appearance at Little Caesars Arena the Red Wings new facility, the ‘Hawks won 4-2.

The first period started a little slow and with some sloppy plays, but things would start to get better pretty quick. At 4:54 we saw the first of 10 penalties in the game when Red Wing Robbie Russo slashed Gustav Forsling. The power play was just ok early on but got better in the later periods of the game. Shortly after at 8:23 we would see the first of the Blackhawks penalty kill unit because of a Laurent Dauphin tripping penalty. On the PP, the Red Wings had what looked like a sure goal when Ben Street shot at a sprawling Anton Forsberg. With a wide-open net, the shot went high and hit the crossbar. Later, The Blackhawks would go on the penalty kill 2 more times after a David Kampf interference call and a Tomas Jurco slashing call.

The second period started with the Red Wings on the power play, where they scored the first goal of the game. Justin Abdelkader had the puck down down low, and passed to Niklas Kronwall at the blue line. Kronwall would let a shot go that Red Wings rookie Michael Rasmussen nicely redirected past Anton Forsberg. The period went on seeing a couple good shifts from the makeshift second line of Artem Anisimov, John Hayden, and Vinnie Hinostroza. We saw Anisimov put the puck through a defenders legs to a stuff attempt, and John Hayden have a good shot attempt which resulted in Artem Anisimov getting robbed on the rebound, with a wide-open net. No scoring would come till late in the period.

At 13:50 Richard Panik got the Blackhawks on the board and tied the game. Alex DeBrincat held the puck at the line and tapped it to an open Jonathan Toews, who would make a great cross-ice pass to a wide open Richard Panik. Panik sent a one-timer past Petr Mrazek. The Wings would take the lead back about two minutes later when Libor Sulak put a shot past a sliding Connor Murphy to the glove side of Forsberg.

The third period is where the Blackhawks hit their stride. At the 1:41 mark of the third period, Tanner Kero chipped a pass to a streaking Vince Hinostroza, who weaved through two defenders. Hinostroza then sent a slick backhand pass to Tommy Wingels on the back door, who put a well placed one-timer past Petr Mrazek. Next, the highly anticipated Alex DeBrincat would score his second preseason goal on the power play, as the Wings' Sulak was given a two-minute minor for hooking against Laurent Dauphin. After taking a pass from Gustav Forsling, DeBrincat then made a nice backhanded pass to defenseman Cody Franson. Franson looked to pass the puck to Jonathan Toews but the pass went all the way through the crease to back to DeBrincat, who let go a nice wrist shot over Mrazek. The Red Wings would challenge the goal for offsides but failed resulting in the ‘Hawks going on another power play. For those unaware, new this year, a failed off-sides challenge results in a two-minute minor for delay of game, instead of just losing a time-out. The final goal of the game would come at 18:35 when Laurent Dauphin made a nice steal at center ice and backhand the puck into the empty net.

The Good
  • Alex DeBrincat- The kid is looking more confident with the puck and is usually in the right position at the right time. While still getting pushed around a bit, it seems DeBrincat is learning how to win his battles. Two points on the night 
  • Artem Anisimov - While not finding the score sheet Anisimov proved his worth with a few good shot attempts and his line created some good chances. 
  • The Penalty Kill - The 'Hawks would go five for six on the PK.  They seem more aggressive and have better cycling better than we saw last season, so far. 
  • John Hayden - Hayden very well may play himself into a roster spot. While not scoring in this game, he would end up with three hits and 2 shots on net. The more Hayden plays,  the more he shows his skill, speed, and physicality. He also seems to cause a little disruption when he is on the ice, almost starting another fight in front of the goal. 
  • Vinnie Hinostroza - While I don't know if he will make the opening night roster, watching Vinnie was fun tonight. As we know Hinostroza is fast, he is really starting to show the offensive upside. He is starting to make more smart plays and is also seeing the plays much better. 
  • Anton Forsberg - Forsberg would have another good night in goal, saving 32 of 34 shots. As of now expect Forsberg to be the backup. 

The Bad
  • Power Play - Not horrible but the 'Hawks went one for four on the power play. Seeing a couple more shots and some more zone time would be nice, but they were also missing some major pieces on the power play. 

The Ugly
  • Tomas Jurco - Yet again another game where he was invisible. Other than occasionally touching the puck Jurco had zero shots on goal, one hit, and a giveaway. Can we please get rid of this failed experiment. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Blackhawks Roster Breakdown: Goalies

by Gatekeeper

With opening night less than a week away, the Blackhawks are down to some tough decisions with their roster. We talked at length about the options on Tuesday night's Shoutcast, but there are some real questions. I'm going to break down some of the upcoming roster decisions or at least try to lay them out in a logical manner. This doesn't mean Joel Quenneville will decide to use the logical method. First, we look at my favorites, the goalies, which is the only position that is seemingly locked down.

