After falling short against the New York Rangers on the road on Saturday night, the Blackhawks get a second crack at the second-place team in the Metropolitan Division tonight at the United Center. Chicago is 8-4-0 in their last 12 games, with all four losses coming against teams that are either in the current playoff picture (New York, Edmonton, Calgary) or within a point of a playoff spot (San Jose). Only the loss to the Oilers back on November 20 felt like a game that was truly out of reach for the Blackhawks. There was that 5-2 loss to the Flames, but Calgary scored two empty-net goals late to make the score look worse than it was. At some point, you would hope, the moral victories for Chicago turn into actual victories.
• The month of November was Hockey Fights Cancer month, but cancer research doesn’t need attention just one month every year. It’s an around the clock need for funding and research. Blackhawks fans know this too well recently with Eddie Olczyk and Troy Murray dealing with their own battles with cancer. For Murray, who has been away from his WGN broadcasting duties all season, the support from the Blackhawks community has been tremendous. You can read more on the #TeamMurray orange wristbands that have been created to support Murray in his battle from guest writer Tessa Martyn:
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) December 7, 2021
• Thanks to Tessa for coming to us to share the story of Katrina and the movement to support Troy in his continued battle against cancer.
• Tonight, it’s another reunion between best friends Patrick Kane and Artemiy Panarin.
— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) December 7, 2021
• Last time out on Saturday, both Kane and Panarin scored for their clubs, but it was Panarin’s three-point night that helped push the Rangers over Kane and the Blackhawks.
• Kevin Lankinen was in net for Saturday night’s contest, but tonight it will be Marc-André Fleury. After getting the shootout win over the Islanders on Sunday night, Fleury is on the cusp of joining Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur in the exclusive 500-win club.
Fleury is first goalie off for the Blackhawks.
He’s tonight’s projected starter. He’s going for career win #500.
— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) December 7, 2021
• Fleury has faced the Rangers more than any other team in his career. He has a 33-18-9 record with a .909 save-percentage in 61 games.
• Speaking of the shootout win from Sunday night, it still baffles me that the Islanders played that overtime period hoping to get to the shootout against the Blackhawks. Historically, both Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are two of the best shootout performers in NHL history since the shootout was regularly implemented in the league. Chicago is one of the best shootout teams in the NHL in recent years and are already 3-0 this season. Hey, a win is a win, right?
Shootouts are designed to largely be crapshoots.
But the Blackhawks have broken that system — they dominate them. They're now 3-0 this season and 27-15 since the start of 2014-15, second-best in the NHL.
New story: https://t.co/NHKc5u4zJL
— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) December 6, 2021
• While it’s great to pile up two-point performances anyway they can get them, the Blackhawks will start needing to win in regulation and win convincingly to pass the eye test as a team that can actually be dangerous as the NHL season progresses and we get closer to the playoff chase portion of the schedule.
• But it could always be worse. You could be the Philadelphia Flyers, who just had to fire their head coach and then had the local K-9 unit take a dump at center ice…
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) December 6, 2021
• This is quintessentially Philly.
• In an ESPN report, the NHL players who pushed hard to get the league to participate again in the Winter Olympics are now expressing concerns over heading to Beijing in February.
Report: NHL Players Becoming More Concerned Over 2022 Beijing Olympicshttps://t.co/FqENbjJzoy
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) December 7, 2021
• With concerns over travel, COVID, protocols and restrictions, NHL players are starting to feel the pressure of facing a difficult experience going to the Olympics, while the league is starting to really feel like they will pull players from participating even more. January 10 is the deadline for the NHL to opt-out of sending players to Beijing. It’s also my birthday, if you want to mark it down on your calendars.
• Breaking news: Connor McDavid is ridiculous.
An urgent update on the scoring race: The Coyotes, with one goal tonight, have overtaken Connor McDavid in hockey’s biggest race.
Here’s where things stand:
Arizona Coyotes goals: 43
Connor McDavid points: 42
McDavid has one game in hand. All eyes are on him tomorrow night.
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) December 7, 2021
• McDavid is already headed to Team Canada for the Olympics, as long as NHL players still go. Joining him with Team Canada will undoubtedly be Colorado’s Cale Makar, who is also ridiculous.
sweet baby jesus cale makar pic.twitter.com/hhuBGBM0Rk
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) December 7, 2021
• Another player that has already been named to Team Russia’s squad, Alex Ovechkin is not only chasing Wayne Gretzky’s goal-scoring record, he is also starting to share the love more than he has in recent years…
Alex Ovechkin's 20 assists are already more than he's had in each of the last 2 seasons
2019-20: 68GP 19A
2020-21: 45GP 18A
2021-22: 26GP 20A
— Ben Raby (@BenRaby31) December 7, 2021
• Ovechkin’s career-high in assists is 59 from the 2009-10 season. He is on pace for 66 this season.
• Ending today with a few laughs. If you haven’t seen the Jomboy breakdown of the Brendan Lemieux biting Brady Tkachuk incident yet, take a few minutes and enjoy his breakdown.
Lemieux bites Tkachuk, a breakdown pic.twitter.com/2jQgFHib7E
— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) December 6, 2021
• He did a better job than the NHL Department of Player Safety did.
• You hate to see Tom Wilson looking silly. You just hate to see it.
— Caroline McCain (@ccmccain) December 7, 2021
• Also, not smart trying to use your cellphone as a hammer to dislodge a hockey stick.
• From Cubs world, Michael thinks it’s time for the Cubs to spend big, now that they’ve got Marcus Stroman in the door and a wide open payroll for the foreseeable future.
The Cubs payroll commitments just 2-3 years from now remain incredibly low. And with a weak free agent class coming up next year, now might just be the time to spend big. https://t.co/Q91CtUSYQD
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) December 7, 2021
• That will do it for today. Hope you all enjoy your Tuesday and we will see you tonight for Blackhawks-Rangers at 7:30 p.m. CT!