COVID Testing Update, Trade Values Increasing, NHL Purgatory, Representation Matters, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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COVID Testing Update, Trade Values Increasing, NHL Purgatory, Representation Matters, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

There’s good news and bad news with the Blackhawks. The good news is that the lineup will be getting back to full strength in the next few days ahead of their upcoming weekend home-and-home series with Minnesota. The bad news is that, even at full strength, the Blackhawks lineup is not good enough to contend for a Stanley Cup Playoff spot. They currently are eight points out of the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference and have closed the gap on the teams directly ahead of them in the Conference standings, but their play recently has been a mirage and what they truly are is a team that will stay in NHL “purgatory” until the organization embraces wholesale changes. And until that day comes, honestly, the Blackhawks are just wasting all of our time.

•   Good news: Seth Jones is coming back.

•   Jones has been the No. 1 defenseman the Blackhawks hoped for him to be this season. He’s logging he most minutes on the team and the fifth-most per game in the NHL at 25:54 every night. He leads all Chicago defensemen in goals and points as well.

•   Also playing the role the Blackhawks had hoped he would this season is Marc-André Fleury. Imagine how much worse this season would be for Chicago if they weren’t getting the kind of play in net this season that Fleury has provided. Last night is the perfect example. Fleury stole the one point the Blackhawks earned against the Seattle Kraken with a 35-save performance.

•   Fleury has started seven-straight games for Chicago and is 4-1-2 in those seven games with a .927 save percentage and a 2.24 GAA. Since Derek King took over as interim head coach, Fleury is 12-4-3 with a .930 save-percentage and a 2.17 GAA. Among goalies who have played at least 10 games since November 7, Fleury is second in the NHL in save-percentage (.930) behind Igor Shesterkin’s league-leading .945 and is one of three goalies to lead the league with three shutouts in that same timeframe.

•   I know he won’t get the attention he deserves, but the Blackhawks would likely be WORSE than the Coyotes or Canadiens this season, if not for Fleury alone.

•   He made a number of highlight-worthy saves in last night’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Kraken, surprising even his own teammates.

•   Fleury and Kubalík are two players that the Blackhawks absolutely should be shopping as the NHL Trade Deadline on March 21 draws near.

•   Kubalík has three goals in his last three games, upping his season total to nine with this tally last night.

•   It was a fantastic finish from a player who has scored 30 goals in the NHL before. Any contending team would/should be interested in Kubalík as a rental to play on a second or third line and give them some powerplay options as well.

•   The loss last night to the Kraken was another effort in which the Blackhawks, although getting out with a point, did not deserve what they got. It was the trapiest of trap games, with Chicago riding a four-game win streak into Seattle, where they had lost their last nine-straight games.

•    If the Blackhawks want to “Believe” they can turn the season around, they should already be doing so. Their four-game streak came to an end and their record in January is still just 4-3-2. Going back to December, they are 8-6-4. Going back to the start of Derek King’s time, they are 14-9-4. They have earned 32 points in 27 games under King, ranking 15th in the league since November 7. Their .593 point-percentage also ranks 15th in the NHL over that stretch of time. They have been average, while trying to dig themselves out of being a dumpster fire.

•   It’s not good enough. They are eight points out of a playoff spot, but would be picking 10th in the lottery, if they even owned their first-round pick this year. They are not bad enough to tank, not good enough to run themselves into the postseason.

•   NHL Purgatory. Might as well be NHL Hell.

•   Hey! Happy Birthday to Ryan Carpenter and Ian Mitchell!

•   Carpenter is also a player who is on an expiring deal and should be being shopping for pennies on the dollar by the Blackhawks.

•   News from the NHL today as it appears the league will stop testing players who are asymptomatic from COVID.

•   The only time players will be tested without showing symptoms will be when crossing the U.S.-Canada border. So expect to see teams scrambling with roster moves when they have spikes in COVID cases at the border.

•   Less testing means less positive cases, yes. Does it mean less people have COVID? Absolutely not.

•   Can/will players and staff who are asymptomatic and continue to play pass it to someone else who can/will show symptoms? Absolutely.

•   Does the NHL know this? Of course.

•   Do they care? Only about losing revenue and finishing the schedule on time.

•   On other NHL news, last night Timo Meier went off for five goals in just over a full period!

•   Hope you had him on your fantasy team.

•   Today in 1958, Willie O’Ree became the first Black player in NHL history. To honor this historic event and his historic career, the Boston Bruins will be retiring O’Ree’s No. 22 tonight. Here’s ESPN Kristen Shilton with more on the honor and the life of O’Ree.

•   O’Ree’s story will always be mentioned in the fight for equality, representation, and access to the sport of hockey for those people and communities that have historically been marginalized by the game and culture surrounding it. The NHL has a long way to go in helping that movement towards the game being more inclusive and accessible to everyone. Organizations like the Hockey Diversity Alliance, Black Girl Hockey Club, and Carnegie Initiative are incredibly important in making Hockey something we all can enjoy and a place for everyone to play or be a fan.

•   Speaking of representation in the game, the Premier Hockey Federation, the top Women’s league, announced this morning a major financial commitment from its Board of Governors that will see payments to players increase over the next three years.

•   The announcement also included that the league would be expanding from six teams to eight teams, with one team heading to Montreal and the other expansion team heading to a location in the United States. In September, the PHF Twitter account teased a number of U.S. cities asking fans where they should expand to, which included Chicago.

•   Speaking of representation mattering in sports, the NFL has just one Black head coach, Mike Tomlin. This is after both Brian Flores and David Culley were fired from their head coaching positions in Miami and Houston since the regular season ended. The Chicago Bears interviewed Flores for their vacant head coaching position. It was a mystery to me why the Dolphins fired Flores in the first place, but I would like to see him become the next head coach in Chicago, if I had my pick.

•   That will do it for today. Enjoy your Tuesday.

Author: Mario Tirabassi

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