Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp

Are the Blackhawks becoming a (gasp)…trap team?


Interesting note from Adam Jahns of the Sun-Times about Chicago’s’ lengthy film-and-chalkboard session prior to tonight’s game:

The focus was positioning at both ends of the rink.

There are plenty of things to address, whether it’s not having a third player high in the offensive zone, a third caught down low in the defensive zone or how their defensemen react when opponents pinch their blue line.

“We probably let it slide a little when we were scoring many goals and weren’t looking to prevent them at a regular rate,” Quenneville said. “Especially on the road, we want to play tight, and we want to be responsible. An awareness of our positioning is what we’re talking about.”

On Wednesday, it was accompanied by more chalkboard instruction as the Hawks worked in the neutral zone with a variation of the 1-2-2 trap for their game against the San Jose Sharks on Friday.

Chicago ranks 26th in goals-allowed per game (2.96) and, during its current six-game winless streak, has lost games by scores of 5-2 (twice) and 8-4. As such, it’s not a huge surprise they’d dabble in trapping — it is a fairly effective way to curtail opponent’s scoring chances — but still a shock given the ‘Hawks are one of the NHL’s most offensively-gifted teams.

Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews are top-15 scorers in the league while Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane are close to a point-a-game clip and hey, let’s be honest — part of Chicago’s identity is that they’re a fun, free-wheeling team.

But the ‘Hawks know that for all their offense, they’re not going anywhere unless they play better defense.

“We did a little more instructional stuff, working to get out of this,” Sharp said. “You want to make it tough for the other team to skate 200 feet with the puck.”

Report: Islanders cut first-rounder Barzal from camp

Mathew Barzal
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It seems Mathew Barzal has played in his last game in a New York Islanders’ uniform for a little while.

Barzal took part in the Islanders’ preseason finale against the Washington Capitals on Sunday, but after that contest the Islanders decided to return him to WHL Seattle, per Newsday’s Arthur Staple.

He was taken with the 16th overall pick in 2015 NHL Entry Draft. That selection was well-traveled as it originally belonged to the Pittsburgh Penguins, but was involved in the David Perron trade and then moved to the Islanders as part of Edmonton’s deal to get Griffin Reinhart.

Barzal is noteworthy for his skill and speed, but he may have slipped in the draft due to a knee injury he sustained during the 2014-15 campaign.

The Islanders also reassigned Kirill Petrov, Kevin Czuczman, Scott Mayfield, and Adam Pelech to the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Torres offered in-person hearing, potentially setting up long suspension

Torres hit

What will Raffi Torres get this time?

The 33-year-old forward that has become known primarily for his controversial hits has once again put himself in the sights of the NHL’s Department of Players Safety. They confirmed that he was offered an in-person hearing following his hit on Jakub Silfverberg Saturday night. He declined the opportunity to meet with them face-to-face, but the offer itself is an important detail because it gives the league the option to suspend him for more than five games.

It certainly seems like the stage is set for a lengthy suspension. While Torres is not considered a repeat offender as his last suspension came more than 18 months ago, the NHL still retains the right to consider his history when deciding on this matter.

Among other incidents, he was once was banned from 25 games for his hit on Marian Hossa in 2012, although it was later reduced to 21 contests after an appeal. The NHL found that Torres was guilty of breaking three rules for that hit; namely interference, charging, and illegally hitting the head. The NHL is reviewing Torres’ latest incident for the same three violations.

You can see the hit below:

And here it is slowed down:

Torres got a match penalty and Silfverberg left the game. Fortunately, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said that Silfverberg could have returned, but was kept out for precautionary reasons.