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Kane and Toews: Together for the long haul in The Windy City

By Mike Harrington

Kane and Toews. Toews and Kane.

They've become as synonomous with Chicago hockey just like icons such as Wrigley Field and deep dish pizza are to The Windy City itself. There was no way the Blackhawks wanted to move forward without captain Jonathan Toews and South Buffalo sniper Patrick Kane, and their eight-year, $84 million extensions that were formally discussed Wednesday keep them together in the prime of their careers.

As Mark Lazerus reports in the Sun-Times, Kane and Toews stayed flexible with their deals so the Blackhawks could keep a team around them -- and not be forced to pick one of their stars and discard the other. If either or both had demanded an annual max deal of $13.8 million, the Hawks certainly would have had tough choices to make.

The final year of the players' current deals this year will have $6.3 million cap hits, which will jump to $10.5 million apiece when the extensions kick in for 2015-16. The deals pay each player $13.8 million for the first three years, $12 million in 2018-19, followed by salaries of $9.8 million, $7 million, $6.9 million and $6.9 million.

As Chris Kuc reports in the Chicago Tribune, Kane put to rest all that social media chatter about coming home to Buffalo when he said, "It was not even really a thought to think about continuing your career anywhere else. We’re both happy that we’re locked up here for a while."

The video file at the top of this post with highlights from Wednesday's press conference in the United Center is from CSN Chicago. If you want to see the full press conference (running about 37 minutes) from the Blackhawks'  web site, click the video file below:

Continue reading "Kane and Toews: Together for the long haul in The Windy City" »

Kane's sick game-winner: 'Showtime, Showtime'

By Mike Harrington

The Chicago Blackhawks won their series opener, 5-2, over the Minnesota Wild late Friday night  (thanks for that 9:45 ET start, NBC). And they did it after blowing a 2-0 lead through 40 minutes because Patrick Kane broke the tie with a ridiculous backhand winner.

"You're kidding me. He didn't just do this?" said NBC's Brian Engblom. 

Yes, he did. He even used a signature celebration that starts at 37 seconds in the video below: "Showtime, Showtime"

Here's what Kane said afterward about the goal (Chicago Sun-Times video):

And for good measure, Kane made it 4-2 with an easy tap-in after an absurdly good pass from Ben Smith.

Hawks specialize in closing, Blues dealing in spooky coincidence

By Mike Harrington

CHICAGO -- The Blackhawks have everything in their favor going into Game Six today against the St. Louis Blues in the United Center (TV reminder: 3 p.m. Eastern on NBC and CBC).  Chicago has won three straight in the series, the last two in OT, and has a history of coming through in the clutch late in a playoff series, which I documented in my column for today's editions.

The print version of the column included the following chart, which pretty starkly shows how good the numbers are.

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BLACKHAWKS AT CRUNCH TIME

Analyzing the Chicago Blackhawks' playoff record the last five seasons:

Series record: 8-2
W-L record: 40-23
Games One-Three: 16-17
Games Four-Seven: 24-6
Overtime: 13-9
OT Games One-Three: 4-7
OT Games Four-Seven: 9-2

---------

Meanwhile, the Blues are dealing with some incredibly bizarre history comparing  this series  to last year's loss to the LA Kings, a six-gamer that saw St. Louis also win the first two at home and then collapse. Look at what's happened in BOTH years. Wow

Game One: Alex Steen scored overtime winners.
Game  Two: Barrett Jackman scored the game-winning goal, this year’s coming in overtime.
Game  Three:  The Blues outshot the Kings and Blackhawks by nine but lost by shutout.
Game  Four:  The Blues blow a late 3-2 lead and lose, 4-3, to even the series.
Game Five (both years, remember!): Alex Pietrangelo scores the game-tying goal, his first of the playoffs, and gets assisted by Jaden Schwartz. But the Blues lose in OT, 3-2.

Last year in Game  Six, the Blues lost to the Kings, 2-1, and were eliminated. If they lose here today, 2-1 .... that would just be theater of the absurd.

Blues waiting on Backes, Hawks looking for more offense

By Mike Harrington

ST. LOUIS -- The daily David Backes question is hanging over the pivotal Game Five between the Blues and Blackhawks tonight in Scottrade Center, as the teams are tied at two wins apiece.

Will the St. Louis captain play after taking the suspension-causing hit from Hawks defenseman Brent Seabrook in Game Two? It appears the answer is no, as Backes did not take the morning skate today.

But this is the cloak-and-dagger show known as the playoffs and Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is keeping people guessing.

