Cup finals questions: How are the ‘Hawks different from 2010?


Three years ago, the Chicago Blackhawks snapped a 49-year drought by defeating the Philadelphia Flyers to win the Stanley Cup.

Many thought that championship would kickstart a potential dynasty, led by head coach Joel Quenneville and a core group featuring Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook and Dave Bolland.

Fast forward to 2013, and not all’s gone according to plan.

Those coach and core guys are still in place, but the role players have been dramatically turned over.

As a result, the trip back to a Stanley Cup final took longer than expected (with a pair of first-round exits in between).

For brevity’s sake, let’s list the significant departures from the ’10 Cup-winning team:

Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg, Dustin Byfuglien, Antti Niemi, Troy Brouwer, Tomas Kopecky, Brian Campbell, Adam Burish, Ben Eager, John Madden.

The biggest challenge Chicago faced over the last three years was finding comparable depth players. Comparable, because finding equal ones would’ve been nearly impossible — Ladd, for example, was a third-liner during the Cup run.

This year, he was Winnipeg’s captain and leading scorer.

GM Stan Bownman deserves high praise for not just finding replacements, but grooming them from within.

Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw, Bryan Bickell and Marcus Kruger are all Blackhawks draftees than have climbed through the ranks and are now paying dividends. Bickell in particular — a bit player during the ’10 run, he’s turned into a force this postseason, reprising the big-body Byfuglien role to tie for the team lead in goals, with eight.

The other significant change from the ’10 team is in goal, where Corey Crawford inherited Antti Niemi’s job and, after some shaky moments, has solidified his grasp on it.

Crawford’s postseason numbers — 1.74 GAA, .935 save percentage — are significantly better than the ones Niemi posted three years ago (.910 save percentage, 2.63 GAA). The Finnish goalie struggled at times and was largely seen as Chicago’s weak spot, whereas Crawford has been arguably the team’s most important player.

(On that note: Online sportsbook Bovada currently has Crawford as the favorite to win this year’s Conn Smythe trophy for playoffs MVP.)

The interesting thing about Chicago is despite all this turnover, the club’s identity has remained largely the same. Three years ago, Quenneville implemented a creative, attack-oriented, puck-possession offense — and today, it looks largely the same.

Forwards still have the liberty to criss-cross, weave and make plays; defensemen still have what seems like a constant green light to jump up and join the rush.

Toews is still Captain Serious, Kane is still a magician with the puck on his stick, and Keith can still skate like the wind.

In the end, that’s why the Blackhawks seem so similar — despite being so different.

For more 2013 Cup finals questions, click here.


Alumni rosters announced for Bruins-Habs at Gillette Stadium

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The Winter Classic Alumni Game is back this year, scheduled for New Year’s Eve at Gillette Stadium between former members of the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins.

Today, the NHL announced the rosters and coaching staffs.

Famous ex-Habs that will take to the outdoor ice include Larry Robinson, Guy Carbonneau, and Mats Naslund. Behind the bench will be Yvan Cournoyer, Jacques Demers and Guy Lafleur, among others.

The home side will counter with Bruins legends Ray Bourque, Cam Neely, and “Nifty” Rick Middleton, while Don Cherry, Mike Milbury, and Derek Sanderson will be among the coaches. (Quite a trio of personalities right there.)

Here are the full rosters:


NBCSN will broadcast the alumni game nationally in the United States, while Sportsnet and TVA Sports will have it in Canada.

The 2016 Winter Classic will be played the next day (on NBC).

Goalie nods: Andersen’s ‘flu-like symptoms’ mean Khudobin starts versus Flames

Anton Khudobin, Frederik Andersen
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With Frederik Andersen experiencing “flu-like symptoms” (PHT diagnosis: it might be the flu), the Anaheim Ducks will turn to backup Anton Khudobin for tonight’s home game versus Calgary.

Khudobin could, in turn, be backed up by Josh Gibson, recalled today from AHL San Diego. The Ducks have officially listed Andersen as “questionable.”

Khudobin (3-3-0, .917) has not started a game in over a week. His last action came exactly a week ago, after Andersen got the hook versus Nashville.

Andersen may or may not travel with the Ducks for tomorrow’s game at Arizona.

The Ducks, of course, are coming off a 5-0 loss to Tampa Bay, a result that produced the following quote from Ryan Kesler:

After a four-game winning streak to start November, Anaheim has since dropped five of its last seven.

Karri Ramo will be in net for the Flames. After a terrible start to the season, he’s been much better lately, allowing just eight goals combined in his last four starts.


Craig Anderson for the Senators. Antti Niemi for the Stars.

Torts: Jackets still need more ‘bite’

John Tortorella

The hope was that the Columbus Blue Jackets would be jolted into a great, long winning streak, and their season would be saved.

The reality of John Tortorella’s first month behind the bench has been, well, reality. The Jackets are 8-7-0 since Todd Richards was fired. Better than 0-7-0, sure, but at 8-14-0 overall, they remain last in the Eastern Conference.

Fifteen games into his tenure, Tortorella is still trying to get his message across.

“A big reason why we bring them in (to practice yesterday and today) is because we don’t have a full understanding of the standard we need to be at in all areas of the game,” he told The Columbus Dispatch. “Some things you can’t control in our game, but it’s how hard you play, how hard you are with your bite as a team, and the pace you play with – you can control that.”

The Jackets play Wednesday in New Jersey, where they’ll look to shake off Sunday’s disappointing home loss to San Jose. Columbus held a 3-1 third-period lead in that one. The Sharks scored four straight to win 5-3.


— The Canucks need ‘more bite’

The Rangers are better when they have ‘more bite’

Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer


The San Jose Sharks have signed forward Dainius Zubrus to a one-year, two way contract, the club announced today.

Zubrus was given a tryout with the Sharks last week.

The 37-year-old played 74 games with the Devils last season, scoring just four goals with six assists. His contract was then bought out.

According to a Mercury News source, the decision to sign Zubrus lay “mainly” with his former coach in New Jersey, now San Jose’s bench boss, Pete DeBoer.

“He looks good,” DeBoer said of Zubrus last week, per CSN Bay Area. “He looks close. It’s tough to find six-foot-four, 215-pound guys who can play. … He’s an easy guy to play because he’s defensively reliable. He plays a big possession, heavy game. There’s a lot to like there.”

In a related move, the Sharks have reassigned forward Nikolay Goldobin to the AHL.

Related: Where’s the depth in San Jose?