Shooters Shoot(out), Hagel Finally Scores, IceHogs Finally Win, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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Shooters Shoot(out), Hagel Finally Scores, IceHogs Finally Win, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

After a long three-day layoff, the Chicago Blackhawks got back on the ice and back in the win column last night with a 6-5 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in the shootout. It was a back and forth game where the Blackhawks dropped three different leads but were able to lock it down in the shootout to keep their spot in the Central Division playoff picture. We are 35% through the 2021 season after 20 games and it looks like it’s time to officially change mindsets around this Blackhawks team.

•   With the win, the Blackhawks hold onto their fourth-place spot in the Central Division with 24 points and a .600 point percentage.

•   Keep in mind, however, that the Blackhawks are quickly approaching the toughest stretch of their season starting in March. But with three more games to go before then (one game at Columbus, two vs Detroit) the Blackhawks need to come away with at least four, maybe five points in these next three games to feel like they have a decent buffer over the teams behind them in the standings.

•   And let me say this, I am much happier scoreboard-watching/worrying about potential playoff positions than I would be worrying about which prospects the Blackhawks should be targeting with a theoretical top-five draft pick. Of course, that’s easier when the young players around whom the Blackhawks are “rebuilding” are already developing into reliable NHL talent (albeit in small sample sizes)

•   One of those young players is breakout rookie Brandon Hagel, who finally did it last night. After numerous chances and close calls, he got his first NHL goal.

•   He’s been waiting only 17 games to score his first goal, but it’s felt like a much longer journey and he got it in game number 18.

•   You love to see guys who play like Hagel, high-energy and hard-working, get rewarded with more minutes and responsibilities and get on the scoresheet.

•   Big Brandon Hagel fans over here at Bleacher Nation.

•   Patrick Kane had an assist on the Hagel goal, part of a four-point night for him. He scored his 398th career goal, inching him closer to the 400-goal mark, which would make him the fourth player in Blackhawks franchise history to reach the mark along with Bobby Hull (604), Stan Mikita (541), and Steve Larmer (406).

•   Kane’s four-point night got him up to 30 points on the season, which ranks third in the NHL in scoring. The last time Kane had 30+ points in the first 20 games of a season was in 2015-16, the year he won the Hart Trophy as league MVP and finished with 106 points. Kane’s current scoring pace over an 82 game season? 123 points.

•   The Blackhawks would very much not be in their current position without a couple of things going their way, like Kevin Lankinen and his band of merry rookies all having breakout years. But there’s NO WAY they’d be fighting for playoff positioning (and not the top overall draft pick) if Kane wasn’t playing at this level. Is he the league MVP this season? Maybe not cut and dry, but he’s very much in the middle of the discussion.

•   While the Blackhawks were getting the win in the shootout last night, the Rockford IceHogs were taking care of their own comeback effort. After trailing 2-1 to the Cleveland Monsters in the third period, the IceHogs scored back-to-back goals in the final three and a half minutes of the game and got their first win of the AHL season.

•   Rookies Evan Barratt, Isaak Phillips, and Andrei Altybarmakyan all scored their first professional goals in the win. Tim Söderlund had a two assist night, and rookie goaltender Cale Morris made 35 saves in his first start and notched his first professional win. Morris has made 48 saves on 51 shots in two appearances for the IceHogs this season.

•   A Happy (former) Blackhawks Birthday today to Phillip Danault! He turns 28 years old today.

•   Danault is currently playing for the Montreal Canadiens, who just fired their head coach Claude Julien this morning.

•   Not a terribly good look…

•   Speaking of heart surgery (nice transition, yeeesh), it looks like Henrik Lundqvist is definitely not leaning towards retirement after having heart surgery prior to this season.

•   This dude is back on the ice 47 days after having heart surgery and here I am, two months without going for a run, because it’s “cold.”

Author: Mario Tirabassi

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