"Like I said in Chicago, there's lots of rinks here in St. Louis too so you never know," Hitchcock said wryly. "He might just jump on the ice and be there skating in the warmup. Then you can all press 'send' on your tweets and away you go."

Former Sabre Derek Roy skated this morning in the middle of a top line, between Jaden Schwartz and T.J. Oshie, but stayed on the ice with scratches and continued to skate -- which is quite odd. Roy was still on the ice when the media left the Blues locker room to speak to Hitchcock, so Roy could be the stop-gap if Backes can't go.

As for the Hawks, they continue to look for offense from Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa -- who both are goal-less through four games after finishing 1-2 on the team in the regular season with 34 and 30, respectively.

"I'll take all the chances I can get," Sharp said. "It means I'm creating something and doing something good out there. Sooner or later they're going to start going in." 

"I'm happy to play my 200-foot game," added Hossa, who has still done some good defensive work in the series. "I want to keep contributing there and my chances will come."

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville put Patrick Kane (team-high three goals) back with Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell this morning. Kane was not in the Hawks' crowded room when the media was inside. Hossa had been in that spot in Game Four.

Both coaches marveled at the intensity of the series and how big Game Five will be. The Blackhawks are 0-4 here this year and all four have been excruciating defeats.

"This is the advantage game, not the elimination game," Hitchcock said. "But we want the advantage."

Said Quenneville: "There's been some serious twists and turns inside of games here."

Miller's move to St. Louis changes dynamics for Blackhawks

By Mike Harrington

Topic No. 1 around the Blackhawks early this afternoon was Patrick Kane and the trip back to Buffalo. But an interesting sidebar topic was the trade of Ryan Miller to St. Louis and what that means for the Hawks going forward.

Chicago enters tonight's game four points behind St. Louis in the Central Division and the Blues have a game in hand. The Blackhawks have an NHL-high 14 overtime losses, going 5-8 in the shootout and 0-6 in overtime-deciding goals, so they've blown a lot of points that way.

And now St. Louis adds Miller, who is 4-0 with a 1.50 GAA and .933 save percentage with the Blues. And he's only faced 90 shots in the four games -- or less than 23 a game.

"He's certainly a top goalie in the game. He's always tough to beat, seems to play well against us," said Hawks coach Joel Quenneville. "St. Louis helped themselves in the net and he's played well since he's been there. It's something that makes our division even tougher and stronger and that race to be in first place is going to be challenging for us. Our ambition is to be try to be first but when you've got a goalie like him, it's going to make you  a better team."

"He's been a big part of their team for a long time," Patrick Kane of Miller and the Sabres. "I watched him when I was growing up and they had their long runs deep into the playoffs. He's a great goaltender and a great person for this city and organization. I got to know him at the Olympics and it's going to be tougher facing him in our division and in our conference."

The Blues can take over first place overall in the NHL with a win tonight over Minnesota but Miller won't face old mates Jason Pominville, Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick. He's getting the night off and Brian Elliott is starting in his place.

Hawks hope trip home can help Kane snap post-Olympic rut

KaneII
Patrick Kane works out this morning in First Niagara Center. (Charles Lewis/Buffalo News)



By Mike Harrington

Fans are asked to leave First Niagara Center when the Sabres' morning skate is completed, the norm in most NHL buildings. But with Patrick Kane in the fourth homecoming game of his career, a few hundred specators were allowed to stay to watch the pride of South Buffalo and the Chicago Blackhawks work out in advance of tonight's game.

"I've never seen that many people in a morning skate and I'm sure Kaner had a lot to do with that," said Hawks coach Joel Quenneville.

"It's probably one of the first things I look for when the schedule comes out: When we're playing Buffalo and where the game is at," said Kane -- who has not been here with the Hawks since Oct. 11, 2010.

Chicago will now come once a year under the NHL's new scheduling format and that suits Kane quite nicely.

"It's something that will happen every year from here on out  ... and it's so exciting being back home, to see some family and friends last night and to play in front of them tonight," Kane said.

KaneIKane has 27 goals and 65 points in 63 games this year but the struggles that hit him during the Olympics have continued since he returned. In four post-Sochi games, he has just two assists and a minus-2 rating, and he knows that has to change soon.

"It's not like you can go into playoffs and flick a switch," Kane said. "It doesn't happen like that."

"You look at him and you measure his production and it's reflected by how he plays," Quenneville said. "When he has the puck more, he's more dangerous. Hopefully he has the puck a lot and does his thing. When he has it, play recognition and patience and making guys around him find the puck on his stick is what he's all about. I expect him to be excited about tonight."

