Pity Points Piling Up, Another Ugly Hit, Red-Hot Rookie Reichel, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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Pity Points Piling Up, Another Ugly Hit, Red-Hot Rookie Reichel, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

While the result was the same two nights in-a-row for the Blackhawks, the feeling surrounding each result was different. After a disappointing effort against the Nashville Predators on Friday night, Chicago had a much more spirited comeback effort against the Dallas Stars on Saturday night. Unfortunately, each game ended in an overtime loss for the Blackhawks and they now face their first losing streak since Derek King took over as head coach.

•   First and foremost, last night saw a dangerous hit between Brett Connolly and former Blackhawk Tanner Kero. Connolly was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for his high hit on Kero, which left him knocked out and had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher.

•   This is the second time this season that the Blackhawks have been involved in an incident like this. Earlier this season, Jujhar Khaira was knocked out of a game and had to be stretchered off the ice after a high hit from Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba. After last night’s game, Kero’s teammate Joe Pavelski was emotional talking about the play.

•   You can clearly see how an incident like that can shake-up a player. Pavelski was able to respond with two powerplay goals on the ensuing five-minute powerplay for the Stars. But having to see your teammate go off the ice on a stretcher and then have to turn around and play again like nothing happened takes its toll on players.

•   The hit itself did not look malicious from Connolly. To me, he guessed Kero’s path to the puck would go towards the boards and he would line up a hit on his shoulder. Kero turned up the ice instead and never saw Connolly coming.

•   Connolly immediately stopped playing once he saw how the hit ended, and there was no retaliation from the Stars.

•   The best news came not too long after play resumed, that Kero was alert and responsive on his way to the hospital. Our best wishes are to Kero and hope he can have a speedy and full recovery.

•   Unsurprisingly, Connolly has a hearing today for his hit.

•   As I said, Pavelski scored twice on the ensuing five-minute powerplay and put the Blackhawks in a deep hole to begin the game. It was part of a four-point night for the 37-year-old Pavelski, who is leading the Stars this season in goals (11) and points (26).

•   In total last night, the Blackhawks allowed three powerplay goals on eight opportunities for Dallas, including the eventual game-winner in overtime.

•   Chicago had been 6-0 under Derek King in games that needed overtime or a shootout, but that perfect record quickly became a ho-hum 6-2 this weekend.

•   Of note last night, Alex DeBrincat scored his team-leading 17th goal of the season in the second period, on his 24th Birthday! DeBrincat is in a three-way tie for fifth in the NHL in goals this season alongside Andrew Mangiapane and Connor McDavid. He is tied with seven other players for the fourth-most even-strength goals (11) this season and is tied with five other players for the fifth-most powerplay goals (6) this season as well.

•   At 24-years-old, DeBrincat is on a 46-goal pace this season, which would be a career-high and would be the second 40-goal season of his career if he were to keep this pace. It would also be the third season in a five-year career for DeBrincat where he would be scoring at a 40+goal pace after scoring 32 goals in 52 games last season, a 50-goal pace over 82 games.

•   Also getting on the scoresheet last night was DeBrincat’s linemate Dylan Strome, scoring the 3-2 goal in the second period to cut into the Stars lead at the time.

•   Strome’s third goal of the season and his fourth point in his last six games. He also recorded six shots on goal last night and a 0.32 individual expected goals rate at 5v5, the highest on the team.

•   Strome has emerged as a viable option regularly in the lineup for Derek King and he has played well alongside DeBrincat and Patrick Kane since being put between the two. It’s almost as if a skilled forward should be playing with other skilled forwards to maximize scoring potential.

•   Also maximizing scoring potential for the Blackhawks this season has been Brandon Hagel. Having another strong performance last night, Hagel has been one of the most effective players on both ends of the ice for Chicago. On the game-tying goal, he took advantage of a Dallas turnover and fired the puck on net, where Dominik Kubalík could get his stick on it.

•   Kubalík is now riding a four-game point-streak and Hagel has three multi-point games this season, two in his last three appearances. He is fourth on the team in points with 16.

•   Unfortunately, this was another game where the Blackhawks have had to come back from a poor start. The moral victory of producing the comeback is great and all, but getting two-point results needs to start being the focus, and not just how well the team responds to adversity.

•   Don’t get me wrong, the team is actually responding now. Early this season, a game like last night would have never been close, even with the effort put in by Kevin Lankinen in net.

•   Chicago is now off until Thursday after having Tuesday night’s game against the Panthers postponed due to Florida being shut down amid the ongoing COVID outbreak across the NHL. Thursday night will be at the United Center against these same Dallas Stars.

•   That is if we even get to Thursday’s game at this rate.

•   The NHL has now shut down five teams  through Christmas after adding the Bruins and Predators to the list yesterday.

•   It’s not just the players. It’s not just the coaches. It’s not just the team staff members, too. Referees are also skating and breathing the same congested air on the ice the players are, and they too are feeling the effects of the COVID outbreak.

•   Just pause the season. Increase safety protocols. Come back with the Winter Classic and allow everyone a chance to get back to square one.

•   In the ECHL last night, the Indy Fuel held their own Teddy Toss night and it was Captain Keoni Texeira that got the bears flying!

•   Over 5,000 of them hit the ice in Indy last night.

•   After being down 0-2 to begin the game, the Fuel stormed back for a 9-4 win over the Kalamazoo Wings.

•   Also in minor-league action last night were the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL. They also were in Texas last night, taking on the Dallas Stars AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars. Go figure, right? With a late-game powerplay goal, returning rookie Lukas Reichel scored his team-leading eighth goal of the season.

•   Reichel also notched an assist last night, to add to his team-leading 14 points for the IceHogs this season. My preseason prediction that Reichel would be with the Blackhawks by Christmas likely won’t pan-out, but there’s nothing to say that he hasn’t looked like the player the Blackhawks had hoped he would as a rookie so far this year.

•   Other Rockford news this morning, Ian Mitchell and Josiah Slavin are heading back to the IceHogs.

•   In other Chicago hockey news in the AHL, the Wolves are on a 12-game heater…sheesh.

•   They sit atop the AHL Central Division with a 20-4-2 record and 42 points. Rockford is third in the Central with an 11-10-2 record and 24 points.

•   In WHL action last night, Blackhawks 2021 seventh-round pick Jalen Luypen scored the overtime winner for the Edmonton Oil Kings…

•   Luypen has looked like a steal for the Blackhawks so far, scoring 12 goals and 31 points in 30 WHL games this season. He is also winning 56.3% of his faceoffs. He leads all under-23 non-professional Blackhawks prospects in the system with a 1.03 points per game rate this year, ahead of Taige Harding (1.00, AJHL – Fort McMurray), Ryder Rolston (0.94, NCAA – Notre Dame), and Colton Dach (0.92, WHL – Kelowna).

•   Also happening in the WHL last night, a broken puck goal…

•   And, a Zegras goal!

•   All the cool kids are doing it.

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



Author: Mario Tirabassi

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