Blackhawks Buying-In, Taking Advantage of a Rare Opportunity, Team MVPs, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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Blackhawks Buying-In, Taking Advantage of a Rare Opportunity, Team MVPs, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

It was a fun win last night for the Chicago Blackhawks. Perhaps it was an imperfect win too, but the victory revealed resilience and fight in a club that has been dealt a very raw hand to start the season.

Of course, we are just about to reach the quarter-mark of the NHL’s 56-game schedule and the Blackhawks sit at 4-4-4 through 12 games. Not great, not terrible. And probably a bit better than we expected, to be candid.

Yes, you can still say they’ve lost eight games out of 12 this season, but they’ve looked better in almost every game they’ve played since the beginning of the season. After dropping the first three in regulation to start the year, Chicago is 4-1-4. A bounce here or there goes the other way and the Blackhawks could be in a much better spot. All of this is a bit unexpected since we thought the season would be a total wash.

•   A lot of the Blackhawks successes this season have come because the team has worked their way out of trouble. Early on, they were out-matched by the Lightning out of the gate and experienced tough games against a challenging Panthers squad. But the Blackhawks gained confidence with wins over the Red Wings, and have basically been a changed-team ever since. They simply don’t look for the exit easily.

•   You can probably credit mentality to the many young, hungry players fighting to make their way into the NHL and stay there. Players like Pius Suter, Brandon Hagel, Nicolas Beaudin, Philipp Kurashev, and Kevin Lankinen have been given tremendous opportunities by head coach Jeremy Colliton and they have each stepped up to the plate. In a frustrating, but optimistic way, that could be the silver lining for the season. A lot of young players are getting chances they wouldn’t have otherwise received without so many injuries and absences (COVID-19 related or otherwise). All things equal, you prefer to have your best players on the ice at all times, but it’s equally important to take advantage of the hand they were dealt. It’s a rare opportunity to unearth long-term talent, and so far, so good.

•  Indeed, the buy-in from young players to the “culture” that Colliton has created within the Blackhawks has begun to trickle up to the teams leaders.

•   It was evident last night after the Blackhawks stormed the Hurricanes in the first period with three powerplay goals, Carolina tied the game with two goals eight seconds apart to begin the second period. The Blackhawks could have very well turtled under the momentum swing, but they battled back and took the lead back, twice, before sealing the game 6-4. Patrick Kane had four points, Alex DeBrincat had two goals, and Dominik Kubalík had a three-point night. The big guns for Chicago meshing with the tenacity shown by the young players has created a sense that they are never out of games.

•   You love to see that.

•   You also love to see that Kevin Lankinen has basically held the Blackhawks together this whole way. Here’s where the Blackhawks rank this season as a team:

(a) Corsi-For %: 47.58 (25th)
(b) Shots Against: 410 (30th)
(c) High-Danger Chances Against: 136 (27th)

•   And here’s where Kevin Lankinen ranks this season among the 37 goalies who have played at least 240 minutes:

(a) Shots Against: 265 (6th)
(b) Save %: .928 (2nd)
(c) GAA: 2.32 (6th)
(d) High-Danger Shots Against: 76 (4th)
(e) High-Danger Save %: .855 (7th)
(f) Average Shot Distance: 32.27 feet (33rd)

•   He’s been particularly stellar for the Blackhawks in net this season, and is making up for a lot of the short-comings and mistakes this young Blackhawks team are making. He’s pretty much the Team MVP as we reach the quarter-mark of the season. Who would’ve thought?

•   The Powerplay could also be a Team MVP candidate at this point in the year, and it was on full display last night. Watching three powerplay goals in the first period was insane – indeed, it was the first time they’ve done that since December 29, 2015. They now have 14 powerplay goals in 12 games this season, having at least one goal on the powerplay in ten of their 12 games. It took Chicago 30 games last year to reach 14 powerplay goals scored, they finished the season ranked 27th in the league on the man-advantage. They rank 14th in the NHL in powerplay opportunities (37) and are fourth in the league in powerplay percentage (37.8%) this season.

•   Just as impressive this season as the powerplay is the penalty-kill. Last season Chicago ranked ninth in the league on the penalty kill, far better than last in the NHL in 2018-19. This season is building off last year’s turnaround success, ranking 13th in the league.

•   They’ll be tested mightily against the Dallas Stars coming up next, as they rank at the top of the league on the powerplay at 40.0 percent.

•   A Happy Birthday to 2010 Blackhawks Stanley Cup winner Tomáš Kopecký! Turning 39 today.

•   In case you missed it yesterday, the NHL is adding more measures to their COVID Protocols. One measure that came under fire from players right away was the new rule that didn’t allow them to arrive any earlier than 1 hour and 45 minutes before puck drop. That changed within a matter of hours:

•   Finally, the saga of Patrick Kane tossing a puck to Tommy Hawk in the United Center stands has become gripping pregame drama. I truly believe that one day, somehow, Tommy will get his puck.

Author: Mario Tirabassi

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