Kane has three goals and three assists in seven career games against the Sabres, including two goals and an assist in Buffalo.

He spoke on a wide variety of topics today, including the trade of Ryan Miller, the Sabres' struggles this season and having a text exchange on Wednesday with new Sabre Cory Conacher about wearing No. 88. He said he's hopeful his hometown team is on the right path.

"It seems like it's been a tough year for them but at the same time it seems like they're a young team and they've got a lot of things in place for the future, whether it's the new rink going up downtown, having a lot of draft picks. It seems like they have the ownership in place to do things right. Hopefully it works out for them. I don't know what happened much with :Pat LaFontaine but it seems like they made a few good moves for the future at the trade deadline.

"As far as following them, it seems like everybody has been following them because they've probably been one of the most talked-about teams in the league lately with all the trades and with what's been going on."

Click below to hear audio of Kane's meeting with the media this afternoon.

Patrick Kane

Ridiculous Hands Dept: Patrick Kane's new stickhandling video

By Mike Harrington

When we last saw Patrick Kane, it was nearly three weeks ago and he was parading the Stanley Cup around to Niagara Falls, South Buffalo and West Seneca (props to Imperial Pizza, by the way).

He's back on the ice now and in this case, I realize it's a commercial for his stickbrand. I get that. But we can still marvel at the abilities here shown by No. 88 in this video that's going all over the place today. Pretty amazing stuff.

Kane, Stanley quite a duo across Western New York

HumveeBy Mike Harrington

Yes, it's not the Sabres but there were plenty of people in Niagara Falls, South Buffalo and West Seneca on Saturday who hope that someday it might be. That said, they were plenty happy to see South Buffalo's Patrick Kane bring the Stanley Cup home to Western New York for the second time in four years.

Each player on the Cup-winning team gets the trophy for 24 hours and Saturday was Kane's day in honor of the Chicago Blackhawks' championship secured with their dramatic Game Six comeback in June over the Boston Bruins. Kane also came with the Conn Smythe Trophy for his MVP performance in the playoffs. 

Kane's day started with some family pictures with the Cup and Conn Smythe along Lake Erie before he headed to the Niagara Falls Air Base to greet service personnel, as well as members of the Buffalo Sled Veteran Warriors and Buffalo Warriors hockey teams (below right). Kane brought the Cup into Hangar 907 on a large military humvee (above left) and was greeted by Congressman Brian Higgins as well as military personnel.

Warriors"For you guys to give up your personal lives and sacrifice for what you do for our country is unbelievable," Kane told the crowd. "I can carry around a Stanley Cup that's 35 pounds or an MVP trophy that's brought along with us here today but you guys carry our country on your back. It's really amazing."

Then it was on to one of Kane's favorite pizza stops, Imperial Pizza on Abbott Road in South Buffalo. Several hundred fans, many in Blackhawks jerseys, were on hand to greet Kane as was Mayor Byron Brown. The crowd was even bigger at the West Seneca Town Rink on Union Road, where a couple thousand greeted Kane as he rode the Cup to the front door on a zamboni and then took it inside to a huge ovation from several hundred jersey-clad youth hockey players. 

The microphone at the West Seneca ceremony was dead but it was still clear Kane was being presented a proclamation of "Patrick Kane Week" in the town and a No. 88 jersey of the West Seneca Wings, his youth hockey team for five years.

"It was a thrill of a lifetime, riding in and being on the back of the Zamboni carrying the Stanley Cup, with all the little kids and people wearing the jersey that  you once wore screaming your name," Kane said. "So it was definitely a fun moment."

There were plenty of them for the Blackhawks star Saturday. Stay tuned to Buffalonews.com for move photos and a video wrapping up the day with photographer Mark Mulville and Senior Sports Columnist Jerry Sullivan. For an early look at some photos and Vine videos of the festivities at all three sites, you can review my Twitter account here. 

For a look at what all the Blackhawks have done with the Cup this summer, check out NHL.com's Summer With Stanley Blog.

Zamboni
Kane exits the zamboni with the Stanley Cup in West Seneca.


 

Go to the video: Ridiculous passes from Vanek and Kane

By Mike Harrington

Who doesn't love a great pass? We had two absolutely sick ones Thursday night: Thomas Vanek to Jason Pominville and Patrick Kane to Marian Hossa for an overtime winner. Check 'em out:

 

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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl | jvogl@buffnews.com

About Sabres Edge


Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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