When a goaltender is playing well, a team can get hot and a coach can look like a genius. When a goaltender is playing poorly, a team can look like dookie and a coach can get fired. For the Blackhawks, the former already happened this season and the latter, well, it’s starting to feel that way, isn’t it? Marc-André Fleury has been sensational for the Blackhawks in his last four starts, winning all four and allowing just five goals over that span. He recorded a shutout in his last appearance and looks like the 2021 Vezina Winner we thought was originally coming to Chicago.
• Much of the success the Blackhawks have seen since Derek King took over for Jeremy Colliton can be traced back to goaltending, and while this is no slight to Kevin Lankinen, it falls squarely on Fleury’s shoulders.
The “Old” Marc-André Fleury is Back for the Blackhawkshttps://t.co/aSc8P4j9Gs
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) November 22, 2021
• With Fleury looking like his old self, could the Blackhawks fight their way back from the depths of the NHL standings and maybe, just maybe, be in the playoff hunt once again? After a 1-9-2 start to the year, Chicago is 5-1-0 over their last six games. A 6-10-2 record is nothing to ride-home about, but as we approach American Thanksgiving this week, Chicago currently sits seven points back of the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference. It’s not much, but it’s better than being in the cellar of the league.
• Things will have to continue in this current direction if the Blackhawks are going to actually live up to their preseason expectations. The road ahead is not going to be easy and the five wins the Blackhawks have enjoyed in their last six games have all come against teams in the bottom-third of the league. So if they want to be in the “hunt,” they will have to take down some bigger “game” to do so.
Somehow, the Blackhawks still have 64 games left to play this season.
So could they climb all the way into the playoffs?
It's possible, but the path to that point still looks difficult.
New story: https://t.co/in3a8Hqp0q
— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) November 22, 2021
• Let’s say the Blackhawks do not make the postseason and they “waste” another year of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane’s careers without playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Kane is still playing like he is in his prime. Toews has been effective but not his usual self this season. With both players having just one more year left on their current identical deals for the 2022-23 season, what happens next?
Will the Blackhawks extend Kane and Toews this summer? Will they extend one and wait on the other? Will they wait on both? Will they try to trade one or other other?
I went through all the nuances of the franchise-altering decision:
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) November 23, 2021
• As Mark Lazerus points out, there is really no great option for the Blackhawks that comes out as a win-win when it comes to the duos next moves. July 13, 2022 is going to be an interesting day.
• Speaking of Kane playing like he is still in his prime, here’s a projection from Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic for the socring race this season.
Projected NHL scoring race pic.twitter.com/MwjIjum6OI
— dom at the athletic (@domluszczyszyn) November 22, 2021
• Remember when Jamie Benn won the Art Ross in 2014-15 with 87 points? What was that about?
• And with the future of the Blackhawks in mind, the team at The Athletic projected what the league might look like in a few years for the 2024-25 season.
New post @TheAthleticNHL: NHL Future Rankings, projecting the 2024-25 standings (w @domluszczyszyn, @MarkLazerus , @seanshapiro, @MAGodin, @jprutherford, @reallisa, @harmandayal2, @WPGMurat) https://t.co/RboKPTMb34
— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) November 23, 2021
• A fun exercise that is actually not that fun for Blackhawks fans when you realize how far you are scrolling before seeing where Chicago lands.
• In other league news, the New Jersey Devils revealed their first ever true alternate jersey today and it looks…familiar?
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) November 23, 2021
• Ah, yep, I’ve seen this before.
“Can I copy your homework?”
“Sure, just don’t make it too obvious.”
— Mario Tirabassi (@Mario_Tirabassi) November 23, 2021
• These were designed by Devils Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur and I have to say, while the Blackhawks’ Winter Classic look was awesome, these “Jersey” jerseys are terrible. The reason Chicago’s look amazing is because this was actually a design the team had before and the crest on the sweater was an iconic throwback. New Jersey’s setup looks like the unfinished template placeholder the Blackhawks used for their Winter Classic design and Brodeur just said, “Yeah that’s good, send it.”
• Speaking of jerseys, the Minnesota Wild will be wearing these Native American Heritage jerseys for warmups this week. It’s a pretty sweet look and I just wish that NHL teams would wear these kinds of “commemorative” designs for actual games, and not just warmups.
The @mnwild will wear these Native American Heritage jerseys in warmups on Friday vs. Winnipeg, partnering with the Prairie Island Indian Community. Designed by members of the Treasure Island Resort & Casino and Wild creative teams. They'll be auctioned off after the game. pic.twitter.com/NTUEqSDYci
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) November 22, 2021
• Think of the auction money you could bring in for a fully used game sweater, rather than just a used warmup. Just my two cents.
• In other Chicago news, chants to fire another head coach in the city reached the United Center again. This time, it was Bulls fans calling for Matt Nagy to be fired.
LOL – A Loud “Fire Nagy!” Chant Broke Out at the Chicago BULLS Game https://t.co/omcpJmQj6I
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) November 23, 2021
• And today, it appears likely that this week will be his last with the team.
Yes, We've Seen the Report That Thursday Will Be Matt Nagy's Last Game Coaching the Bears https://t.co/aTKdqYvTxA
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) November 23, 2021
• The Blackhawks have, so far, benefitted from a change in direction after the firing of Jeremy Colliton. The NFL and NHL are different beasts when it comes to the impact coaches have on a day-to-day, game-to-game basis, but maybe the Bears might be able to salvage what is left of this season by making a change from Nagy?
• Again, just my two cents.
• That will do it for today. Hope you all enjoy your Tuesday and we will see you later tonight For Blackhawks-Flames at 8:00 p.m. CT.