Playoff Delusions, Possible Powerplay Changes, Benched in Columbus, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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Playoff Delusions, Possible Powerplay Changes, Benched in Columbus, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

Getting up on gameday between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings has always been exciting.

For me, as a fan, the hey-day of the rivalry was between 2008-2013, culminating in the 2013 Western Conference Semi-final matchup in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Blackhawks looked unbeatable in a seven-game series after ripping through the Minnesota Wild and coming off a historically great, albeit abbreviated, 2013 regular season.

Then they fell 3-1 in the series to Detroit and had to claw their way back into it. I missed Game Five because of my Sister-in-law’s wedding and it has never been harder NOT to check my phone every two minutes for game updates. Michael Frolík’s shootout goal in Game Six will always be an underrated moment in that 2013 Stanley Cup run. Then, of course … Game Seven, at the United Center, in overtime (which it should not have come to that, but whatever), we get Brent Seabrook heroics:

I’ve never heard the United Center roar louder. Chills. Every. Time.

•   This time around, it feels different. Both teams expected to be at the bottom of the league, fighting for the best odds in the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery. Detroit is off to decent start compared to where Chicago currently sits. Two wins in four games for the Red Wings, Blackhawks still searching for their first win of the season. But at least we are back in the United Center.

•   It’s been 317 days since the Blackhawks played at home. It will be good to see them back, even if no one is there to watch.

•   It’s also going to be the first time we hear what the in-game operations team has come up with for game presentations with no fans in the stands. So far, in games against the Lightning and Panthers, it’s been a bit awkward – at least, for Patrick Kane:

•   Kane has been up to his usual highlight-creating ways so far this season. The wonder is how long he can maintain his interest in competing with this Blackhawks team if the results don’t improve. Guys like him and Duncan Keith are fierce competitors and have been to the top of the NHL mountain three times, they want to get back there. I don’t see them doing it with Chicago. Kane thinks otherwise:

•   The playoff picture for the Blackhawks is FAR away. To quote Jim Mora: “Playoffs? Don’t talk about – playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game!”

•   Jeremy Colliton has mentioned it before over the last few days, but getting one in the win column would do wonders mentally for the Blackhawks. Getting rewarded for improvements in their play from Game one to Game four so far. Just hope they will not have to score at least six goals to do so.

•   Kevin Lankinen looks to get the first start at home for the Blackhawks this season. Who had that on their bingo card? It appears Malcolm Subban will back up Lankinen with Collin Delia scratched. The goaltending competition is still very open, but Lankinen seems to have earned an early push.

•   IF the Blackhawks are going to need to score four, five, or six-plus goals to have a chance to win games, at least their powerplay seems to be an asset this season. Through four games, Chicago is 5-for-12 on the man-advantage, good for second-best in the league behind the Colorado Avalanche. Who had THAT on their bingo card after four games?

•   The Blackhawks worked a new-look powerplay formation on Thursday, albeit in a 5-on-3 setting.

•   It’s not a surprise to see Dominik Kubalík finally working with the top powerplay unit after his start to the season. He needs to stay there if the Blackhawks want to continue taking advantage of their hot-start on the man-advantage this season.

•   Carl Söderberg finally was able to join the Blackhawks yesterday after missing all of training camp and the first four games due to travel issues and having to fulfill the seven-day quarantine. It will be interesting to see when and where he fits into the Blackhawks lineup, not that he is available.

•   One Blackhawks still unavailable to Chicago is defenseman Brent Seabrook. It seems he’s still a bit away from being ready to challenge for a lineup spot.

•   Brandon Pirri cleared waivers on Friday afternoon, he’ll be sent to the Taxi Squad.

•   Speaking of the IceHogs, the AHL season begins on February 5 and the league released their schedule on Friday afternoon. Behold!

•   A Happy 37th Birthday to former Stanley Cup winner with the Chicago Blackhawks, Ben Eager!

•   In non-Blackhawks news, the hockey world was buzzing last night with a benching in Columbus. Pierre-Luc Dubois, fresh off begrudgingly signing a two-year, $5M AAV contract extension with the Blue Jackets, played just 3:55 minutes in the first period of Thursday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, sitting on the bench for the entire second and third period, and overtime.

•   Dubois has been in the doghouse of head coach John Tortorella (big surprise) from the start of the season. After requesting a trade from Columbus prior to signing his contract, things got messy. After being asked if he had benched Dubois after the January 18 game, Tortorella claimed in the postgame availability, “You’ll know when I bench someone.” After Thursday night’s contest, having sat Dubois for the entire game after the first period, Tortorella said of the lack of minutes, “Told ya.”

•   Good luck with all that, Columbus.

Author: Mario Tirabassi

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.