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.

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    The Buzzer: Celebrating genius of McDavid, Bergeron, Karlsson

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    Player of the Night: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

    Nico Hischier collected two goals and an assist in a blistering effort as the Devils beat the Senators in overtime. Erik Karlsson almost ruined things for New Jersey with three assists. Andrei Vasilevskiy pitched an impressive 43-save shutout as the Lightning edged the Blue Jackets. Ben Bishop narrowly kept Clayton Keller and Derek Stepan from even bigger nights, yet each player scored two goals and one assist apiece in a slim Stars win vs. the Coyotes.

    Even Bergeron’s teammates made some waves.

    There were great choices for player of the night, but ultimately, Bergeron’s return to the Bruins lineup stands tallest. He scored a goal and three assists, soothing injury-bummed Bruins fans as part of Boston’s victory against Vancouver.

    Bergeron didn’t ease right in. He won half of his draws, fired six shots on goal, and almost logged 21 minutes of ice time. Maybe he can hold things together for Boston?

    Highlight of the Night: Connor McDavid‘s ridiculous assist

    This post goes into greater detail on that and Edmonton’s win, so we’ll just stick this GIF in here because you need to see it either way:

    OK, but to avoid an overly redundant buzzer, check Hischier here, David Pastrnak‘s great goal, and Mikhail Sergachev‘s big night. And, as a bonus, Will Butcher must have nodded to Karlsson after sending this ridiculous outlet pass:

    Outstanding.

    You know what? Enjoy Bishop robbing Derek Stepan as a bonus bonus.

    Misc.

    Click here for Erik Gudbranson‘s hit and fight. Zack Kassian‘s hit on Ryan Hartman is mentioned there, but just in case you missed it, here it is one more time:

    Factoids of the night

    Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators continued their hot streak by blanking the Flyers. Rinne enjoys a milestone moment:

    Two impressive bits regarding how dominant McDavid and Karlsson have been:

    Scores and more

    Bruins 6, Canucks 3 (more)

    Devils 5, Senators 4 [OT] (more)

    Islanders 4, Rangers 3 [SO]

    Predators 1, Flyers 0

    Lightning 2, Blue Jackets 0 (more)

    Oilers 2, Blackhawks 1 [OT] (more)

    Blues 4, Avalanche 3

    Hurricanes 2, Flames 1

    Stars 5, Coyotes 4

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Should Erik Gudbranson get suspended for boarding Frank Vatrano?

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    The Boston Bruins power play made Erik Gudbranson and the Vancouver Canucks pay with three goals during the major for his hit on Frank Vatrano, but the NHL might decide to go further.

    The NHL’s Department of Player Safety confirmed that Gudbranson, 25, will receive a Friday hearing for the boarding check. The league tends to be vague about this, but Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that it’s expected to being an interview over the phone, rather than the in-person variety that can bring about harsher punishments.

    Vatrano returned to the Bruins’ eventual 6-3 win against the Canucks, yet there’s a chance that he might have a setback. (Knowing Boston’s recent luck, don’t count on good news until you see it.)

    Watch the video and Gudbranson’s fight with Tim Schaller in the video above, via Hockey Fights.

    Fans responded to that announcement by pointing out one of Thursday’s other questionable hits: Zack Kassian on Ryan Hartman, which only drew a minor penalty:

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    McDavid dazzles again, Oilers break slump with OT win vs. Blackhawks

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    Update: The Edmonton Oilers ended up needing every bit of Connor McDavid‘s brilliance, as goals weren’t coming easily against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.

    (Even though, as you can see with that highlight-reel assist, McDavid often makes it look easy.)

    McDavid also managed a secondary assist on Mark Letestu‘s overtime-winner, ending the Edmonton Oilers’ losing streak at four games. The Blackhawks continue to be resourceful in getting standings points, in this case falling 2-1 in OT.

    Anton Forsberg made 40 of 42 saves, but it wasn’t enough against a driven group led by number 97.

    Here’s the OT goal.

    If you haven’t seen the more amazing of McDavid’s two helpers, do yourself a favor and check it out. You won’t regret it.

    ***

    Connor McDavid’s speed and skill are glorious, but the thing that makes him extra-sensational is just how unstoppable he seems. Even against some of the NHL’s best.

    To start the season, McDavid made very-solid Calgary Flames defenseman T.J. Brodie look downright permeable during the most impressive goal in his opening-night hat trick.

    If that wasn’t impressive enough, the superstar tore through the Chicago Blackhawks – including certain future Hall of Famer Duncan Keith – and then sent absolutely obscene pass to Patrick Maroon for an easy goal.

    You know how people used to say that a fire hydrant could score 50 goals with Mario Lemieux? We might need to bump that down to 30 for modern hockey, but either way, Maroon might laugh uncomfortably at such jokes.

    If you prefer your jaw-droppers in GIF form, drop away:

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Bergeron bombastic in return, but Bruins lose Krejci to injury

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    The roller coaster isn’t slowing down for the Boston Bruins.

    With Tuukka Rask‘s concussion looming over the proceedings, the Bruins gave fans some reason to celebrate; Patrice Bergeron scored a goal and three assists in an impressive 6-3 output by the B’s top guns against the overmatched Vancouver Canucks.

    Even Anders Bjork enjoyed some measure of redemption after bowling over Rask in practice, as the young player scored two goals and an assist despite being limited to 12:29 TOI.

    Other big guns like Brad Marchand did their increasingly reliable damage, with David Pastrnak probably providing the most exhilarating goal of the contest:

    Yeah, that might get some attention from Canucks coach Travis Green in film sessions, assuming he doesn’t just burn the tape.

    Bergeron broke down his night to Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy after the game:

    The Bruins really made Erik Gudbranson and the Canucks pay for boarding Frank Vatrano, as they scored three power-play goals on the major penalty. Vatrano’s another health situation to watch, although it’s heartening that he returned during the game.

    MORE: Gudbranson faces hearing for hit

    ***

    So … solid stuff overall, as the Bruins provided ample evidence that they might have the weapons to scrap through all this bad luck.

    Then again, if opponents can slow the top-end guys, you wonder what kind of supporting cast the Bruins will have left through this run of attrition. David Krejci is the latest name to land on Boston’s troubling list of walking wounded.

    Here’s hoping that it isn’t a big issue for a veteran center who’s dealt with nagging injuries in recent years.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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