Corey Crawford is the clear and unquestioned number one. He had has his injury bugs each year, but he is still a top 10 goalie in this league. We can all expect another injury at some point this year. It is inevitable. Crawford will continue his solid, unspectacular performance, and continue to be overlooked, as well as under rated. He won't truly be appreciated until the Cup window is secured shut and this generation of players are retired. It is a shame that the guy gets so much angst from fans that don't truly understand the intricacies of the position, but it is the nature of the sport and Chicago.

Sneaky offseason acquisition Anton Forsberg will back up Corey Crawford. Before camp began, I honestly thought that Jean-Francois Berube had a solid chance to challenge Forsberg for the backup job, but Berube had a pretty rusty performance against the Blue Jackets. This opened the door wide open for Forsberg. All he needs to do is be solid tonight in Detroit, and the race is officially over. Forsberg really impressed me in his opening game vs the Blue Jackets. He was big in net, quick in the crease, and composed. His reflexes are very good for a big guy. I am now aboard the Forsberg train. If he can keep this up, he'll be a perfectly fine replacement for Scott Darling.

My dark horse this camp was Jean-Francois Berube, and he simply just didn't deliver in his one opportunity. His first goal against was more the lack of support from his team, but he got a piece of the Ryan Murray shot. The last two goals against were pretty sloppy. There is no excuse to be giving up a goal off the end boards, from virtually behind the net, like he did to Lucas Sedlak. The third goal was a weak backhand less than a minute later by Oliver Bjorkstrand, that was actually defended alright by Brent Seabrook, which softly went 5-hole. He will be fine in Rockford, if he sneaks through waivers, and "should be" the number one guy there, but Jeff Glass is a former teammate of new coach Jeremy Colliton, so that could affect the game distribution. If Crawford or Forsberg get hurt, Berube is a fine option as well.

Jeff Glass is just a veteran depth guy that can be a leader in the locker room for the kids and provide some valuable consistent experience in the Icehogs backup role. If Glass ends up being counted on for more than a leadership role, then there are real problems.

First year pro (and Puckin Hostile favorite), Collin Delia doesn't figure into the pro team's plans this year, or even maybe next, but this will be an important season for him to earn a reputation and gather some crucial experience. Expect him to probably start the season in Indy, with the Fuel, and share time with Matt Tomkins. If Delia can have a solid season in Indy, we could see him get some time in Rockford as the season progresses. He has the potential and certainly has the talent. The fanboy in me wants to see Delia get some Rockford time and wow the pants off everyone, but the pragmatist in me says that isn't realiztec to expect.

Matt Tomkins is signed to an AHL deal and will eventually end up in Indy with Delia. While I was certainly fine with Jake Hildebrand and Eric Levine in the ECHL last year, Delia and Tomkins are an upgrade to the depth of the organization. Hildebrand was just alright as the primary netminder in Indy, but was overmatched in the few times he actually saw the ice in Rockford. He today signed a tryout with the Tulsa Oilers of the ECHL. Levine was a temporary solution to the thin goaltending depth in the organization, as was Jeff Glass, and wasn't even all that good in Indy.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Puckin Hostile Shoutcast
Episode 90

In this Puckin Hostile Shoutcast Episode 90 (the Joe Juneau episode) Gatekeeper, is running solo with guest Aaron Goldschmidt from Blackhawk Up.

The topics discussed include:
-We had some technical difficulties, for which we GREATLY apologize.
-The Blackhawks start playing preseason games against Lumbus, Detroit, and Boston.
-Alex Debr-invisi-cat mania is going just as you'd expect
-Hostile Legend Collin Delia is having a great camp
-John Hayden has had a surprising camp.
-Leads are getting buried
-Roster moves are made, and more to come
-Roster predictions.
-Surprise appearances? Maybe
-Listener/Reader questions.

and some big things are on horizon. What will they be? Will you even find out?

You can find the episode on iTunes by following this link: iTunes

You can find the Shoutcast on Google Play Music here:

You can listen to the episode on Stitcher here:

Get the Shoutcast directly though Soundcloud here:

For all your custom jersey needs visit Black and Tan Sports at:


Monday, September 25, 2017

Blackhawks at Boston
4-2 Loss Recap

"Born In A Rut"

by Gatekeeper

The Blackhawks sent their kid squad to Boston to face the Bruins, Monday night. Most of the regulars were left back in South Bend and it showed. The only regular players that were in this game were Brandon Saad, Connor Murphy, and Corey Crawford. That should tell you some things right off the bat. Not only that, but the roster listed Luke Johnson as #82, and playing defense. Jordan Oesterle gets no respect. It's preseason for everyone, I suppose.

