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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    Oshie’s hat trick lets Caps just barely squeak by Penguins in OT

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    What a start.

    This series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals might be headlined by Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, but as many have said in the lead-up to tonight’s opener, there is so much more to this second round matchup than that. Washington’s 4-3 overtime victory in Game 1 tonight could be offered up as Exhibit A.

    This game had everything except big offensive showings from Crosby and Ovechkin. They had their moments, but in the end combined for just one assist.

    What we got instead was a hat trick by T.J. Oshie that was completed with a game-winning goal that made it past the line by such a narrow margin that it warranted a video review:

    This game also featured a sequence of three goals in 90 seconds and yet also some great saves by goaltenders Braden Holtby and Matt Murray. At the other end of the spectrum, there was a controversial hit by Tom Wilson that might lead to a suspension.

    There was even some odd stuff. Like how Jay Beagle got a stick stuck in his equipment.

    Twice:

    If this game sets the tone for the rest of the series, then we should be in for a closely contested, highlight filled affair.

    NOTES:

    Nick Bonino had a goal and an assist for the Penguins. Evgeni Malkin and Ben Lovejoy accounted for the Penguins’ other markers.

    — Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky scored the game’s opening goal. It was his first marker of the 2016 playoffs.

    — Washington outshot Pittsburgh 15-9 in the first period, but Pittsburgh ended up with a 45-35 edge.

    — This is the first time in the 2016 playoffs that Braden Holtby has allowed more than two goals. He surrendered just five goals in six games to Philadelphia.

    — Matt Murray suffered his first career postseason loss after winning three straight contests against the New York Rangers.

    Video: Wilson delivers late, knee-on-knee hit to Sheary

    Wilson hit
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    Tom Wilson has already found himself in a controversy for delivering a late, knee-on-knee hit to Penguins forward Conor Sheary in the third period of Game 1 Thursday night.

    You can see that incident below:

    Wilson spent two minutes in the sin bin earlier in the contest for crosschecking Evgeni Malkin, but there was no penalty on this play.

    Fortunately Conor Sheary was able to stay in the game. The question now is if Wilson’s actions will lead to him being suspended prior to Game 2.

    This isn’t Wilson’s first brush with controversy. He delivered a big hit to Brayden Schenn in 2013, but Wilson wasn’t suspended for that incident. Lubomir Visnovsky’s final campaign was cut short due to a check by Wilson that angered the New York Islanders. More recently, Nikita Zadorov was concussed by a crushing blow from the Capitals forward.

    In 231 career regular season games, Wilson has 50 points and 486 penalty minutes.

    Related: Wilson says ‘I’ve never been a dirty hitter’ after teams voice complaints

    Video: Penguins, Caps combine for three goals in 90 seconds

    Oshie goal
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    For the first 30 minutes of Game 1 between Pittsburgh and Washington it looked like goaltenders Matt Murray and Braden Holtby might outshine these star-studded offenses. Then the floodgates opened up, if only for a moment.

    Washington already had a 1-0 lead going into the second frame courtesy of Andre Burakovsky‘s first marker of the 2016 playoffs, but Ben Lovejoy and Evgeni Malkin scored back-to-back goals within the span of 57 seconds midway through the second period to tilt the scale in Pittsburgh’s favor. That lead didn’t last for long though as Capitals forward T.J. Oshie got a breakaway opportunity and took full advantage of it.

    In total, there were three goals scored in the span of just 90 seconds and you can see all of them below:

    After that sequence, the 2-2 tie held for the remainder of the frame. However, Oshie was able to reassert Washington’s edge just 3:23 minutes into the third period.

    Video: Beagle gets stick stuck in visor

    Beagle
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    Through 40 minutes of action in Game 1 of the second round series between Pittsburgh and Washington and we’ve already seen some big moments, along with a pretty unusual one.

    Beagle ended up with a stick lodged into his visor towards the end of the second frame. He tried to get it out himself, but ended up having to go to the bench for assistance. You can see that below: