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Low Offensive Problems, “Stale” Lines, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

Take a minute from your Black Friday shopping or wake up from your Thanksgiving turkey hangover to enjoy today’s Blackhawks Bullets ahead of today’s Friday matinée contest between Chicago and the St. Louis Blues. While the game was bumped from the national TV broadcast on ABC and will now only be found on ESPN+/Hulu, Chicago has an opportunity against the rival Blues to set-forth a course, post-American Thanksgiving, to get back into Stanley Cup Playoff contention.

•   What they will need to do to get into that contention status is score goals. A novel concept, I know. Chicago is only averaging 2.11 goals per game over their past seven games. That will need to drastically change for the Blackhawks to start climbing up the standings.

•   Marc-André Fleury cannot stand on his head every night, even if his play in net over his past five starts has been much more resemblant of the 2021 Vezina Trophy-winner than his play at the beginning of this season.

•   With a need to increase goal-scoring, interim head coach Derek King will be mixing-up the lineup ahead of today’s game against the Blues.

•   His reasoning is that the lines combinations needed a fresh look. Not a terrible idea at this point in the season.

•   The biggest changes are in the top-six forwards group. Patrick Kane and Brandon Hagel will play on the wing of Captain Jonathan Toews, who has yet to score a goal this season. Also experiencing a goal-scoring drought is forward Dominik Kubalík, who has not scored in his last 13 games.

•   Kubalík’s biggest asset to his game is his shot. He’s fourth on the club in shots on goal this season with 42, but just three have found the back of the net. Over the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, only Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat took more shots than Kubalík, and those two are also the only two with more goals over those two seasons.

•   Kubalík had a 15.0% shooting-percentage over the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, he’s at less-than half of that this season, shooting at a 7.0%, which ranks ninth on the team out of 13 skaters to have at least 10 shots on goal and at least one goal this season.

•   The powerplay units will get a new-look as well, with Brandon Hagel and Jonathan Toews locking into spots on the top-unit, while Kirby Dach will play on the second unit, along with recently healthy-scratched Philipp Kurashev.

•   Kubalík, Dylan Strome, and Erik Gustafsson round-out the second unit. Add Strome’s name to the long list of Blackhawks forwards in need of an offensive boost. While he’s getting an opportunity on the second unit, he’ll be buried in the lineup on the fourth-line, playing with Reese Johnson and Jujhar Khaira. So we’ll see how that helps him gain his offensive spark.

•   Not that I should down-play the roles of Khaira and Johnson as physical players in the lineup. Chicago needs those kinds of players to help protect the stars and futures of the franchise. Although, Kirby Dach and Alex DeBrincat have the two most recent fights on the team.

•   It was fun to see Dach get into his first official NHL fight. But if I never see him fight again, it will be too soon.

•   Wyatt Kalynuk will make his season debut today after missing the beginning of the year with an ankle injury. He had been with the Rockford IceHogs over the past two weeks after getting healthy, scoring a goal and two assists in four games.

•   Kalynuk made a name for himself last season with the Blackhawks after signing with the club in the offseason as a college free agent. The reason Erik Gustafsson is with the Blackhawks happened to be because of preseason injuries to Kalynuk and Caleb Jones. Now with both back, and Gustafsson playing as one of the more effective blue-liners (shocker, I know) it will be interesting to see how the battle for ice-time among the defensive group shakes out.

•   A reminder: Blackhawks and Blues today at 2:30 p.m. CT will be found on ESPN+/Hulu ONLY. It will be a star-studded broadcast team for today’s afternoon puck drop.

•   After the jersey reveals for Team Canada and Team USA for the 2022 Beijing Olympics, we needed to see a country come forward with one good design. Enter Team Sweden…

•   Simple, clean, three crowns, Team Sweden almost always looks the best at international competitions.

•   Speaking of the international stage of the game, check out Dailyfaceoff’s Scott Burnside’s latest on former NHLer Chris Stewart and his work to grow hockey in Jamaica.

•   That will do it for today. Hope you all had a good Thanksgiving holiday and may your coupons and savings today make you getting up at midnight and fighting crowds at stores, while in a pandemic, worth it.

•   Remember to shop small tomorrow, too.



Author: Mario Tirabassi

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