If not for the final minute, the first period was a complete disaster. The Hawks gave up two goals on the first handful of shots and then later gave up a third goal before they were able to stop the bleeding.

The second period couldn't have possibly been any worse, so there was only one way to go: UP. The Hawks were able to hold the Bruins off the board while scoring a goal to bring the game back within one goal.

In the third period, the Blackhawks gave up a powerplay goal that put the game out of reach and, much like Saturday night, they didn't have enough time to complete the comeback. Not a terrible showing for the Blackhawks, but certainly not an overly impressive one, either. Let's hope we get to see more regulars in the final two preseason games.

The Good
  • Brandon Saad was able to cut the lead to just 2 goals, with under a minute remaining in the first period. Cody Franson, hit Erik Gustafsson across the ice. Gustafsson then turned and saw Brandon Saad just about 5 feet to Malcolm Subban's right, wisely hitting Saad's tape with a pass which was redirected by Saad off Subban and into the net.
  • Midway through the second period, a gassed Jordan Oesterle desperately flicked the puck up to Tanner Kero. Even though the pass was behind him, Kero was able to corral the puck and make a slick pass to the streaking John Hayden. Hayden drove hard to the net,
    protecting the puck, and beat Subban. The puck hit the back post and was originally waved off, but the war room in Toronto signalled the horn and ruled the play a good goal.
  • For the second game in a row, the Blackhawks were pretty good at the faceoff dots, winning 58%.

The Bad
  • Corey Crawford only saw 23 shots and gave up 4 goals. Thank god it is preseason.
  • The Golden Child Debrincat had his time to shine, and was virtually invisible. Three shots on net and no points. If I didn't know he was on the roster for the game, I might have even doubted that he played.

The Ugly
  • Under a minute into the game, on the first shot on net, David Pastrnak caught Corey Crawford deep in his net, and Pastrnak ate him up from a sharp angle.
  • thirty six seconds after the Pastrnak goal, defenseman Jeremy Lasuzon flipped an innocent dump in shot towards Corey Crawford, and Crawford just flubbed it. If you thought the first goal was bad, this one was even worse.
  • About 8 minutes later, the veteran Bruins caught Gustav Forsling hanging onto the puck too long and trying to stickhandle with one hand on his stick right up the gut, in his own zone. Marchand and Bergeron stripped him, and the late forward Anders Bjork was the lucky recipient of a backdoor tap in goal.

The Lineblender
Left Wing - Center - Right Wing
Brandon Saad - David Kampf - Ryan Hartman
Lance Bouma - Vinny Hinostroza - Tomas Jurco
John Hayden - Tanner Kero - Alex Debrincat
Jordin Tootoo - Laurent Dauphin - Tommy Wingels

Gustav Forsling - Connor Murphy
Erik Gustafsson - Cody Franson
Jan Rutta - Jordan Oesterle


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Blackhawks vs Blue Jackets
3-2 Loss Recap

"Tempo of the Damned"
by Gatekeeper

The Blackhawks remained at home Saturday night to welcome in the same Columbus Blue Jackets team that they slaughtered on Tuesday night, in Columbus. Joel Quenneville rolled out much of the same lineup that he did on Thursday's thorough butt kicking of the Detroit Red Wings. Jonathan Toews, Alexander Fortin, Ville Pokka, and JF Berube all made their 2017/18 debuts for the Blackhawks in this 3rd preseason tilt.

The Blackhawks came out and surrendered a game opening goal late in the first period, but came back a few moments later and tied it right back up. This was all after the Hawks opened the with 8 straight shots on net. If not for a bouncing puck and a resulting bad turnover, the game would have easily been 1-0.

Then middle period started off just plain ugly. Two very stoppable shots ended up in the Blackhawks early on, and they were chasing a 2 goal deficit. The Blackhawks out shot their opponent once again, 18-7, but were staring down the barrel of a 3rd period come from behind effort.

The Blackhawks were able to cut the lead to one goal, with the goalie pulled, late in the third period, but that just wasn't enough. When all was said and done, they out shot the Jackets an incredible 54-21. Certainly good enough to generate enough offense to win the game. Who cares? It's preseason.

The Good
  • Late in the first period, Patrick Sharp made a sneaky good flip pass to a breaking Artem Anisimov, who was then in all alone on Korpisalo. Anisimov made quick work of a low glove side shot and tied the game.
  • Nick Schmaltz looked good once again. He had a slick behind the back pass that almost led to a Pat Kane goal. I was not a Schmaltz fan at all last season, and he's totally won me over. He was NOT good, however,m at the faceoff dots.
  • I have no problems with John Hayden getting in a little preseason tussle. He handled himself very well, and I honestly think he brings more to the lineup than Tootoo, or Bouma.

