Blackhawks Continue Fighting Hard, Youthful Showcase, Getting Draft Excitement, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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Blackhawks Continue Fighting Hard, Youthful Showcase, Getting Draft Excitement, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

Even with the loss last night, the Chicago Blackhawks showed a lot of what you hope to see in the final two weeks of the season. They didn’t give up, they competed hard with a team that is going to make noise in the playoffs, and they allowed the young players on the team to have the spotlight. That’s all you can ask of a team that has paper-thin playoff hopes.

•   But don’t tell Kirby Dach that…

•   Dach had one of the stronger games of his short season last night. He tallied an assist, went 10-for-12 at the faceoff dot, and logged over three and a half minutes of special teams time, with 2:52 coming on the penalty-kill.

•   Or should I say “power-kill?”

•   Dach, along with Alex DeBrincat and Brandon Hagel have become weapons on the penalty-kill for the Blackhawks in the past few weeks of the season. Jeremy Colliton went with an experimental Dach-DeBrincat pairing on the penalty-kill after losing Mattias Janmark and Carl Söderberg at the trade deadline. It’s worked.

•   I mentioned it in the Enhanced Box Score from last night, and I know it’s a very small sample size, but I could see Dach and DeBrincat being used like Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa were with the Blackhawks of years past. Playing significant end-strength minutes and being used heavily on both ends of special teams. That’s what you want to be able to get out of your star players and those two are going to be STARS for the Blackhawks.

•   A player looking to make a name for himself with the Blackhawks is newly acquired forward Adam Gaudette. He’s only been able to get into the lineup twice since coming to Chicago, but he’s made the most of his combined 18:23 minutes of ice time. He tallied an assist in his first game with the Blackhawks and got his first goal as a Blackhawk in his second game last night.

•   Gaudette is a restricted free agent this offseason and is 24-years-old (will be 25 at the start of next season). He’s got offensive pop but not much of a defensive game. Could he fit into the Blackhawks plans for next season? I don’t see why not, but he’ll have to keep producing to make the decision harder on Chicago.

•   Another player making it VERY hard to not envision him with Chicago next season is Vinnie Hinostroza.

•   Like, come on man, where is this coming from? Hinostroza had zero points in nine games with the Panthers this season and now has 10 points in 11 games with the Blackhawks. Is the home-cooking that good in the Hinostroza house?

•   The Barlett, Illinois-native is 27-years-old and an unrestricted free agent this summer. He’s not “young” but he is making it really hard to not think he could be very useful to the Blackhawks beyond this season if this new Vinnie is the real Vinnie. IF.

•   Also not to be overlooked on the Hinostroza goal, Brandon Hagel has become a rock-solid middle-six forward for the Blackhawks. What a steal he has become as an unsigned draft pick. His 21 points this season is tied for seventh in the NHL among rookies and his 19 even-strength points is tied for fifth. He is second on the Blackhawks for rookie scoring behind Pius Suter’s 23 points.

•   Last night after the game, I got a tweet that said Patrick Kane was regressing. I thought about it and, yes, technically from the first half of the season to the second half of the season he has “regressed.” But how spoiled are Blackhawks fans that Kane, who has 27 points in 27 games since the beginning of March is regressing.

•   He’s still producing points and is tied for fourth in the league in scoring with 61 points, but his goal scoring has become almost non-existent. Kane had 11 goals and 34 points in January and February with 82 shots and a 13.4% shooting percentage. He’s tallied just four goals and 27 points in March and April with 88 shots and a 4.6% shooting percentage. I don’t know if goalies are figuring him out this season or if he’s not getting quality looks, but something is not working with his shot.

•   Again, he’s still producing at an all-star rate, but he’s not the same MVP candidate player he was in the first half of the season.

•   Last night was a big day in Chicago sports with the Bears drafting Justin Fields 11th overall in the NFL Draft. I can’t remember the last time the Bears took a player with their first round pick that was so universally loved right away. It got me excited for the NHL Draft in July! We’ve covered a number of targets to keep your eye on as the Blackhawks season comes to a close with Draft Targets Editions 1.0 and 2.0 but one player that’s starting to make more and more sense to me for Chicago as they look like they will draft in the 11, 12, 13 range is Cole Sillinger. Get used to that name.

•   A Happy 58th Birthday to Steve Smith!

•   Smith, at 58-years-old, is just nine years older than Jaromir Jagr, who is STILL playing professional hockey and doesn’t look like he is calling it quits just yet.

•   He owns and plays for Rytíři Kladno in the Czech Republic and his team just won promotion back to the top Czech Extraliga pro league. At 49-years-old, Jagr had 12 points in 19 regular season games and 10 points in 16 playoff games. If he had stayed in the NHL his whole career, Jagr would have surpassed Gordie Howe and Patrick Marleau for the most NHL games played record and would be flirting with Wayne Gretzky’s NHL Career points record.

•   One final note today, it’s another “Happy Birthday” of sorts as the Seattle Kraken officially become a part of the NHL today!

•  Welcome to the league! Can I interest you in a slightly used Nikita Zadorov?

•   That’s all for today. TGIF Friday amirite?!



Author: Mario Tirabassi

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