This year has been off to maybe the worst start the Blackhawks could have asked for. After a 13-day break between games due to COVID postponements, Chicago had two games on back-to-back days to open the new calendar year. They did so by getting blown out twice by a combined 11-2 score against the Nashville Predators and Calgary Flames. Merry New Year, eh?
• The Blackhawks have an offensive deficiency. Tinkering with the lineup and putting in a player like Kurtis Gabriel only works when you have an offensive team that can put up goals. But with Chicago, you need scoring opportunities any way you can get them and from anywhere in the lineup.
More King: "Half the guys were kinda not ready to play the other night. We only 3-4 guys who weren’t ready to play [tonight]. I’m not going to ever name names, but they know who they are. We’ll address it, talk within our doors, and we’ll figure this out."
— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) January 3, 2022
• Starting games and periods on time has been an issue on and off this season for Chicago. Against Nashville, they allowed the first goal of the game just over a minute into the period. They also allowed goals within the first minute of the second and third periods. Yesterday, they scored the first goal of the game but gave up five unanswered. Maybe the 13-day break did more bad than good for them.
DeBrincat: "We all have better. Obviously losing 6-1 and 5-1 is not our best, and we know that… We have to come back stronger and more mentally prepared."
— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) January 3, 2022
• Getting Marc-André Fleury back in net will be a big deal for the Blackhawks, since his play this season has covered up a lot of their problems. But he’s not a long-term solution. Rookie Arvid Söderblom made his NHL debut and first NHL start in the two games this weekend, but with the play in front of him, he wasn’t given a great opportunity to debut with the Blackhawks.
Derek King on Arvid Soderblom: "He played a hell of a game for us.” #Blackhawks
— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) January 3, 2022
• Chicago will have to figure out what their future holds for them in net, very soon. Fleury could be a major trade piece for the Blackhawks, Lankinen and Delia are on expiring deals, Söderblom is the only goalie signed beyond this season. There’s a major hole in the roster that need to be fixed. That was clear this weekend.
• For a second there, it looked like the Blackhawks were on track to maybe claw their way back into the postseason chase. Now they have dropped their last four games in-a-row and the faint dream of coming back to make a run seems to be fully faded away.
Current gaps between 3rd and 5th place in NHL divisions:
Atlantic: 11 pts
Metro: 14 pts
Central: 5 pts
Pacific: 3 pts
Guess we're staying up late for playoff races …
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) January 3, 2022
• Today, in an alternate reality, we would know which teams would be playing for medals at the World Junior Championships with the semifinals set. Likely, a U.S.-Canada-Sweden-Russian-Finland combination of the four would be there.
• But in this reality, the tournament isn’t happening. Teams were sent home. But for the Russian and Czech teams, the trip home did not go so smoothly…
Team Czechia also removed from Air Canada flight, CTV's @TysonFedorTV reports.
Czech team manager Otakar Černý: "The flight attendants identified the young men in gray Nike sweatshirts as the culprits…Unfortunately, the Czech sweatshirts look exactly the same as the Russian…"
— Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) January 2, 2022
• It’s just the exclamation-mark on the end of a tournament that was doomed from the start in a world where COVID has been a problem, once again. From The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler, a look inside the “bubble” that never was for the World Junior Championships.
Testing in a boardroom next to a busy restaurant. Open shops. A hair salon. And, yes, a wedding.
Inside the Red Deer hotel at the World Juniors: https://t.co/fzea2epE6l
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) January 3, 2022
• Back with their Junior teams, the stars of the abbreviated tournament are back doing what they do best. 16-year-old phenom Connor Bedard scored four goals in his first game back with the Regina Pats in the WHL. You can find all four in the thread here:
The Child. Four goals, including the OT winner in Bedard’s first game back from the WJC. https://t.co/FLCqYzVvpe
— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) January 2, 2022
• Kid’s a freak.
• Also scoring goals in the WHL this season are a pair of Blackhawks 2021 draft picks. With the Edmonton Oil Kings, seventh-round pick Jalen Luypen got 2022 started right with his 15th of the year. Luypen is second on his team with 38 points in 35 games this season.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) January 2, 2022
• In Kelowna, second-round pick Colton Dach also lit the lamp to begin the new year, scoring his 13th goal of the year. Dach is tied for the team-lead in goals and is also second on his club in points with 25 in 26 games.
There it is, point number 100 on Jake Lee's @TheWHL career!
— Kelowna Rockets (@Kelowna_Rockets) January 3, 2022
• Speaking of prospects in Chicago, USHL Chicago Steel forward and Michigan-commit Adam Fantilli pulled off the “Michigan” lacrosse goal last night.
Adam Fantilli, a potential No. 1 overall pick in 2023 NHL Draft, pulls off the Michigan goal. Wow.
— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) January 2, 2022
• If the Blackhawks are going to be one of the three worst teams in the 2022-23 season, they could find themselves with one of Connor Bedard, Matvei Michkov, or Adam Fantilli. Makes you think.
• A reminder for those in Chicago, today begins the new vaccination requirements for indoor activities. This applies to the United Center as well.
STARTING TODAY: Chicago will require patrons of certain indoor spaces to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Getting vax'd and boosted is essential to protect the health of yourself, your friends, and your community.
— Chicago Department of Public Health – CDPH (@ChiPublicHealth) January 3, 2022
• The Bulls play at the UC tonight, taking on the Orlando Magic. The Blackhawks are at home tomorrow night, playing the Colorado Avalanche. So be prepared if you are headed to the games.
• Justin Fields may get out there one final time.
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) January 3, 2022
• The Bulls are insanely fun this year. If you missed it, DeMar DeRozan, who was identified as the worst signing of the offseason, hit not one, but TWO buzzer-beating three pointers. He’s a legitimate MVP candidate and the Bulls are in first place. Wild.
So this angle is incredible 😱
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) January 2, 2022
• That will do it for today. Hope you enjoy the first Monday of 2022.