Blackhawks goaltending a hot topic during Blackhawks fan convention

stanbowman1.jpgWhile the Chicago Blackhawks held their fan convention this weekend, much of the festivities were a bit overshadowed wondering about what the team will do with goaltender Antti Niemi. This is unknown territory really for any NHL team to have such great success one year winning the Stanley Cup to scrapping a lot of the roster in the off-season and now temporarily landing in limbo regarding the goalie that helped win the Cup. While general manager Stan Bowman has a lot to mull over before making a decision on Niemi by Monday, he did take time out to speak with the fans at the convention and, of course, the team’s goaltending was the topic of conversation as Tracey Myers of CSN Chicago tells us.

“There are always options in every decision and you have to weigh what it’ll take, what it would do to your team flexibility-wise if you decide to keep him, or do you have to make a decision in another direction,” Bowman told the panel audience. “There are pluses and minuses to all strategies. We’ll come up with the right decision. I tried to say this all along: one man doesn’t make a team here. We’re going to be ready come October to defend the Cup and we’re going to work on making sure we get it right.”

When asked about Corey Crawford, who has spent several years in the Blackhawks’ minor-league system, Bowman said, “I think the time is now for him to get an opportunity to show what he can do.

“You don’t want to rush a goaltender to the NHL. But he’s spent a number of years playing in our system. He’s carried the load (in the minors) year after year, and we think it’s time for him.”

I don’t want to go and read into what are obviously pretty crafted and careful answers regarding what is going to be a huge decision. Also keep in mind that Stan Bowman isn’t likely going to talk about guys that are outside of the organization either. This reads like a guy who is prepared for just about any sort of scenario and is, indeed, ready for anything.

What is Chicago’s plan remains to be seen and the options are many. Chicago can accept the contract and then start shuffling players around or out of town to help fill out a complete roster, they can walk away from the award and make Niemi an instant unrestricted free agent or they can trade Niemi himself after signing him to his contract.

If you’re looking for a hint or a guiding light as to what Chicago will do, good luck finding it right now. Things appear to be especially tight-lipped at the moment which lends itself to speculation that plans to let Niemi go free and sign Marty Turco for a smaller contract get to linger on a little longer. About the only thing that seems to be certain is that Cristobal Huet doesn’t factor into Chicago’s plans at all because of his massive salary. At least he’ll have a Stanley Cup ring and the treat of bringing the Cup to the Eiffel Tower in Paris to celebrate winning it. That and lots and lots of money.

Scroll Down For:

    Sullivan calls it a ‘blindside hit to the head,’ but Marleau doesn’t think suspension’s coming

    Leave a comment

    PITTSBURGH — It didn’t take long for the first controversial incident of the Stanley Cup Final.

    Patrick Marleau‘s illegal check to the head on Bryan Rust — one that earned Marleau a minor penalty, and forced Rust to exit the game — left Rust day-to-day with an upper-body injury, per Pens head coach Mike Sullivan.

    When asked what he thought of the hit, Sullivan was blunt.

    “It’s a blindside hit to the head,” he said. “[Marleau] gets a penalty and I’m sure the league will look at it.”

    Marleau wasn’t saying much about the incident following the game, but did suggest he wasn’t expecting supplemental discipline:

    “I just tried to keep everything down,” Marleau added. “I didn’t want to get too high on him.”

    It’ll be interesting to see what transpires. There hasn’t been a suspension in the Stanley Cup Final since Vancouver’s Aaron Rome was given a four-game ban for his massive hit on Boston forward Nathan Horton.

    Marleau has no history with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.

    It should be mentioned the DoPS has been fairly active this spring, handing down five suspensions, including a pair of three-gamers to Brooks Orpik and Brayden Schenn.

    Bonino scores late, role guys star again as Pens take Game 1

    4 Comments

    PITTSBURGH — If this playoff run has proven anything, it’s that the Penguins are more than Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

    Tonight only reaffirmed it.

    Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary and Nick Bonino did all the scoring on Monday, with Bonino’s late marker the winner as Pittsburgh defeated San Jose 3-2 in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

    Bonino’s goal, his fourth of the playoffs, came with just over two minutes remaining, capping off a quality opener in which both teams carried play for long stretches.

    Rust and Sheary punctuated a dominant opening period for the Penguins — they out-shot the Sharks 15-4 — but the Sharks replied with a stellar second frame, equalizing on goals from Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau.

    That set the stage for a dramatic third, and the Bonino goal.

    That he, Rust and Sheary did the scoring for Pittsburgh was fitting. There’d been plenty of talk heading into this series about role players coming up large, to the point where the American Hockey League sent out a press release noting that 23 of 25 Penguins that’ve played in the playoffs thus far came through Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, highlighting this spring’s “big four” of Rust, Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl and Matt Murray.

    Rust etched himself into Pittsburgh lore in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, scoring both goals in a 2-1 win over the Lightning.

    Murray’s exploits are pretty well-known. The 22-year-old was remarkably solid after regaining the starter’s net from Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 6 of the ECF, stopping 44 of 47 shots over the final two games of the series.

    He was good again on Monday, with 24 saves on 26 shots.

    Sheary, the diminutive speedster, scored his third goal of the playoffs tonight. Kuhnhackl tied a team high with eight hits.

    As such, Pittsburgh has to be thrilled about how tonight went. They held up home ice and got contributions from across the board — the only downer has to be the health of Rust, who twice exited the contest after taking a hit to the head from Marleau.

    As for the Sharks… well, this one will sting a bit. The club did remarkably well to rally from a two-goal deficit and carried play in the second period, but can’t be pleased.

    They were beaten in the possession game and out-shot badly (41-26), things head coach Peter DeBoer wanted to control against Pittsburgh, a team he considers the fastest in the league.

    That said, there are positives moving forward. Martin Jones was outstanding in his Stanley Cup Final debut, with 38 saves on 41 shots, and there’s still a chance to get the split on Wednesday night.

    Of course, to do that, the Sharks will have to figure out how to slow down Pittsburgh’s role players.

    Video: Patrick Marleau gets minor penalty for hit on Bryan Rust

    7 Comments

    Patrick Marleau made a big impact with the 2-2 goal in Game 1, yet a hit he delivered on Bryan Rust might draw more attention.

    With the score tied 2-2, Marleau was whistled for a minor penalty for “illegal check to the head” on Rust. The Pittsburgh Penguins power play was not able to score on the San Jose Sharks during that two-minute power play.

    Rust left the bench for a short period of time, yet he returned to action.

    Some believe that Marleau deserves a look from the Department of Player Safety for the check. Others wonder if it should have been a penalty at all.

    Watch the video above and check out the GIFs below to decide for yourself:

    Sharks flip the script, tie Penguins heading into third period

    PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Tomas Hertl #48 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates with teammates after scoring a second period goal against Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins (not pictured) in Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    Getty
    5 Comments

    The Pittsburgh Penguins dominated the San Jose Sharks in the first period of Game 1, no doubt about it.

    Even so, the Sharks entered the middle frame down 2-0, and responded rather than shriveling up. They basically switched roles with the Penguins in the second period, ultimately tying things up 2-2.

    The first goal was one Matt Murray would probably like back (even more than a goalie would want any goal back, mind you), as Tomas Hertl beat him five-hole for a power-play goal.

    Witness the Sharks’ first-ever goal in a Stanley Cup Final:

    Fittingly, a grizzled veteran and longtime face of the Sharks’ franchise tied it up, as Patrick Marleau made it 2-2 with a clever wraparound:

    Which team will win the third period? Could we see overtime? Find out on NBC.