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Here are nine quick thoughts after Chicago’s 5-1 win over Pittsburgh in the finale of the 2013-14 NHL Stadium Series:
• When NHL execs pitched an expanded outdoor schedule for this season and planted a Pittsburgh-Chicago match at Soldier Field less than a week after the Olympics, their expectations couldn’t possibly have exceeded the reality these two teams delivered tonight.
If there was a bounce to be generated after Sochi, this event delivered everything that might hook the casual fan. From the magical snow-globe images to the marquee teams to 17 Olympic heroes, including Team Canada captains Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews, this was as thrilling as a 5-1 rout can be.
I’ll admit the lousy conditions took me right out of this year’s Winter Classic but the challenges of inch-deep snow that coated the sheet at Soldier Field seemed more charming, or at least more visually appealing, than the hard, bouncy ice that plagued the big game at the Big House. Passes left a wake like a cruise ship and skidded to an early halt like that high-tech puck in the Bridgestone ads. Every hard stop sent a sheet of snow cascading into the air. Even the sound of the blades chittering across the ice was different, somehow more exotic. This, finally, was real pond hockey. The elements were an additional player, not an impediment, and the game was better for them.
OK, so ultimately this ends up being an ad for the Illinois Lottery, but that coda does nothing to dilute the awesomeness of this bit starring Patrick Sharp and some unsuspecting Blackhawks supporters.
The Hawks set up a video studio at a recent game to allow fans the opportunity to record a message of support for the team’s Olympians. But in an Allen Funtian twist, Sharp was waiting in the next room to offer up a personalized response of his own.
Gape-mouthed shock ensues.
Nicely done, Chicago.
Maybe it was the lack of cap space. Probably it was the lack of cap space.
Or it might just have been that the shelves were bare of any kind of talent that other teams saw as being helpful at some point.
Whatever the case, only one player, defenseman Ryan Stanton, changed hands when he was claimed by the Vancouver Canucks prior to today’s noon EDT waiver deadline.
So much for the fireworks.
Stanton, who was waived yesterday by the Chicago Blackhawks, is coming off a strong AHL season. He registered a career-high 22 assists and 25 points in 73 games with the Rockford IceHogs and posted a career-best plus-16 rating, but that wasn’t enough to beat Mike Kostka for a depth role with the Cup champs.
He goes to a Vancouver team where he’s equally unlikely to crack the top six, but could fit into the mix as the seventh man ahead of veteran Andrew Alberts and rookie Frankie Corrado. More likely, though, he’s headed back to the AHL with the Utica Comets.
Patrick Kane’s new commercial for Bauer may not inspire you to run out and pick up a couple of their new Vapor APX-2 sticks. But after you’ve finished watching you’ll probably want to pick up your jaw.
We already knew Kane was a wizard with the puck. And truth be told, we know he could weave the same spell with an old Sher-Wood PMP 7070 as this new $300 high-tech model. The magic’s in the hands, not the wand, after all.
But this is some seriously crazy juju he’s working in a spot that’s 100 percent live action, except for the camera-smashing bit at the end.
And, amazingly, the whole thing took just 15-20 minutes to shoot.
“When they had the idea and they told me how many pucks were going to be in the center I was like, ‘I don’t know if I could do it.’” Kane told the Chicago Tribune. “I tried it with a few and said, ‘why not throw all of them in there and see if I can do it?’
“At first I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it with all the pucks in there but I guess as you get into it and get competitive, you want to try it out,” he said.
By Allan Muir
Looks like this will go down as a pretty good day for Corey Crawford and his family.
The Blackhawks’ netminder was already scheduled to spend Labor Day commemorating Chicago’s championship season with the Stanley Cup in his home town of Chateauguay, Quebec. Now he gets to celebrate with a new deal in his back pocket as well.
The Blackhawks announced this morning that they have agreed to terms with Crawford on a six-year contract extension. Renaud Lavoie of TVA is reporting the deal is worth an average of $6 million per season, mirroring the recent trend of goalies like Jonathan Quick (10 years, $58 million) and Tuukka Rask (eight years, $58 million) cashing in big on one good season.
By Allan Muir
Maybe hockey gamblers aren’t the same folks as hockey historians.
That might explain why the Chicago Blackhawks are now the odds-on favorite to celebrate their third Stanley Cup in five years next June, according to Bovada.com.
If they were to win, Chicago would be the first team to repeat since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998.
The Hawks were initially set at 15-2 after the Cup final ended, but action from the public over the free agency period has moved them past the Pittsburgh Penguins into the top spot. The Pens, who have yet to figure out a way to convince Marc-Andre Fleury that it’s 2009 again, somehow remained at 13-2.
What’s harder to justify is the love for Edmonton — the Oilers will be in tough to make the playoffs in the new Pacific Division — or Minnesota (who knows if they’re even going to make payroll?) but both teams vaulted from 33-1 to 20-1 in response to player action. Hey, it’s all a crapshoot, right?
Here are the latest odds on the winner of the 2014 Stanley Cup:
By Allan Muir
It’s been less than a week since Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman signed playoff hero Bryan Bickell to a four-year, $16 million deal.
That deal is looking like a bargain now.
Bickell, who was eligible for unrestricted free agency before coming to terms with the Hawks, emerged as a game-breaking power forward during Chicago’s run to the Stanley Cup, exactly the sort of player that several teams were looking to add in free agency. Bowman recognized that he couldn’t expect a hometown discount for a player who was that hot, and signed him at full value even though he had to trade Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik to create cap space.
Turns out that Bickell might have been able to stuff his pockets with a little more green if he’d shopped his services. The other power forward types on the market, David Clarkson and Ryane Clowe, used his deal as a starting point and encouraged suitors to keep adding to the pile.