“Night Two!” He shouted, the sun setting in front of him as a crowd of 40,000 screamed indiscriminately. “Night Two!” He shouted again as the crowd roared even louder in response. “Are you ready?!” The rhetorical question echoed throughout the friendly confines as the band began to play their first song of what would be nearly 150 minutes of pure rock energy.
It was Wrigley Field on July 30, 2018. It was Dave Grohl at the microphone. It was “Night Two!” of the Foo Fighters two-night set in Chicago. It was my favorite concert ever.
That energy and enthusiasm of Grohl and the Foo Fighters on the second day of their set in Chicago is the same kind of energy and enthusiasm I feel heading into my second day here with Bleacher Nation. Hopefully it is the same energy and enthusiasm the Chicago Blackhawks feel as they begin their second day of on-ice training camp sessions. From all indications after day one, there is nothing but energy, optimism, and an “Us against Them” attitude in the Chicago locker room. What’s interesting about that new attitude for the short-handed Blackhawks is that the “Them” in this scenario, is us.
• The writing was on the wall well before the losses of Alex Nylander, Kirby Dach, and Jonathan Toews: This Blackhawks season was going to be rough. First of all, the newly re-aligned divisions have placed Chicago in the same division as the defending Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning, the Dallas Stars (the team the Lightning beat in the Stanley Cup Final), the Carolina Hurricanes, and three other teams that are highly likely to finish ahead of the Blackhawks (the Nashville Predators, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Florida Panthers). The only silver lining in the new division is the reigniting of the rivalry between Chicago and the Detroit Red Wings, the only team that should finish below the Blackhawks in the division. Then after the loss of the three aforementioned players, all of whom were going to be key pieces to this season’s success, you start an abbreviated training camp with a half dozen players missing from the active roster. Add in the defensive issues the Blackhawks face and also not having a true NHL-caliber goaltender and you have a recipe for a bad season for a team that’s just not good enough. Everyone sees it coming. Except the Blackhawks, who are apparently out to prove the haters wrong.
“As a player, you want to win now, you want to compete now,” Kane said in his first public comments since the Blackhawks openly acknowledged they’re in a “rebuild,” a letter to fans that blindsided the veteran core. “And I think we can do that with this group. I think we can surprise some people.”
“I think a lot of people are doubting us this year,” said newly minted millionaire Dylan Strome. “So it would be nice to turn it around and kind of quiet some people up.”
• Far be it from any professional team to just accept defeat and lay down when the expectation is failure. Well, except the Eagles, maybe. But for a group of players led by future Hockey Hall of Famers Duncan Keith and Patrick Kane, there’s no way the attitude in the Blackhawks locker room will ever be “down and out.” At least not to start. Internally, there’s optimism in the veteran players to lead and there’s optimism in the opportunity for the young players to take a step forward, and I kind of dig it.
• Speaking of the newly re-aligned divisions, the NHL has found another revenue stream for the 2021 season: Sponsored Division names. Yes, along with adding sponsorships to the helmets, the league has sold the naming rights to the four new divisions for the 2021 season.
The NHL Has Sold Naming Rights … To Their Divisionshttps://t.co/w2UosfEnD6
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) January 5, 2021
• I wish all broadcasters luck having to say the mouthful of the division names later this season when breaking down the playoff picture. Also, people still say “Sears Tower” and “Comiskey Park” so good luck getting anyone to call the divisions by their full sponsored names.
• Something that we saw yesterday in the Blackhawks first day of training camp was the healthy return of Andrew Shaw. It’s great to see him back on the ice and fully cleared to play this season after missing nearly two-thirds of last season due to a concussion. But, something was different about Shaw when he hit the ice:
— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) January 4, 2021
• Shaw was one of the handful of players in the NHL that were “grandfathered” in when the league made wearing visors mandatory for all incoming players. Those who had not been wearing visors prior to the new rule, could still choose not to wear them. Brave. Stupid, but brave.
• It’s crazy to me with all the advancements in equipment technology and scientific information on preventing any and all sports injuries, that guys are still out there with their full faces unprotected. Good for Andrew to reduce his risk of injury, especially after the many beatings his face and head have taken over the years.
• In World Junior Championship news, the Chicago Blackhawks will have one representative playing for the Gold Medal on Tuesday night. Landon Slaggert, a 2020 third-round draft pick, and Team USA beat Finland in dramatic fashion on Monday night to advance to the Gold Medal game. Slaggert and Team USA will face the powerhouse Canadian team, which would have been led by Kirby Dach before his broken wrist. Team USA will have their work cut out for them as Team Canada boasts a roster made up almost entirely of first-round draft picks and goaltender Devon Levi, a seventh-round pick (go figure), leading the Canadians in net having as many shutouts (3) as he has goals allowed (3) in the tournament.
• It’s safe to assume Team USA standout Cole Caufield is amped up for Tuesday night’s Gold Medal game:
• Whoops is right. But hey, it’s not like this is the first time something has slipped at the World Juniors (His face! Priceless):
• We’ll leave you with this as the Blackhawks begin “Day Two!” of training camp: one of the most important positional battles prior to the January 13 puck drop is for starting goaltender. Malcolm Subban, Collin Delia, Kevin Lankinen are all in the running along with Matt Tomkins and Cale Morris who are also at training camp. The next eight days are vital for those first three goalies to step out from the pack and earn themselves the starters net (more on that battle later).
Collin Delia getting in some work before the team practice pic.twitter.com/bOieJaevmZ
— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) January 5, 2021