The Chicago Blackhawks participated in their first four exhibition matchups the week of Sept. 16. They competed well, winning two games and losing two games. A couple of tilts even went to overtime, providing more practice for the players and more entertainment for the fans. But the preseason is mostly about evaluating talent and piecing together the final 23-man regular-season roster. We kept you apprised on last week’s action with some notable news and notes. Now it’s time to get up to speed on the final week of the preseason before we head to opening day on Oct. 4 against the Philadelphia Flyers in Prague.
Blackhawks’ Final 3 Preseason Tilts
While the first four exhibition games were pretty standard fare, the final three were anything but. They each had their own special twist.
Blackhawks vs. Capitals
The Blackhawks hosted the Washington Capitals last Wednesday night for their final home game at the United Center before the regular season begins. The lineup consisted of all the players who were expected to make the team, as well as a few bubble players. The Capitals brought their A-team as well. A nice recipe for a sneak-peek at a competitive NHL game, right? Well, not so much.
The Blackhawks came out flat and stayed that way. They didn’t clear traffic from in front of goaltender Corey Crawford, making it difficult for him to see and stop the puck. Offensively, they couldn’t find the back of the net. Not that they were trying very hard; they only recorded a measly two shots on goal in the third period. The result was a 6-0 shutout loss. Obviously, the Hawks were already mentally on the plane to Europe (which left the next day) for their final preseason matchup against Eisbaren Berlin.
IceHogs @ Bruins
For those of you that watched the next game on Saturday, you were treated to an 8-2 drubbing of a true AHL team versus a seasoned NHL team. While the real Blackhawks’ were in Europe, the future Rockford IceHogs matched up against the Boston Bruins starters, who were more than happy to put on a show for their home crowd. The poor IceHogs were caught off guard by the speed and talent of NHL competition.
Although, the IceHogs’ squad did manage two goals, which was nice to see. Philipp Kurashev got one past Bruins’ Tuukka Rask, and Tim Soderlund scored a short-handed goal on a breakaway. Matthew Highmore dropped the gloves with NHL menace Brad Marchand, and veteran Kris Versteeg had a team-high five shots on goal.
Here’s hoping all the boys got treated to a nice steak dinner after the game because they certainly deserved it. They worked their butts off but were simply outmatched by a higher-level team. On Sunday morning, all 18 players that were called up for the matchup were sent back down to the IceHogs.
Blackhawks @ Eisbaren Berlin
This was the main event of the week, the one we’d all been waiting for. Thank goodness the Blackhawks didn’t disappoint. Can you imagine if they laid another egg after all the hoopla!? But the team came away with a 3-1 victory, controlling puck possession most of the game. Said head coach Jeremy Colliton,
I thought it was exactly what we were looking for as far as a test. Give a lot of credit to Berlin. They played extremely hard and pushed us and I thought overall we played pretty well. Finishing, of course, would’ve made it easier on us to finish a few of our chances. But in a way it almost worked out for the best because it forced us to grind to get the result.(from ‘Blackhawks get a confidence boost with a 3-1 victory over Eisbaren Berlin in their preseason finale’, Chicago Tribune – 9/29/19)
Jonathan Toews, Alex Nylander, and David Kampf (empty netter) all scored for the Blackhawks. Patrick Kane recorded two assists. The team was allowed to dress two extra players for the matchup, so forward Anton Wedin and defenseman Dennis Gilbert gained some valuable playing time. Brendan Perlini participated in only his third preseason game. He hadn’t played since the first two tilts on Sept. 16 and 17. Crawford was in net for the first half of the game and allowed zero goals. Robin Lehner played the second half as planned, and only allowed one goal (with no help from the defense). All in all, it was an excellent way to finish up the preseason on a high note.
Decisions About Dach
As we all know by now, Kirby Dach was the Blackhawks’ third overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Hopes were high the 18-year-old center might be skilled enough to push for a spot on the team this season. Unfortunately, Dach was injured during the very last game of the Traverse City prospects’ tournament on Sept. 10. He’s been sidelined under concussion protocol ever since, and has missed most of training camp and all the preseason games.
