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The Real Marc-André Fleury, Gaining Confidence, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

It was not pretty last night, but a win is a win is a win. The Blackhawks were able to hold-off the Vancouver Canucks, a team that is not exactly the Edmonton Oilers, and steal a 1-0 win thanks largely, and basically only, because of the performance of Marc-André Fleury in net. Sure, Brandon Hagel had to score the goal to break the scoreless tie, but honestly, if given the chance last night, Fleury probably could have done that for Chicago too.

•   His first shutout of his Blackhawks career, Fleury has won his last four starts for Chicago, improving his record this season to 5-7-0.

•   Even with making 40 saves on the night, the game could have easily been 3-0 or 4-0 in favor of the Canucks at different points if they would have had just an inch or two difference on a number of shots. Luckily for Fleury and the Blackhawks, the posts were working for Chicago instead of against them.

•   Always show your goalposts some love, you never know when they will have your back.

•   Fleury’s start to his Blackhawks career was less-than “Fleury-like.” Over his past four appearances, the 2021 Vezina Trophy winner has looked just like the 2021 Vezina Trophy winner. He’s won all four starts and has stopped 130 of 135 shots faced for a .963 save-percentage over that span.

•   The Canucks had a 3.73 Expected Goals For-rate last night, but Fleury made sure they ended up with zero. A belt-worthy performance.

•   Chicago is 5-1-0 over their last six games since making their head coaching change on November 6. They haven’t beat a team in those five wins that stands out as a solid, defining win, since all five of the teams sit in the bottom-third of the NHL currently. But the Blackhawks can’t do anything about that except beat the teams that are put in front of them.

•   What the club lacked in their first 12 games of the season was confidence. Bad luck snowballed into bad play, which snowballed into bad results, a 1-9-2 start and a head coach being fired. You’ll remember the terrible start last season got off to for the Blackhawks, but a win over the Detroit Red Wings sparked a bit of confidence and Chicago was able to roll that into a full season of being in the hunt for a postseason position. This current run of earning 10 of their last 12 possible points could likely serve as the confidence boost the team needs to carry them back into some semblance of postseason contention.

•   They are, after all, just five points back of the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference now. Just saying.

•   Chicago finishes their four-game West Coast road trip tomorrow night in Calgary. The Flames are the top team in the Western Conference and tied for third in the NHL with 27 points in the standings. Much of that can be attributed to their league-leading .936 team save-percentage, 1.89 goals allowed per game and seven shutouts so far this season.

•   Yeesh.

•   Around the league last night, a buzzer-beater at the Garden for the New York Rangers…

•   Better late than never, right?

•   Rangers forward and former Blackhawks star Artemiy Panarin tallied three assists in the game, his 13th, 14th, and 15th of the year which ranks him in a tie for fifth-most in the NHL. With the three-point night, he joined former teammate Patrick Kane at the top of the “three-point night” list.

•   I miss Panarin.

•   Speaking of Russian stars, Alex Ovechkin introduced himself to the expansion Seattle Kraken last night…

•   Ovechkin ranks second in the NHL with 15 goals this season, on pace for 65 goals, which would tie his career-high set back in the 2007-08 season.

•   In international play yesterday, the Canadian and U.S. Women’s teams continued their Rivalry Series in preparation for the upcoming 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. In a 2-2 overtime game, it would be a pair of Illinois-natives connecting for the game-winner as Kendall Coyne-Schofield setup Hilary Knight for the OT winner.

•   More of that when the Olympics come around in February.

•   Yesterday at Solider Field, the Bears were on their way to a dramatic win over the Ravens, until they weren’t. “Fire Nagy” chants echoed through the stadium at the end of the game. Blackhawks fans can relate to that feeling.

•   Who knows if the same fate will happen to Bears head coach Matt Nagy that happened to Jeremy Colliton following the crowd chants at the United Center.

•   That will do it for today. Hope you all enjoy your Monday!



Author: Mario Tirabassi

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