The Bad
  • Jean-Francois Berube, more on that later...
  • Alexandre Fortin was reassigned to Rockford following the game, and rightfully so.

The Ugly
  • Late in the first period, the golden child egregiously turned the puck over in his own end, whiffing twice and then just handing it over to the Blue Jackets Ryan Murray. Murray bore in on Berube, who was able to get a piece of the shot, but it popped up and over his shoulder and into the net.
  • Early in the second period, JF Berube had a really rough stretch. First of all he had a rough time covering the left post after a shot banked off the end boards, and Lucas Selak somehow put it past him. His bad stretch didn't stop there, though. The next shot on net was a fairly weak backhand from Oliver Bjorkstrand that squirted between his legs for a 3-1 Lumbus lead.

The Lineblender
Left Wing - Center - Right Wing
Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Richard Panik
Alex DeBrincat - Nick Schmaltz - Patrick Kane
Patrick Sharp - Artem Anisimov - John Hayden
Tomas Jurco - Tanner Kero - Alex Fortin

Duncan Keith - Jan Rutta
Michal Kempny - Brent Seabrook
Gustav Forsling - Ville Pokka


Friday, September 22, 2017

Blackhawks vs. Red Wings
6-1 Win Recap

"Explosive First Night Back in the UC"

Tonight we saw the Preseason home opener versus the Detroit Red Wings. Once again in the preseason, we had an offensive explosion mainly led by the returning Brandon Saad. In his first game at the United Center back in a Blackhawks sweater, Saad led the 6-1 victory with a Hat Trick! We also saw some combinations out of the line blender that looked very promising.

The scoring of the game was started by sophomore Ryan Hartman. Patrick Sharp sent a nice pass cross-ice to Tanner Kero who let go a wrist shot, Hartman would be in front of the net and tipped it in off his skate. The ‘Hawks would also kill 4 penalties in the first period.

Brent Seabrook would add the second goal and only power play goal of the night. After Schmaltz skated around the defender he sent a perfect pass that Seabrook would slap past the netminder. The rookie DeBrincat would get on the score sheet a little over two minutes later in the game. Schmaltz skated over the blue-line dropping a pass to Panik who would find DeBrincat between the circles, he would let a wrist shot go past the stick side of Petr Mrazek. As the explosive second period continued Saad would get his first goal of the night. Jordan Oesterle sent a long pass up ice to Panik who let go of a shot, Mrazek blocked the shot but gave up a big rebound Saad would put top shelf past the sprawling netminder. While originally the play continued no one realizing the puck had gone in, the play would be later be called a goal.

Detroit would score their only goal of the night. Michael Rasmussen would poke check the puck away from Duncan Keith drive to the net, squeezing between Corey Crawford and Connor Murphy with a diving shot. Saad would score his second of the night after grabbing his own rebound and sending it past Mrazek. While not as bad as the first period the ‘Hawks killed off another three penalties in the second.

The third period would start with a goalie change, Collin Delia would come in to finish the game. Saad would finish his hat trick with help from a familiar pair. Skating down the right-hand side Panik would send a backhand pass to Oesterle, who would then backhand across the slot to Saad who would jam the puck home. Delia would finish the game perfect with 8 saves.

The Good
  • Schmaltz continues to prove he should be the second line center. Highly improving to the dot winning 78% of his draws, Schmaltz also showed his playmaking ability again adding two assists. Schmaltz also saw time on both the power play and penalty kill.
  • Saad showed a side of the game we truly have been lacking. Saad was around the net all night picking up and finishing second-chance opportunities.
  • Sharp is also looking like he has found his form again. Although time will tell if he can continue, Sharp put up two more assists and helped play the point on the top power-play unit.
  • DeBrincat looks promising, he has eyes for the puck and can shoot the puck. On the puck, he is strong but still gets bullied a bit, with some work and experience in the league he may be able to keep a roster spot. 

The Bad
  • The Penalties! This game saw in total 13 penalties while no Face-Off infractions, the new slashing rules were on display.
  • The Blackhawks players need to to be careful with the new slashing rules, although hitting the opponents stick may disrupt a play it is up to the referee's discretion.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

PreSeason: Blackhawks at Columbus - 5-2 Win Recap

"Youth Gone Wild"

by Gatekeeper

Do you hear that faint sizzle in the background? That is the Blackhawks buzz getting warmed up. Tonight the Blackhawks officially kicked off game action with their first preseason tilt, in Columbus. If you looked at the roster they sent, you might be asking yourselves one important question:

Alas, there is still hockey, and it involves players wearing Blackhawks uniforms. That's about the best I can say about it. I'm not sure why they risked Joel Quenneville having an aneurysm with this lineup, but they rolled the dice.

