Let’s do that, hockey!
Watching the return of the NHL on ESPN last night was a nice bit of nostalgia for those of us old enough to remember when ESPN used to carry hockey, and the games were pretty good too. Pittsburgh — who we’ll be talking about a bit today — crushed the defending Stanley Cup Champions as they topped Tampa Bay 6-2 in the early game on ESPN. Despite the score being pretty lopsided, the numbers aren’t that far skewed. Pittsburgh only out-shot the Lightning 35-28, and the rest of the box score was pretty even. Tristan Jarry saved 26-of-28 shots on the evening, keeping the defending champs at bay offensively. In the nightcap, the Seattle Kraken dropped the puck on their inaugural campaign against the Vegas Golden Knights in Sin City, which turned out to be a much more entertaining contest, with the Golden Knights topping the Kraken 4-3.
Now, coming off an exciting offseason that saw the additions of big names like Marc-André Fleury, Seth Jones, Jake McCabe, and the return of Jonathan Toews, it’s the Blackhawks turn to get their 2021-22 season to get going against the Colorado Avalance tonight. The Blackhawks will be on TNT on the national stage, but they’re going to have their work cut out for them with the Avalanche.
The Blackhawks will also have a busy weekend on the road first in New Jersey on Friday night, and then they close out their opening week in Pittsburgh with the aforementioned Penguins.
• The Blackhawks will miss Nathan MacKinnon tonight when they visit the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs’ star did not practice Tuesday and was placed on the COVID-19 list, with his earliest return date being Saturday when Colorado takes on St. Louis. MacKinnon — and the Avalanche as a team — is fully vaccinated, making this a breakthrough case, and thankfully MacKinnon is asymptomatic at this time. Health aside, missing an early contender for the Hart Memorial Trophy is a big break for the Blackhawks tonight.
• The Blackhawks three opponents this week 95 games last season with 76 of those wins coming from the Avs and the Penguins, and 19 from the lone soft spot on the week coming in the form of the Devils on Friday night. For all the hype that this remade roster has brought, we might be about to receive a crash course on expectations versus reality this week.
• Dylan Strome was held out of practice on Tuesday and is currently the center of trade rumors, making his playing status for this week a question.
• Jonathan Toews will make his regular-season return to the ice tonight after missing the 2020-21 campaign. Toews looked good in the preseason and his presence in the lineup on opening night is a positive sign when it comes to how his body will respond to being back to the NHL grind. Time will tell what his playing time will look like moving forward, and three games in four nights on the road will be an early peek into how Jeremy Colliton will handle any load management questions in the early going this season.
Puck Drops and Broadcast Info
• Blackhawks at Avalanche — Wednesday, October 13th at 9:00 p.m. CT
Radio: WGN 720 AM / KKSE 92.5-FM
• Blackhawks at Devils — Friday, October 15th at 6:00 p.m. CT
TV: NBCSCH, MSG+, NHLN
Radio: WGN 720 AM / ESPN 104.5-FM
• Blackhawks at Penguins — Saturday, October 16th at 6:00 p.m. CT
TV: NBCSCH, AT&T SN Pittsburgh, NHLN
Radio: WGN 720 AM / WXDX 105.9-FM
Expected Blackhawks Lines
Blackhawks (0-0-0, 0 pts)
DeBrincat – Johnson – Kane
Borgström – Dach – Hagel
Kubalík – Toews – Kurashev
Khaira – Entwistle – Carpenter
(Strome, Gaudette rotating in)
de Haan – Jones
McCabe – Murphy
Stillman – Mitchell
(Gustafsson, Regula fourth pairing)
Blackhawks Tale of the Tape
(These stats are reflective of the 2020-21 season. We will begin using current stats in next week’s installment of this series once games have been played.)
Goals Per Game
Goals Against Per Game
Patrick Kane: 66 PTS (15 G, 51 A)
Alex DeBrincat: 56 PTS (32 G, 24 A)
Dominik Kubalík: 38 PTS (17 G, 21 A)
Blackhawks Injury Report
Caleb Jones (LTIR – Wrist)
Wyatt Kalynuk (LTIR – Ankle)
Alec Regula (LTIR – Back)
Andrew Shaw (LTIR – Retirement)
Keep An Eye Out For
• The Blackhawks were 28th in the NHL on the penalty kill last season, and they’ll be tested in that department very early. Colorado was 8th in the NHL (22.7%) on the power play, and their Saturday night opponent, the Pittsburgh Penguins, ranked 4th in the NHL (23.7%) on the power play.
• MacKenzie Entwistle is a guy that I’m looking forward to watching this season. He’s got a shot to be this year’s Brandon Hagel-type breakout player for the Blackhawks, and he’s ready for the challenge of meeting those expectations.
“I was ready. I wanted to really make a step this year and try to make the team. I had a great camp and [I’m] obviously happy to be here… Moving forward, I want to prove I can stay in the NHL and be an everyday guy.”
• The New Jersey Devils allowed a whopping 3.38 goals per game last season (fourth-worst in the NHL), giving the Blackhawks offense something to look forward to on Friday night.