A Truly Wild Day in the NHL and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Have we all calmed down after having a good night’s sleep? The NHL went through a ringer over the last 72 hours or so, centered around the Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, Tom Wilson, and T.J. Oshie (and it’s not even done yet). As the dust hopefully settles on what was a ridiculous chain of events in the past few days, we look to the Chicago Blackhawks to give us a sense of stability and familiarity in the hockey world. It will all feel right again when the Carolina Hurricanes continue their quest to finish the season as the top team in the NHL and likely beat up on the Blackhawks again tonight.

Cue Daft Punk’s “One More Time”!

•   Music’s got me feeling so free, we’re gonna celebrate!

•   Ok, but for real.

•   The NHL was on full display this week with the Tom Wilson incident on Monday night in the Rangers-Capitals game. Then the fine and non-suspension of Wilson led to the Rangers releasing a statement of their displeasure with the league’s Department of Player Safety and specifically George Parros. Then the Rangers fired their Team President and General Manager hours before the rematch between them and the Capitals. Then the game devolves into a sideshow of boxing with a sprinkle of hockey thrown into it. Now we’re here and it feels like a hangover of epic proportions.

•   That press release from the Rangers will now cost them 50-times more than what Tom Wilson’s action cost him.

•   The NHL is a joke. It’s the best sport and the worst league.

•   Six fights in the first 4:14 minutes of the game. 100 penalty minutes in the first period of the game. Tom Wilson at the center of it all and then was taken out of the game with an injury. Pavel Buchnevich, who was the first victim of Wilson’s on Monday, hitting Anthony Mantha high and now facing a fine and/or suspension himself. It’s just all a skid-mark to the game of hockey. The dinosaurs of “old time hockey” loved it, and that’s the reason the league will always be decades behind the rest of the major men’s professional leagues in the world.

•   Former two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Blackhawks Kris Versteeg had it right in his appearance on Sportsnet 960 in Calgary: “We don’t have fighters left in the league, so those guys can’t protect us. I would rather have the fighters left in the league if the NHL is not going to protect the players. You can’t have it both ways. Either the league needs to protect the players or you gotta allow the fighters to come back.”

•   The league has to decide what it wants to be. Do you want to be a league where you are showcasing the amazing speed and skill of hockey and boosting guys like Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, and Artemiy Panarin, or are you going to stay in neutral and continue to cater to the niche fanbase and allow the enforcers to roam free again?

•   What the game has become in recent years has forced guys who are fighters to also be able to play the game. Guys in the past like John Scott and George Parros, whose purpose on the ice was to hit people, are a diminishing breed of player. Now your “enforcers” are guys who can also play the game. Guys like Tom Wilson, who is fifth on the Capitals in points and has scored 20+ goals twice in the last three seasons, Wayne Simmonds a few years back, Zdeno Chara, Dustin Byfuglien when he was playing, these are the types of “enforcer” players that have the ability to be physically intimidating and beat you up if need be and also be key contributors to their teams.

•   If the league is happy with what happened last night in the Rangers-Capitals game, with players taking matters into their own hands, they have to lean into that. If they don’t want the sideshow kinds of games that last night was, they need to give their heads a shake and start dropping hammers on this crap. But like Versteeg said, you can’t have it both ways and leave the fans in a constant tug-o-war between loving the game and hating the culture.

•   Lost in the shuffle of the game last night was an incredible story and moment for Capitals forward T.J. Oshie.

•   Oshie scored a hat-trick in the game last night, which of itself is a sweet night, but made even sweeter for Oshie as the accompaniment came just a day after the passing of his father. Tim Oshie was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2012, and was with his son the night the Capitals won the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas, back in 2018 in a moment no one will forget.

•   Following the hat-trick goal, Oshie was mobbed by teammates on the ice and consoled by them on the bench. THIS is the kind of moment and story that should be grabbing the headlines in hockey today.

•   As the NHL world moves on from Wednesday night’s game, this should be the focus of the night. These kinds of moments are what the game should be about.

