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Chicago Blackhawks: 5 Takeaways From The Preseason Games

By Gail Kauchak

Sep 25, 2015; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Chicago Blackhawks forward Kyle Baun (39) reacts with teammates after scoring a goal against Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price (31) during the first period at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Greetings, Chicago Blackhawks fans!  Hockey is here!  This year is the first time ever that all the Chicago Blackhawks preseason games will be televised.  The organization certainly has come a long way since they didn’t even televise their regular season games!  After playing four preseason games in five days, it is strange to be on this four day hiatus before the Hawks hit the ice again on Thursday.   I know it doesn’€™t really count, but the €˜Hawks have won three of their last four contests.   I’€™m sure that provides a nice confidence boost for the team.   So although we are only two-thirds of the way through the preseason, here are 5 takeaways from these latest games.

5.  Let’s hear it for Seabs!  Life is good right now for defenseman Brent Seabrook.  At the beginning of training camp, he was officially named the new alternate captain (replacing Patrick Sharp), alongside fellow defensive partner Duncan Keith.  Coach Q called this decision a “no brainer”, and I’m sure most Blackhawks fans would agree.  With or without the “A” on his sweater, Seabs has been a leader in the locker room and on the ice for quite some time.

Not only was Seabrook named to his captaincy, but on Saturday night it was announced that he and the Chicago Blackhawks had agreed to an eight-year contract extension worth $55 million.  He has one year left on his current contract, and he expressed that it was a relief to get this new contract taken care of early, and also before the season started.  It’€™s obvious that the Blackhawks organization is making a big commitment to its core players.

“€œThe hardest thing is to find talented players that are committed to winning.  When you find them, you do what it takes to keep them.”€ Stan Bowman said.  “He (Seabrook) seems to raise his game in the most important games.  He scores huge goals for us.”

4.  Who’s this Kyle Baun kid? One of the biggest “no names” that seems to be trying to make a name for himself this preseason is Kyle Baun.  This undrafted free agent signed an entry level two-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks on March 26, 2015.  He was just finishing his junior year at Colgate University, where he ranked second on the team in points (29 points, 14 G, 15 A) in 38 games.

Baun actually played in three games for the Chicago Blackhawks at the end of last season, but his contributions really started to show during this preseason.  In the very first game against Detroit, Baun was paired with Andrew Desjardins and Ryan Garbutt.  And wouldn’t you know it, he scored the very first goal!  He was in traffic at the net, and actually knocked the puck out of mid-air and into the cage.

Baun didn’t play in Game 2, but it was in Game 3 where he really stood out.  Again he was paired with Desjardins, and it appears the two have developed some chemistry.  Their third line-mate was Garret Ross, and together these three combined for 3 goals and 4 assists in a 5-1 victory over Carey Price and and the Montreal Canadiens.

Baun looked strong and aggressive, and came out of the night with 2 goals and an assist.  There are still a few forward spots that are not locks on the team.  Could Baun play his way into one of these spots? The kid is certainly making a case for himself.

3.  What’s up with Bicks? Bryan Bickell didn’t play in Games 1 and 3.  In Game 2, he played on what was essentially the first line for the scrubs, as not many of the ‘Hawks top players traveled to Detroit.  Bicks played alongside Andrew Shaw and Viktor Tikhonov.  In 13:50 minutes of ice time, he finished with a -1 and only 2 shots on goal.  He did provide a screen for the only Blackhawk goal of the night (Andrew Shaw scored on the power play).  But other than that, Bickell had a pretty quiet outing.

Did anyone else notice that Bickell got relegated to the third line in Game 4?  Shaw got the lottery spot on the first line, and it was Ryan Garbutt that played alongside Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane on the second line.  Bickell was on the third line with Vincent Hinostroza and Kyle Baun.  These are two young and eager guys that would love to have a shot at Bickell’s spot.  And don’t forget about Garbutt, who has had a very good showing this preseason so far.  And there’s also Viktor Tiknonov, who has been solid and consistent.

Now I’m not going to go as far as to say that Bickell doesn’t make the team.  But the paragraph above has a lot of names in it.  All these guys are hungry for a spot, and are out to prove they can do the same things, if not more than Bryan Bickell.  Bicks has admitted that he is still having problems with vertigo, so perhaps that is part of his problem.  But he better watch out, or he could see some healthy scratches in his future.

2.  How is the defense going to play out? Based upon these first four preseason games, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Trevor Daley (formerly from the Dallas Stars) make up your top four defensemen.  Trevor van Reimsdyk seems to be a lock on the third pairing, but who will he play with?  Coach Q usually likes to have 7 defensemen on the active roster, many times with the sixth and seventh men rotating in for each other. 

Interestingly, the two veteran defensemen on a professional tryout have been released from camp.  Being veterans, I really thought one of them had a shot (Coach Q likes his veterans).  Michal Rozsival is probably going to take one of these slots, but he also may not be healthy enough to start the season.

David Rundblad is probably going to take a slot, but I can’t say he’s given us much to be confident about in the preseason so far.  In Game 1, Rundy was on the ice for three of the four Detroit goals.  His defensive abilities still leave a lot to be desired.  Either way, there’s still three defensemen left standing with a shot at a spot.  These are Erik Gustafsson, Viktor Svedberg, and Kyle Cumiskey.  Stay tuned to see what happens!

1.  3-on-3 overtime is sure going to be fun. Well, we got our first live look at 3-on-3 overtime in Game 1 and Game 4.  What will be the make-up of the three players?  For right now, the lineup appears to be two forwards and a defenseman. 

The first three players on the ice for 3-on-3 were Jonathan Toews, Teuvo Teravainen, and Brent Seabrook.  The next shift featured Artem Anisimov, Patrick Kane, and Trevor Daley.  It was Daley that ended up getting the feed from Patrick Kane for the score.  In Game 4, there was a very short overtime in which Troy Brouwer of the Blues scored.  He was playing against Toews, Kane, and Duncan Keith at the time.

Coach Q and company are still playing around with what works best, and the players are working on adjusting their style of play.

One thing that is for certain is that with so much time and space, the pace will be very fast and there will be lots of breakaways.  Finding a balance between attacking the net and still being able to defend is going to be key.  It will be very entertaining to see how this all unwinds as the season progresses.

The Chicago Blackhawks play the St. Louis Blues this Thursday night, and the Dallas Stars on Saturday night to complete their preseason.  Look for Marcus Kruger to play in these two games as he has finally gotten his Visa and made it over from Sweden.  The roster is currently at 31 players, but needs to be at 23 players by opening night on Wednesday, October 7th.

Who will stay; who will go?  How will the combinations all come together?  We’ll all just have to watch and find out together.

Let’s Go Hawks!!!

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