Flurry of Goals, Flurry of Saves, Fleury of Honors, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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Flurry of Goals, Flurry of Saves, Fleury of Honors, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

I’m very proud of the title of today’s Blackhawks Bullets. And if you only read the headline and this sentence, it will already have been worth it. (But no, please, keep reading. I worked very hard this morning and wrote this with my daughter strapped to me in her Baby Bjorn carrier.)

•   Last night, the Blackhawks honored goaltender Marc-André Fleury for his 500th career win, which happened last weekend against the Montreal Canadiens. This was supposed to happen on Monday night against the Calgary Flames, but then the Flames entire organization (not really, but close) tested positive for COVID.

•   With Fleury and his family on the ice, the former first-overall pick was honored with a commemorative mask, a tribute video, and congratulations all around from former teammates and the other two goaltenders to win 500 or more NHL games, Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy.

•   Fleury has only been in Chicago for less than half a season, and likely won’t be around longer after that, but the impact he has had around the club both on and off the ice has been incredible. Truly one of the times when a player has had an honor night with the Blackhawks when they haven’t been around long that actually felt like he was a long-time member of the team.

•   Fleury and his family arriving in Chicago took some convincing for the 2021 Vezina winner in the offseason, but he came around and committed to the club and has been able to fit into the city and be a part of the start of the culture change surrounding the Blackhawks.

•   I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t like Marc-André Fleury.

•   How can you not?

•   Even Alex Ovechkin, who has faced Fleury so much in his career in heated rivalries and in the Stanley Cup Final, can’t hate the guy. Then again, how do you hate a guy you have scored on so many times?

•   Louder for those in the back, “COVER OVECHKIN ON THE POWERPLAY!”

•   So the Blackhawks found themselves down 1-0 after the very predictable Ovechkin powerplay goal, but in the second period, they only needed 34 seconds to not only tie the game, but take the lead and then extend that lead again!

•   Like, seriously?

•   I took my dog out last night, braved the swirling winds to pick up his poop, and came back to a 3-1 Blackhawks lead.

•   Needless to say, the UC crowd might have been the loudest it’s been all season with back-to-back-to-back goals.

•   It’s amazing what momentum can do. On the flip-side, the Capitals found their own momentum to comeback to tie the game 3-3 in the third. Alex DeBrincat, who started the three goals in 34 seconds stretch, gave the Blackhawks the lead once again with just five minutes to play. By the way, he’s on a 46-goal pace this season. But with three seconds left on the clock, the Capitals tied the game. Deflating.

•   At least it would have been for a former version of these Chicago Blackhawks…

•   Caleb Jones had a multi-point night with the game-winner, his first multi-point game since February 23, 2020 and just his sixth goal of his career. It was a big one in a big moment.

•   In another time, the Blackhawks would have likely found a way to blow the 3-1 lead and lose the game in regulation. Or they would have allowed the game-tying goal with three seconds and then lost in the overtime period. But this Blackhawks squad under Derek King, which is 6-0 in overtime/shootouts this season, has found a way to respond to adversity.

•   Sometimes that’s all it takes. A belief in yourself and the guys in the locker room.

•   With the win last night, Chicago is now 10-6-0 under Derek King and 11-15-2 overall. But since November 17, Chicago has alternated wins and losses, going 7-6-0 over that span.

•   They are climbing up the ladder, but it’s a deep hole they are climbing out of. Since November 7, when King took over, Chicago has a .625 points-percentage, tied for the ninth-best in the league. With 20 points over their last 16 games, the Blackhawks are playing at a 102.5-point pace over an 82-game schedule.

•   Will we see the Blackhawks adding at the trade deadline if they keep this pace? I think they might, but I’m not sure who they have to give up as far as assets go that wouldn’t take away from the current team. And Dylan Strome continues to look more valuable to the team now than he does on the trade block unless it’s a one-for-one swap.

•   We shall see what interim GM Kyle Davidson has planned for the Blackhawks as the season continues. Yesterday we learned that, while the team is looking for outside help in their search for a permanent GM, Davidson still looks to be the front-runner to hold the spot.

•   At this point, with the results we’ve seen, I wouldn’t mind if Davidson and Derek King both kept their positions beyond this season. Chicago’s defense has vastly improved under King. Their offense is starting to wake up now, and Davidson feels like he has a different approach to running an organization than Stan Bowman did. He’ll likely not feel much loyalty to “Bowman’s guys” when it comes to trades and/or contracts, so he could end up being more of a risk-taker this season to get the team into a postseason position.

•   That is, if we get to the postseason.

•   The NHL this week has been ravaged by COVID cases and today is again no different. The NBA and NFL are all experiencing the same spike in cases, as well as other major professional leagues like the English Premier League. Mark Lazerus of The Athletic went through what the NHL is already doing to try to curb the rising cases, and what they might need to still do to protect their players, staff members, and the rest of this season.

•   Yesterday the league implemented new “enhanced” COVID protocols that will last through at least January 7.

•   Today, more cases in Calgary and Boston.

•   Islanders head coach Barry Trotz gets it.

•   Earlier this week, I floated the idea out to Twitter that the NHL and NBA might be seeing a decrease in fans in the stands and that the NHL might need to pause the season to try to curb the rising COVID cases. I was told “learn to live with it,” “vaccines don’t work,” and was called all sorts of names. Look, I don’t want to be right about any of this, but we’ve already seen the Ontario government cut fan capacity at Raptors, Maple Leafs, and Senators games to 50% and it’s not unlikely that the measure will extend through Canada beyond Ontario. Maybe it happens in the U.S. too. But the reality is not that we have to “learn to live with COVID” as it is now. Following up the vaccine with a booster shot, which a ton of vaccines already require and you’ve likely already had in your life whether you remember it or not, is the way to address the viruses ability to change and variants to continue to develop. Can we eradicate COVID? No, we’re well past that. But the “learn to live with it” crowd needs to understand that “living with it” means continuing to follow the medical professionals recommendations and not just throwing your hands up and saying “welp, it’s here, nothing we can do now.”

•   Happening yesterday prior to the Blackhawks puck drop against the Capitals was news that the team and Kyle Beach had reached a settlement to the sexual assault/negligence lawsuit brought against the Blackhawks by Beach.

•   The settlement reached will remain confidential, as it should, but TSN’s Rick Westhead spoke with an unaffiliated attorney to gauge what Beach may have gotten in the deal from the team.

•   My first thought was, “That’s it?” But honestly, whether that is the real range or not, the bottom line for Beach is that hopefully now, with this legal process over, he can move forward in his life and his journey dealing with what happened to him. Him coming forward publicly as the player that was assaulted was a tremendous show of courage that he should be commended for. I truly hope this is a new beginning for Beach in his life. For the Blackhawks, their legal process is not done as the other lawsuit against the team involving “John Doe 2,” the Michigan high school student who was assaulted by Former Blackhawks video coach Brad Aldrich, will have a settlement mediation on December 20, according to Westhead as well.

•   Finally, another Blackhawks prospect is heading to the World Junior Championships later this month as defenseman Michael Krutil was named to the Czech Republic’s final roster.

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



Author: Mario Tirabassi

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