•   One more cool moment from last night’s NHL action, with a win over the Minnesota Wild in overtime, Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury moved into third-place on the all-time list of wins by a goaltender in NHL history.

•   Alright, stepping down from my soapbox and changing gears, the Blackhawks and Hurricanes square-off tonight for the final time this season. It will be the final road game for Chicago this season and the final time they will play a team that is not a normal Central Division opponent. Good riddance to that. It was fun beating up on the Red Wings this season, but having three of the top five teams in the league, coming from the usual Eastern Conference, into the Central Division and wrecking the Blackhawks has been less than fun for 2021.

•   The Blackhawks have a six-game losing streak heading into tonight’s contest, going 0-5-1 over that stretch and dropping their last three games in regulation. They are 2-4-1 against the Hurricanes this season.

•   We talked about it as we approached the date and it’s been a point in the season that we’ll look at as the turning point of the 2021 season, but the beginning of March was where Chicago’s slow-burn of a collapse began this season. Heading into March 1st, the Blackhawks were 12-7-4 with 28 points in the standings, tied for the third-most points in the league and in third-place in the Central Division.

•   What a time that was.

•   From March 1st to today, the Blackhawks have a 10-18-2 record and just 22 points in the standings in 30 games played. Those 22 points since March 1st are tied for the fewest in the league with the Buffalo Sabres. Chicago’s .367 points percentage over that stretch of time is the third-lowest in the NHL, only ahead of the Anaheim Ducks (.364) and Sabres (.314).

•   BARF.

•   Chicago will likely be picking around the 10-11-12 range in the upcoming NHL Draft, barring any lottery luck, so get used to hearing about players like Cole Sillinger, Mason McTavish, Carson Lambos, and Simon Robertsson to name a few.

•   One new player heading to Chicago for next season will be 2017 Draft pick Jakub Galvas. The Blackhawks signed Galvas to a two-year entry-level contract on Thursday morning that carries a $867,500 cap hit through the 2022-23 season.

•   A move to add more young players to the depths of the organization, the Blackhawks gave Galvas all the time possible to develop in Europe before making a move to bring him to North America starting next season. For the past five seasons, Galvas has been playing in the Czech and Finnish professional leagues and has 208 pro games already under his belt before turning 22-year-old in June.

•   Galvas figures to have some competition to break into the Blackhawks’ NHL defensive rotation next season as at least four young players have made their case for the 2021-22 season with Adam Boqvist, Wyatt Kalynuk, Riley Stillman, and Nicolas Beaudin in the mix. Not to mention Ian Mitchell in the mix as well, and then two spots that will already be accounted for with Duncan Keith and Connor Murphy.

•   Much of the youth on the Blackhawks from this season should be penciled into lineup spots for next season, but what are the perceptions of the young players around the league? The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus and Scott Powers talked to scouts about their views on the Blackhawks and where the team stands with its current roster. Highly recommend checking out the full article.

•   News this morning that shouldn’t come as a shock, but the Blackhawks are shutting down Kirby Dach for the final games of the season.

•   He gave it a go to try to help the team make a playoff push and I commend him for that. Rest and recover and be ready for next season.

•   As the NHL season comes to an end this year, so will their decade and a half relationship with NBC Sports. After ESPN and Turner Sports agreed to seven-year deals with the league to become the broadcast homes of the NHL, the talent that would make up the broadcast teams on both networks needed to take shape. On Wednesday, a number of reports came out regarding those positions.

•   It appears that Turner Sports will have Kenny Albert as the lead play-by-play voice, with Eddie Olczyk as the lead analyst alongside him. Also taking form in reports yesterday is ESPN’s broadcast team, which will likely pair Steve Levy on play-by-play and Ray Ferraro as the network’s lead analyst.

•   We’ll finish with some fun content. Apparently Patrick Kane is not a fan of dogs or cats…that’s weird?

•   That’ll do it for today. Enjoy your Thursday and we’ll see you later tonight for Blackhawks and Hurricanes at 6:00 p.m.!

written by

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

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