Forget the period by period rehash. It's the preseason:

The Good
  • The first Blackhawks goal was on a 2 man power-play by Cody Franson, and he later added an assist. I really like what Franson brings to this team. He's big, intimidating, confident, and experienced. He has a cannon for a shot and isn't shy about unleashing it. You can't say that I didn't warn you all about Franson when he's signed to an NHL deal and plays 70 games.
  • Laurent Dauphin was the second Blackhawks player to get a goal, when Tomas Jurco was able to spring the puck loose from behind the net to Dauphin, who was completely wide open. Dauphin beat Korpisalo with a kind of feeble little backhand, but it was a goal. Not only did Dauphin score, but his prowess on the penalty kill was very noticeable, blocking several shots with no regard for his safety.
  • Another impressive Blackhawks debut was from defenseman Jan Rutta. He looked comfortable and composed. He snuck in and activated on an early powerplay, and scored the third goal of the game. It wasn't a pretty goal at all, but it all looks the same on the scoreboard, I guess.
  • Nick Schmaltz was the fourth Blackhawks goal scorer, just 38 seconds after Rutta's goal. I'm not sure what Korpisalo was doing, but Schmaltz beat him cleanly with a sneaky little snipe. This kid finally grew a set of coconuts this summer and came in with a swagger that he can actually backup.
  • Vince Hinostroza threw his hat in the ring, and scored a 5th Hawks goal that actually stayed on the board. He took some silly penalties too, but with 17 total, who didn't?
  • A guy who will never get a fair shot is Matthew Highmore, but he had a pretty good prospect camp,
    tournament and was noticeable in this game, as well. He could be a very useful mammal in Rockford, this year. He tied for the team lead with 3 shots on net.
  • Anton Forsberg's composure and smooth movement really impressed me. He held the Jackets scoreless through the first two periods, until the Blackhawks lost interest. My first impressions are that he should be able to easily handle NHL talent. Thirty eight saves in your debut, on the road, is commendable. Preseason or not. We'll see what Glass and Berube show in coming games.
The Bad
  • The enforcement of of rules that already existed, but are finally being called made for a total mess of a first period. There were 7 penalties in the first period alone, and one resulted in a Blackhawks powerplay goal. there were SEVENTEEN penalties called in this game. That is WAY too much.
  • It took the Jackets until the third period to break the shutout, but they eventually did. Forsberg was late tracking a shot that went off the end boards and right to the stick of Seth Jones,
    and Jones beat him.
  • I know it's really being picky, but getting out shot 40-26 is a little much.
The Ugly
  • Lance Bouma ran his own goalie in his second shift of 2017-18. It's going to be a long season.
  • The stupid goaltender inference rule came into play again when it looked like the Hawks had scored their fourth goal of the second period. Graham Knott definitely made contact with the Columbus goalie, but it really had nothing to do with the goal. Call it a pity, makeup call.
  • Lumbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo was pretty brutal, giving up four second period goals, which should have been five. I'm not sure why they didn't replace him in the second, but it worked out in the Hawks favor. You think CBJ fans were looking to have Anton Forsberg back?
The Lineblender
Left Wing - Center - Right Wing
Dauphin - Schmaltz - Jurco
Miller - Kampf - Hayden
Bouma - Mitchell - Baun
Highmore - Knott - Hinostroza

Jokiharju - Stuart
Kempny - Rutta
Forsling - Franson


Let the Blackhawks Belly Aching Commence

by Gatekeeper

Geetings, Blackhawks and Hostile fans! First of all, I want to formally welcome you back, and thank you for joining us again. Those of you who are newer to what goes on around here, we want to thank you for taking some time to investigate our niche little website.

Tonight begins the 8th season of Puckin Hostile Blackhawks coverage, with their first pre-season game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The summer went by way too fast, but it's that time of year where it starts getting dark earlier and Blackhawks games take over our electronic devices.

As we begin this 8th season of Hostile coverage, we want to keep the podcast and content momentum from this past year. Last season was our best, by far, and we have more to give you. As you will see, we will have a few new contributors providing recaps. The Fatrick Twins and I cannot thank them enough for volunteering to help us take the load off. We have big plans for 2016-17, so stay tuned.

