The Next "Dude," IceHogs Season Begins, Marc-Andre Fleury Makes A Delivery, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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The Next “Dude,” IceHogs Season Begins, Marc-Andre Fleury Makes A Delivery, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

Good Saturday morning. It’s currently 3 degrees outside and I don’t want to do anything or go anywhere today. It’s too cold. All I want to do is sit and watch campfire videos on Youtube. Literally just curl under a blanket and imagine what that warm fire would be like. Anyway, that’s where I’m at today.

I hope Blackhawks fans are staying warm, too. Given how utterly dismal the team was during the first three games of the season, I’d understand if your enjoyment was still thawing out. But given their play recently? It’s warming my heart right up. No, they’re not suddenly contenders, but they are playing better than we all expected, with plenty of exciting performances from young, potentially long-term pieces. And, hey, the Blackhawks record (4-4-4) is a lot better than the Ottawa Senators (2-8-1) or the Detroit Red Wings (2-8-2) – two teams with which I thought the Blackhawks would be on par.

You know what, I kind of feel better already.

•   The Blackhawks play on Sunday, 2 p.m. CT against the Dallas Stars leading right into the Super Bowl. Quite the appetizer for one of the biggest days in sports if I do say so myself.

•   Chicago and Dallas is going to be a fun matchup from a special teams angle. Both teams are on fire on the powerplay with the Stars ranking in a tie for first in the league at 40.0 percent and the Blackhawks ranking second at 37.8 percent. On the penalty-kill, both teams are near each other in the rankings with Chicago at 13th in the NHL with an 81.0 percent kill-rate and Dallas ranking tied for 15th with an 80.0 percent kill-rate.

•   One big reason the Blackhawks are having so much success on the powerplay this season is the emergence of Dominik Kubalík as more than just a booming shot from the circles. I mean, yes he is still that, but he’s seen an evolution in his game from last year. He’s second on the Blackhawks in points this season (11 in 12 games), but leads the team with nine points on the powerplay. He’s tied for second in the NHL for powerplay points, trailing only Connor McDavid (10 points on the man-advantage).

•   Kubalík’s puck distribution has improved this season already. He has eight assists through the first 12 games of the season (it took him 40 games to reach that mark last year), after finishing with just 16 assists during all of last season.

•   Looking at goal-scoring, it was great to see Alex DeBrincat get not one, but two goals in the 6-4 win over the Hurricanes on Thursday night. DeBrincat has four goals on the season but hadn’t found the back of the net since January 17 against the Florida Panthers. After missing time due the league’s COVID-19 Protocols, DeBrincat has seven points in his last four games played and 10 points in eight games this season. With the losses of Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach before the season, DeBrincat and Kubalík were going to be relied upon to shoulder more of the offensive load – so far, so good.

•   Also shouldering a lot of the load defensively this season is Duncan Keith. Big surprise right? Logging a team-leading 23:58 minutes per game, Keith is once again the workhorse defensively for Chicago. At 37-years-old, you have to wonder how long he’ll be able to do that, or if it’ll even be the best situation for the Blackhawks that he’d have to do that. But ask Keith himself and he wants to have that responsibility and he physically looks up to the task. Which is an incredible feat. But it won’t be long before the Blackhawks need another guy to take that role of being the most deployed defenseman, eating up heavy minutes. Could Ian Mitchell be that next player on the Blackhawks blue-line?

•   The Rockford IceHogs begin their season today taking on the Chicago Wolves in a rescheduled home-opener. They were supposed to play the Cleveland Monsters but Cleveland ran into COVID issues so the Wolves are now up. Rockford announced their leadership group on Friday would consist of Garrett Mitchell as Team Captain, with John Quenneville and Cody Franson serving as alternate Captains

•   Speaking of COVID, because you just can’t help it now, the NHL announced that they had to reschedule 30 (!!) games for eight different clubs.

•   Now I follow COVID news with something good and fun. Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury took it upon himself to hand deliver an autographed MAF sweater to a luck fan. But, they didn’t answer the door. Oh man, what a moment that would have been. Speaking as someone who has a Ring doorbell, at least open the app and talk to the guy!

•   Finally, the Blackhawks draft board should probably just be a big bold “OWEN POWER” with a red circle around it, but they will have plenty of options in this year’s draft. It’s likely they will end up with a shot at a top pick in the draft lottery, so with that in mind, be sure to check out some names that should be on your radar as the season goes along for the Blackhawks first round target. Later today, be on the lookout for names to put on the radar for the second round.

•   Thanks for indulging us as we promote big-game betting this weekend – also, go make some money, honey:

Author: Mario Tirabassi

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