Toews on Davidson (and Bowman), Hammer Comes Home, Hawks Spoil Keith’s Return, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Happy Friday! It’s a school in-service day for DuPage County, so my kiddos are home and running around the house. Let’s see if we can’t get through these bullets, starting with last night’s victory over the Oilers.

•   Niklas Hjalmarsson was in the building for his legacy night, as the Blackhawks honored the career of one of the best defensemen ever to put on a Blackhawks sweater. The Hammer’s career was unique because he wasn’t the big tough figure that Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Johnny Oduya looked and played like. Hjalmarsson played at an elite level but with a different style than his fellow Blackhawks’ blue-liners. Whether it was his skilled and selfless passing or his unique and reckless knack for blocking pucks. Whatever Hjalmarsson had to do to help the Blackhawks win, he did it.

•   In a recent Scott Powers and Mark Lazerus column at The Athletic, former St. Louis Blues’ head coach Ken Hitchcock said this about Hjalmarsson: “They got a lot of press about their skill level, but it was their grit level that would always come out in these long series we played against them,” said Hitchcock. “And he was one of those guys that led the charge in making sacrifices. He got in the way of everything. When he was on the ice, you’d think you had a good scoring chance; then he’d get a leg or a body or a stick on it. He was so competitive. I don’t know what it was like inside their locker room, but the feeling I had was he was dragging a lot of people into the fight.”

•   The Blackhawks put together a tribute video for the three-time Stanley Cup Champion; if you haven’t seen it yet, here it is:

•   The Blackhawks also welcome back another legendary Blackhawks’ defenseman, likely the best to ever play the position in Chicago, Duncan Keith. Keith was playing his first game at the United Center as a visitor, and the Blackhawks honored him with an in-game video tribute during a first-period timeout:

•   I’m not crying; you’re crying! 😭

•   It took overtime, but the Blackhawks ensured that they didn’t let Duncan Keith and the Oilers spoil Niklas Hjalmarsson’s legacy night with a loss to Edmonton. Sam Lafferty and the fourth line got things going for the Blackhawks early with Lafferty’s first goal in a Hawks sweater.

•   That’s precisely the type of fourth-line production the Blackhawks have been missing all year. You see Ryan Carpenter and Philipp Kurashev working hard pinching the Edmonton skater on the forecheck to force the takeaway, and then the pass to Lafferty, who beats Mikko Koskinen in front of the net to make it 1-0. Lafferty only logged 10:02 of ice time, but you would never know it until you looked back at the box score after the game because it seemed like he was always involved in the play.  The same could be said for Ryan Carpenter, as they played great games on Thursday night.

•   After Leon Draisaitl evened things up at one-a-piece on an Edmonton man-advantage (surprise, surprise), it was Showtime:

•   What a sequence. Caleb Jones creates the turnover in their offensive zone, the same way the Lafferty goal started, and then Dylan Strome snags the puck out of mid-air, centers it, and nails Patrick Kane with a beauty of a pass, and Kane drilled the one-timer home. That’s picture-perfect.

•   The Kubalík-Strome-Kane line was excellent, generating eight scoring chances for the Blackhawks and just two scoring opportunities for the Oilers and generated three high-danger chances for the Blackhawks. With the game tied at two early in period three, Kubalík made Edmonton pay for a bone-headed turnover in their zone. Which, if you’re keeping track, is how the Blackhawks generated all three goals last night. It’s nice to see them do that to other teams instead of happening to them every night.

•   In overtime with a 4-on-3 advantage, Patrick Kane took the Oilers to school as he often does when he has open ice around him. Kane lulled Edmonton to sleep with the puck on a string at his feet before he nailed Alex DeBrincat with a dime, and, of course, Alex DeBrincat hammered the one-timer home for the win.

https://twitter.com/WallyMaz18/status/1499602306148483075?s=20&t=IJYbfJIGgAH1Aofj9j8U4A

•   The game-winner for DeBrincat was his 30th goal of the season, marking the third time he’s scored 30 or more goals in a season for the Blackhawks. It was also his 50th career power-play goal. Plus, let’s not forget about the effort by Caleb Jones, who drew the penalty that created the 4-on-3 for the Blackhawks in overtime.

https://twitter.com/WallyMaz18/status/1499601978044866590?s=20&t=IJYbfJIGgAH1Aofj9j8U4A

•   Jonathan Toews (rightfully) took a lot of heat for sounding empathetic to Stan Bowman in October when he resigned amidst the fallout of the Jenner & Block report, but he was singing a different tune on Thursday night after the win over Edmonton when he was asked about his feelings on Kyle Davidson being named the permanent GM and his declaration of an impending rebuild:

•   Those two remarks seem like direct shots at Stan Bowman, who most certainly did not make decisions free of attachment or ego (financially crippling extensions for players past their prime, crappy trades, etc.), and most certainly couldn’t decide on a direction up to his last day in Chicago.

•   Strong words from the captain and a ringing endorsement of Kyle Davidson. Toews also said that he feels like he’s yet to play the best hockey of his career but admits that he has (and still is) struggled to get his body back to a place where he can reach that potential he believes is yet to be tapped.

•   A quick programming note before we get out of here:

•   That’s it for today!

written by

Patrick grew up in Chicago's Bridgeport and Garfield Ridge neighborhoods before moving to the Western Suburbs of Chicago before eventually relocating to the Las Vegas area with his family in 2023. He started with Bleacher Nation in 2021 and has spent time as a Staff Writer and on the Chicago Blackhawks beat. He is currently a writer and editor at Bleacher Nation covering the Chicago Bears and the NFL at large and the author of the Bleacher Nation Newsletter. Patrick is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).

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