That being said, there are the usual training camp minutia stories, but there are a few early surprise developments. Hidden behind the fluff of the Tour De Debrincat, there are some actual real stories about how this team might shake out opening night. The fact of the matter is that no one can know, for sure, what the team will look like. Just last week, everyone had Michal Rozsival penned in for the 7th or 8th defense spot. As little as that spot may mean to this team, the fact that Rozsival has not passed his physical means that an additional player that we had not counted on will now make the team. This is just one instance. An injury to, say, Daniel Carcillo once opened the door for a rookie named Brandon Saad to play more, and look where we are years later. These are a few items to keep an eye out for:

As I just mentioned, Michal Rozsival did not pass his training camp physical, and it has been reported that he is still experiencing side effects from the Nick Ritchie sucker punch late last season. We hassle Rozsival a lot, but no one wants to see a player have to hang it up because of concussion issues. We all hope he can work through this, and I look forward to the day he formally becomes an assistant somewhere in the organization. That said, this development helps the team add some more talented depth on the blue line to open the season. Michal Rozsival is "ok" for about 15-20 games, but he was not at the point in his career where he would have been able to log long stretches of minutes.

Who replaces him? You have to think that there are a few spots nailed down already. Duncan Keith, Connor Murphy, and Brent Seabrook are slam dunks. Unless something drastic happens, Michal Kempny and Gustav Forsling will probably open the season in Chicago, as well. This leaves one, probably two, slots open. I'm thoroughly convinced that Cody Franson is essentially already signed to and NHL deal, pending the LTIR cap space from Marian Hossa and, now, Michael Rozsival. When you break it all down, this leaves a couple of big question marks on defense. Who will be the 7th defenseman, and will they carry 8? Based on the make up of the training camp roster, Jan Rutta is my early pick to get the 7th spot with Jordan Oesterle on his heels, and a possible Mark Stuart formal contact as my dark horse. With youth being so prevalent on the forward lines, I honestly don't think that Joel Quenneville and Ulf Samuelsson want to toy with a lot of inexperienced defensemen. Otherwise, I feel like that even if they have a good camp, players like Luc Snuggerud, Robin Press, Robin Norell, Carl Dahlstrom, Victor Svedberg, Erik Gustafsson, Ville Pokka, and Darren Raddysh are already pencilled in for Rockford. If the choice were up to me, and they have the LTIR cap room to play with, this is how I break it down:

Keith - Murphy
Kempny - Seabrook
Franson - Forsling
Oesterle - Rutta

This way they have several options, without sacrificing the development of youth. If they choose to carry only 7 defensemen, I think Rutta hangs. Oesterle will have to go through waivers, along with Pokka and Svedberg, but I really don't think that they brought Rutta in to play in Rockford. Rutta is 2 years older and bigger than Oesterle, as well as being right handed. The Blackhawks also only have Rutta for this season, while Oesterle is signed through next season, as well. The only two factors that weigh in Jordan Oesterle's favor are that he's cheaper and Rutta is waiver exempt, so he can be sent down without being exposed to waivers. This decision will come down to the preference of the coaching staff, because I cannot see either pulling away in this race based on a handful of pre-season games.

The second underlying story is the insertion of Nick Schmaltz into the second line center spot previously held by Artem Anisimov. Granted, assuming that this won't change tomorrow, is just naive, but clearly Joel Quenneville is using this as a tryout for Schmaltz to upgrade that second pivot. The adjustment is no knock on Anisimov, because he has been more than any of us might have originally imagined. He has his limitations, though, and these limitations work both for and against the other skillsets on that line. Anisimov is big and lumbering, which worked out well in front of the net when you had perimeter players like Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane dancing around. On the other hand, you aren't going to see Anisimov leading many rushes up the ice, and he is almost useless at the faceoff dot. So much so that Craig Tabita at Puckbase.com shared a model called "Net Shots Post-Faceoff", where they measured the shots-for and shots-against for the ten seconds following a faceoff, and Anisimov was the worst in the entire league.

I'm not saying that the Blackhawks didn't do well with Anisimov, nor will I say that they even NEED an upgrade. I'm just pointing out possible justification for this early camp Nick Schmaltz tryout. Schmaltz is younger, cheaper, faster, and has much more offensive upside. By all accounts, the organization has been grooming him to be the second line center of the future. The final factor stacked against Anisimov is the 4 years remaining on his contract at $4.5 million per season. He DOES have a full no movement clause that recently kicked in, but they can be waived. Anisimov can certainly make a perfectly fine third line center, but at his salary he becomes a potential target for a future salary dump. Even if he sticks with the team for the entire season, you have to investigate clearing that space. You can find much cheaper options on your third line.

Schmaltz brings that play maker element into the top 6, which is probably what they ideally see for the future. Schmaltz sticking, however, keeps this line primarily as a perimeter line, which was a big problem last April against the Predators. Maybe Patrick Sharp can provide more presence in the slot, maybe he can't.