Despite not being cleared to play, the Blackhawks took top prospect Dach with them to Europe. In a recent interview with Scott Powers of The Athletic, general manager Stan Bowman stressed they would be patient with their newly acquired asset.
We don’t have enough information. He could go back (to the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL), but that decision hasn’t been made because it’s an incomplete right now. How can we say that he can’t play? We may get to that point where it’s better for him to be there. We’re going to do what’s best for him. If he’s going to help our team win this year, whether its in three weeks or a month, then he can be here.(from, ‘Stan Bowman: Blackhawks will be patient in deciding where Kirby Dach plays this season’, The AthleticCHI – 9/21/19)
Although he didn’t play on Sunday and isn’t expected to play in Prague this Friday, the Blackhawks wanted him along to get involved in practices and to bond with the team. It’s good to see the organization committing to Dach’s progress and development despite his untimely injury.
This could be a blessing in disguise for the young man. Instead of his audition being during the preseason when all the prospects are being evaluated, Dach will be playing in real NHL games after the rest of the decisions have already been made. He will have the advantage of being singled out, and have better talent to work with in order to complement his game. But remember, having Dach in the lineup means someone else will not be. More on this below.
Final Blackhawks’ Cuts
There were some roster cuts last Wednesday night after the Blackhawks’ loss to the Capitals. The team sent defenseman Adam Boqvist and forward Aleksi Saarela to the IceHogs. They followed that up by putting forward John Quenneville on waivers Thursday. He passed, and reports to the IceHogs as well. 27 players went to Europe, leaving four players still to be eliminated.
On Monday, the Blackhawks placed defenseman Carl Dahlstrom on waivers, with the intention of him reporting to Rockford. It was assumed most of the preseason Dahlstrom and Slater Koekkoek were fighting for the seventh defensive spot. It looks like Koekkoek got the job. This move also indicates the injured Calvin de Haan should be healthy to start the season.
Later in the day, the Blackhawks sent forward Wedin and defenseman Gilbert to Rockford. Neither player required waivers. Wedin was one of the standouts in camp and given a long look. Like Nylander and Dominik Kubalik, he dressed for five of the Blackhawks’ six exhibition tilts (not counting the Bruins game where the IceHogs filled in). Unfortunately for Wedin, it appears he’s the odd man out to keep Dach on the roster. Look for him to be the first call-up if/when the Hawks don’t feel Dach is ready.
Surprisingly, Gilbert was one of the last defensemen to be assigned to Rockford. Most thought he was a longshot at best to make the team, yet he survived longer than top prospect Boqvist and then Dahlstrom. With his highly physical play, defender adds a slightly different dynamic than any other defenseman on the team. Two-time Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith had good things to say about Gilbert after Sunday’s contest in Berlin.
It’s expected goaltender Collin Delia will be the final cut. After all, the Blackhawks have both Crawford and Lehner as their one-two punch. Beyond them, Delia was always third on the depth chart.
Official Blackhawks’ 23-man Roster
So without further ado, here’s the Blackhawks’ official 23-man roster to start the 2019-20 season.
- Drake Caggiula
- Ryan Carpenter
- Kirby Dach
- Alex DeBrincat
- David Kampf
- Patrick Kane
- Dominik Kubalik
- Alex Nylander
- Brendan Perlini
- Brandon Saad
- Andrew Shaw
- Zack Smith
- Dylan Strome
- Jonathan Toews
- Calvin de Haan
- Erik Gustafsson
- Duncan Keith
- Slater Koekkoek
- Olli Maatta
- Connor Murphy
- Brent Seabrook
- Corey Crawford
- Robin Lehner
The preseason is officially over, and the preliminary decisions are made. Now it’s time for the above group of Blackhawks to buckle down and get to work. Oh, and guess what? It’s October! Let the regular season begin!