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Blackhawks Are Back? Vintage Marc-André Fleury, Jones Bros, The Cat Fights, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

Last night, for those that stayed up late, the Chicago Blackhawks did something that I begged them to stop doing a few weeks ago. They did not waste our time.

If you were up late for the first of four games on a West Coast road trip for the Blackhawks, you were treated to a fourth-straight win for the club, and first in team history over the new expansion Seattle Kraken. You were treated to a performance in net from Marc-André Fleury that was a reminder of why we thought he could pull the Blackhawks into the postseason. You were treated to Alex DeBrincat getting a Gordie Howe Hat-Trick.

In short, like a pint of ice cream, Chicago’s win was a late-night treat.

•   Awesome moment to begin the game, after the Blackhawks activated Caleb Jones off LTIR, he made his regular season debut for Chicago alongside his older brother Seth. The two have never played on the same team before, not counting the preseason, and took their first shift of the game together:

•   Not only did Caleb and Seth play their first NHL regular season game together on the same team, they have never even faced each other in their NHL careers. Special to have their first game in the same building, be on the same team. And even more special on the night, to opening the scoring with a beauty of a goal, Seth Jones tallied career point No. 300!

•   Pretty cool moment for the Jones family and adding to the list of brothers to play for the Blackhawks. Which could also soon add the Dach brothers to the list, too:

•   While last night was a debut for Caleb Jones, there was another type of emergence for Chicago in last night’s game as well. Alex DeBrincat, locally known as a superstar, has grown his recognition as a top winger in the league over the last season+. Last night, on a nationally televised TNT game, DeBrincat showed up and told the rest of the NHL, “I’m kind of a big deal.”

•   To extend the Blackhawks’ lead to 2-0 in the second period, DeBrincat netted his team-leading ninth goal of the season. After finishing last season scoring on a 50-goal pace, DeBrincat is once again flirting with the 50-goal pace at a 0.56 goals per game rate. With nine goals through 16 games, DeBrincat is on pace for 46 this season, which would be a career-high.

•   With an assist on the Seth Jones goal and a goal of his own, DeBrincat was two-thirds of the way to his first Gordie Howe Hat-Trick, where you tally an assist, score a goal, and get in a fight all in the same game. DeBrincat, who had six career fights heading into last night’s game (according to Hockey Fights dot com), just needed a dance partner, as they say.

•   After giving DeBrincat a punch to the back of the head, slashing Seth Jones, and trying to sucker Patrick Kane all in the same shift, Yanni Gourde became the target and DeBrincat became the missile:

•   What’s the saying? “Big things come in small packages?” Well, you’re not wrong when it comes to DeBrincat, who very clearly handled Gourde in their tussle last night. His fourth career fight as a member of the Blackhawks and third in his professional career. Not something you want your 40-goal scoring star winger to be doing, but for DeBrincat, it was a moment where someone had to do something:

•   Some great nuggets here from Chris Kamka. Which is more odd: that it’s been over three seasons since the Blackhawks have had someone score and fight in the same game, or that the last two Gordie Howe Hat-Tricks have come from two superstars in the NHL that you would never want fighting on a regular basis?

•   When you get a guy like DeBrincat doing the dirty work, you know the team is going to be appreciative of it and hopefully use it as a sort of wake-up call that, maybe he shouldn’t be the one having to stick up for the other stars on the team:

•   Clearly the Blackhawks fed off the fight and minutes later, the Kraken decided it was better to triple-team Philipp Kurashev than cover Patrick Kane at all…

•   Kane scored his sixth goal of the season, his team-leading 17th point of the season and has six points in a four-game point-streak that not-so-coincidentally also coincides with the team’s four-game winning streak.

•   Maybe Jonathan Toews was right? That having a 10-day “vacation” on COVID protocol is what everyone needs. No. No, that’s terrible advice. DO NOT purposely contract COVID.

•   With the win over the Kraken last night, the Blackhawks are doing much better against the newest NHL expansion franchise than they have against the second-newest NHL expansion franchise:

•   But it was not easy breezy last night. Even though they got out to a 3-0 lead, the Kraken out-shot the Blackhawks in the final two periods of the game 30-11 and made things very unnerving in the final minutes of the game, scoring two goals late in the third period to cut Chicago’s lead to 3-2 before finding an empty-net insurance goal.

•   While the club has won four-straight games, they haven’t been the most convincing wins they could have been and they have come against teams that are not playing the best hockey in the league. Still, a win is a win and your job is to beat the team in front of you on a given night.

•   After starting the season 1-9-2, it’s no surprise that this Blackhawks team is not accustomed to playing with the lead. They’ve had to chase nearly every game they had played in until the coaching change was made on November 6. Since November 7, the Blackhawks have not trailed in a game. They are figuring out ways to win, but moving forward, they need to find ways to win that don’t include giving up cushions and taking your foot off the gas when you get ahead by two or three goals.

•   Probably the biggest reason that Chicago was able to come away winners last night was because of Marc-André Fleury. Standing tall by laying flat, Fleury made 31 saves on 33 shots faced and earned his third-straight win in net.

•   Last night’s performance was yet another reminder of why the Blackhawks were thought to be Stanley Cup Playoff contenders in the preseason after they acquired Fleury. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner has looked like anything but that in his prior eight starts with Chicago. But in his last three, Fleury has stopped 95 of 100 shots faced, which quick maths tells you he has a .950 save-percentage over the last three games.

•   This is the Marc-André Fleury that the organization thought they were getting. Better that he show up late than never, right?

•   With the win, Derek King continues his unblemished NHL head coaching career with a 4-0-0 marker.

•   Saturday will be a true test of what this four-game run actually means for the Blackhawks. They have four wins over teams that are in the bottom-third of the league, but their next matchup comes against the Edmonton Oilers. The Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl-led Edmonton Oilers. A team that is leading the NHL in scoring, averaging four goals scored per game.

•   Last night was another example of Kirby Dach being a good hockey player, but looking like he is struggling at the same time. He had the beautiful saucer-pass setup to Alex DeBrincat on the 2-0 second period goal, was a plus-three, and blocked two shots. Not a bad game, right? Well, for the former third-overall pick that is centering DeBrincat and Patrick Kane, his three wins and 15 losses at the faceoff dot were again a gigantic glaring problem:

•   Dach has a 30% win-rate at the dot this season, winning just 45 of 150 faceoffs taken this season. That’s not good. That’s terrible for a player who is being given the responsibility of winning puck possession so that he can help distribute the puck to two of the best players on the team in Kane and DeBrincat. Unfortunately, beyond Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks don’t have anyone else who can win faceoffs consistently, so if Dach is not going to figure things out in that aspect of his game, where does it leave him in the lineup and who could possibly fill that second center role? Dylan Strome? Tyler Johnson? It’s not a great situation.

•   In case you missed it yesterday, the Blackhawks added to their coaching staff with the hiring of Rob Cookson as an assistant coach. Additionally, Marc Crawford was made associate coach on Derek King’s staff.

•   Crawford has been relied upon heavily by King since taking over the team, so what do all these changes and additions mean? The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus took a stab at figuring out just exactly who is running the show behind the bench.

•   While things on the coaching staff might be a bit cloudy, there’s no denying that at the top of the organization, interim General Manager Kyle Davidson is operating with full conviction that he could, should, eventually be the permanent General Manager of the Blackhawks.

•   So far under Davidson, so good. At least on the ice.

•   That will do it for today. Hope you all have a good Thursday!



Author: Mario Tirabassi

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