The last piece of business is the recently resurfaced rumor regarding Matt Duchene. Yes, it has been reported that Bowman probably inquired. He would be stupid not to inquire. Most likely, this conversation stopped at "What is your asking price?", and there is probably a less than 10% chance that anything will actually happen. For arguments sake, If they can make a reasonable deal for Matt Duchene they need to pull the trigger right now (or the day after the season begins). Duchene is a legit top 6 all-star caliber player that can play wing or center. Not only is he versatile, but he also brings something they have struggled mightily with which are top 10 faceoff numbers. I certainly realize that the Blackhawks have a tight cap, and Duchene is a $6 million player. If you can find a way to get Anisimov to waive his NMC, that knocks $4.5 million right off the top. You have Hossa's LTIR space, and Bowman would be sure to have to package one, if not both, of Forsling and Debrincat who combine for roughly $1.5 Million. I'm no math whiz, but by my lizard brain calculations, those 3 players equal $6 million without Hossa's LTIR taken into account. You'll have to replace at least one of those spots with a Rockford player, but that is still less than $1 million.

Again, I see this as a highly unlikely scenario, but not completely impossible. This move would make them better to-mor-row, and their ever so slight remaining cup window is this season, and maybe next season. Their cup window won't be three years down the road when Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are quickly approaching their mid 30s, while Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford are officially hitting their late 30s. Worry about the future, in the future. Just don't run to Vegas and bet on this happening.

Enjoy the game tonight, and look for the season's first game recap shortly thereafter.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Blackhawks: Champs of Suplex City

The Blackhawks wrapped up their annual rookie summer trip to northern Michigan, last night, with an exciting overtime win in the championship game of the Traverse City tournament. There is certainly some over inflated interest in this, so called, tournament but hockey in early September is few and far between. Let us call this event what it really is, a prospect showcase. This is an excuse for teams to showcase their prospects and see them perform against actual opponents. Most of these players will be in juniors, college, or the minors for a majority of the season, but there are a few that will see NHL time this year. By "few" I mean 3-5 per team, or roughly 40 of the 200 plus players. Each team not only has their prospects, but a few free agent invitees, which can dilute the waters a little, as well. This parade was one step above the summer prospect camp that we saw in early July. At least a healthy portion of these players will be playing for Rockford this season, for new coach Jeremy Colliton, so this was a great opportunity for him to get to know his team.

The young Blackhawks started off really slow, against the Rangers on Friday, giving up 3 goals in the first half of the game. Goalie Collin Delia fell victim to some deflections and sloppy play. The Blackhawks came back furiously in the third period, but simply ran out of time to complete the comeback. The final score read 3-2, with Blackhawks goals from Alex Debrincat and defenseman Calle Dahlstrom. Despite the final score, the young Blackhawks team out shot the Rangers 30-26. This game also featured a rumored Blackhawks free college agent target, Neal Pionk.

On Saturday, the Blackhawks fared a little better. Goalie Matt Tomkins got the start in net and fared a little better than his netminding partner the day before. It still took a comeback by the Blackhawks squad to squeak out a 4-3 win, but it was a win nonetheless. The Hawks got goals from free agent invitee Mike Cramarossa, Darren Raddysh, Calle Dahlstrom and the game winner by Alex Debrincat, with under five minutes remaining in regulation. Tomkins stopped 23 of 26 shots en route to an important win, which set the Blackhawks up for a chance at the Championship game on Tuesday.

Taking Sunday off turned out to be a very good thing for this Blackhawks rookie squad, as they came out Monday evening and took a lead 37 seconds into the game, and never looked back. Head Coach Jeremy Colliton went back to Collin Delia in net, and it turned out to be the right move. The Blackhawks ran out to a 3-0 lead before the Hurricanes team was able to beat Delia, and up 7-1 before they were able to beat Delia again. Working with a huge lead had to be comforting to the California native, and the Hawks cruised to a decisive 9-2 thrashing. Defenseman Luc Snuggerud was the big point producer in this contest, scoring 2 goals and adding 3 assists. Alex Debrincat extended his goal scoring streak to 3 games with his tally 37 seconds into the first period. He was otherwise held under check. The Hurricanes had prime chances to stay in the game with eight powerplays, but were only able to capitalize on one in the second period. Delia finished with 26 saves, and the Blackhawks put themselves into the Championship game Tuesday night.

