Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane

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Zawaski: Observations From Blackhawks' Scrimmage

A look at the Blackhawks after they took the ice Saturday.

Jay Zawaski
September 15, 2018 - 5:34 pm
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(670 The Score) Do you want the good news or the bad news first? The good news? The Blackhawks won 6-4. The bad news? They also lost 6-4.

It’s hard to glean much from a scrimmage, especially when you’re draped in an 8-year-old begging for ice cream while simultaneously hiding from Tommy Hawk, but here are a handful of my thoughts from the Blackhawks' camp fest scrimmage Saturday.

--- Dylan Sikura notched a pair of goals for Team Red. His offensive skill and speed are evident. He’s clearly one of the speedier and shiftier forwards on the roster and stands out in the offensive zone. That said, his play in the other two zones needs some honing. He had a number of bad turnovers -- the kind that drive coach Joel Quenneville crazy. If he can close that gap in his game, he’ll do well under Quenneville. The Blackhawks need some scoring depth. Sikura might be their best option right now, but if he’s going to turn the puck over, he’ll find himself in the press box.  

--- Henri Jokiharju didn’t stand out to me, and I mean that in the best way possible. He looks the part. He’s calm with the puck and makes the right decision most of the time. He had a solid knack for taking offensive chances when the play dictated it but played with control and restraint. His passes were crisp and accurate. He also made a several impressive defensive plays, including an effortless and instinctive breakup on a cross pass in the slot. There were a few moments where I expected him to get out-muscled in puck battles along the boards, but he broke even or won on most of those opportunities. I said Friday that I’d be shocked if Jokiharju isn't on the opening night roster. After one scrimmage, I feel just as strong about that claim.

--- Chris Kunitz skated on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Alex Debrincat and fit in well. That line generated several scoring changes (as a top line should) and controlled the puck when they were on the ice. I liked that Kunitz was often in front of the net creating traffic and disrupting the goaltender.  

--- Defenseman Brandon Manning drew high praise from Quenneville on Friday and played a solid if unspectacular game Saturday. While he’s more of a stay-at-home type, he’s not afraid to jump in offensively and was better with the puck that I expected him to be. He did take a huge hit from Nathan Noel in the first period and took a bit of exception, slashing Noel on his way back to the bench.

--- The game itself, especially at the start, was intense for a scrimmage. Players realize there are spots on the roster up for grabs. There were big hits and goalie collisions. The speed of the game was faster than your typical practice game too.

--- The more I watch Victor Ejdsell play, the more I like him. At 6-foot-5, 214 pounds, he stands out on the ice but he doesn’t lumber. He skates with a wide base and is difficult to knock off the puck. He has above-average offensive skill and hands. I love him in a third-line role, but he’s also an option to move up to the top six in a pinch. He’s a shoo-in to make the roster.

--- The highlight of the game was Kevin Lankinen’s save on Patrick Kane, who was staring at an open net and put the puck where he wanted it, but Lankinen reach out to his right, extending the paddle of his goal stick chest high, knocking Kane’s shot out of mid-air. After the puck moved the other way, Kane lagged behind the play to say something to Lankinen after the save. Even Kane was impressed.

The Blackhawks have their first preseason game Tuesday night in Columbus. I’m excited to see these players compete a full speed and against a hostile opponent.

Jay Zawaski is the executive producer of the Bernstein & McKnight Show on 670 middays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. He's also a columnist. Follow him on Twitter @JayZawaski670.​​