For the third time in four games, the Blackhawks rookies started out less than desirable. Just 5 minutes into the game, they were already chasing a 2-0 Blue Jackets lead, and weren't showing any signs of life, either. In fact, the Hawks didn't register their first shot on net until after the halfway point of the first period. Once the young Hawks finally broke the ice, they controlled the action. Radovan Bondra opened the Hawks scoring with a real nice shot from the slot, just over five minutes into the second period, which clearly had the CBJ rookies on their heels. In stepped Alex Debrincat, once again, with 31 seconds remaining in the second period. He caught a lackadaisical Jackets defenseman by surprise, stripped the puck and sniped the Columbus goaltender Kulbakov over the blocker, tying the game. The third period went scoreless and the Championship was headed to overtime. In overtime, Debrincat took advantage of a crazy bounce, off a Luc Snuggerud shot, that missed the net but hit the end boards, popped up in the air and right back out in front of the net. Debrincat was in the right place at the right time and swatted it out of mid air to clinch the championship. Impressive for this class of rookies, and for brand new Rockford head coach Jeremy Colliton.

A few notes on the weekend:
  • Alex Debrincat, yes I know. He finally showed what everyone had been waiting for these last 14 months, the ability to produce outside of just the OHL. He amassed 5 goals in four games, including the game winner Tuesday night. Granted, 90 percent, or more, of these guys will not be in the NHL this season. This level of competition was certainly higher than the kids he was bum slaying for the last 2 seasons so, promising, yes. He still has a while to go, though. Lets see him produce in an actual NHL training camp before we raise number 12 into the United Center rafters. This is a positive step, for certain. The collective meatballs will drone on for the next week about a bunch of unreal expectations, so just sit back and listen to them waste their time and energy. He is still better off starting in the AHL, and I stand by this. None of that means anything negative, either. Let the damn kid develop. If you listen to his quotes after the game, he specifically mentions, "Rockford could be pretty good this year, but we’ll see what happens". I believe that it has already been conveyed to him that unless he has an insane training camp, which is unlikely, he will start in Rockford, as he should. Let him settle in under the radar and re-evaluate what you have after he gets his feet wet in the professional pool. If this is me being a hater, then so be it. I don't care.
  • Since the meatballs are more than willing to crawl up and nest in Debrincat's crotch, they should be cupping Luc Snuggerud's manhood equally, as well. But he's not the golden child, so there is no Snuggerwagon. He was just as successful this past weekend as Debrincat, he was just doing so from a different position. Does this mean he should be an early season favorite for the Norris Trophy? No. This means that the Blackhawks have yet another defensive prospect in the system that could add depth, and might develop into a nice NHL player. He is going to Rockford, as he should, where they can develop him further and let him log big minutes. Notice a pattern? DON'T RUSH KIDS FOR THE SAKE OF UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS! He could turn out to be a fine player, and I really hope he does.
  • I brought this up the other night, but all this stupid Debrincat-mania is burying the lead on so many other stories, like the young goalies. Matt Tomkins and Collin Delia had great weekends. Tomkins went 2-0 with an .884 save percentage, while Delia went 1-1 with a .907 save percentage. They both showed that, with JF Berube and Jeff Glass, the Blackhawks organization actually addressed a huge need this summer acquiring some depth in net. Some of this might have just been dumb luck, since the Washington Capitals were reportedly eyeing Delia pretty seriously, and Tomkins was the last remaining feasible goaltending prospect that they still held the rights for. Wouter Peeters is still years away, and Ivan Nalimov is banished somewhere in Siberia.
  • Two other stories that developed were that of David Kampf and Calle Dahlstrom. Both players I mentioned as "under the radar" players to watch, just a week ago. Kampf took hold of the center spot next to Debrincat, and never relinquished it. He looks like a good player that could turn into a Kruger type with some more offensive upside, even if only in the AHL. Dahlstrom has had a contentious Blackhawks career thus far, but showed improved foot speed and a knack for creating a little offense on the other end. I'm a big fan of his size, so I hope to see him in an expanded role this coming season for Rockford. I hope the change in Rockford's staff and the addition of Ulf Samuelsson really bring him along, because this team needs size on defense and Brent Seabrook won't be around forever.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Puckin Hostile Shoutcast
Episode 89

In this Puckin Hostile Shoutcast Episode 89 (the Sam Gagner episode) Gatekeeper, is actually able to round up two of the other three clowns for reunion gig. Fatrick, and Norton reconvene to light that Blackhawks fire, once again.

The topics discussed include:
-Gate invades Canada, and lives to talk about it
-NHL 18 and their top rankings
-Blackhawks legend Pierre Pilote passes away
-The Blackhawks rookies play in the Championship game in Traverse City
-A few stories emerge from Traverse City but people are still fixated on Alex Debrincat
-The Hawks training camp roster released and there are a few surprise PTOs
-Will Butcher signs in NJ (much to the dismay of Aaron Goldschmidt)
-Listener/Reader questions.
-As usual, many inappropriate joke and references

You can find the episode on iTunes by following this link: iTunes

You can find the Shoutcast on Google Play Music here:

You can listen to the episode on Stitcher here:

Get the Shoutcast directly though Soundcloud here:

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