The Blackhawks Depth is Paying Huge Early Dividends

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The Blackhawks Depth is Paying Huge Early Dividends

Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are riding a four-game win streak and life feels really good right now. Frankly, it feels a helluva lot better than most people thought it would this year, as the team enters a more intentional rebuild.

To say things aren’t going according to plan appears to be an external evaluation of the Blackhawks’ recent success. The players in the room, the coaches and front office have growing confidence that they have players who play the game the right way. They’re hard on the puck and don’t give up, and it shows.

The depth of the Blackhawks has been evident in every game this season, and looking at the box scores it becomes clear spreading the wealth is working.

Last night against the Panthers, the Blackhawks scored four goals. Yeah, two of the four came from Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, but it was Kane’s first of the season and Toews’ was the nail in the Panthers’ coffin into an empty net. Nine of the 12 forwards recorded a point; only Jujhar Khaira, Colin Blackwell and Sam Lafferty were held off the score sheet and all three of them put in work on extended penalty kill duty (more than three minutes of short-handed ice time each).

In the 5-4 win against Seattle, eight of the 12 forwards registered a point. Only four forwards produced a point in the 4-2 win against Detroit but we have to remember Andreas Athanasiou scored on a penalty shot and Max Domi‘s game-winner in overtime was unassisted off a takeaway.

Maybe the best example of the production depth paying dividends was the win in San Jose that started the streak. Four forwards had multi-point games, and Kane and Toews weren’t among them. Jason Dickinson and Lafferty had three points each in that game while Tyler Johnson and Taylor Raddysh had two each.

The Blackhawks haven’t needed to rely on their superstars this season. And it’s made a huge difference.

Earlier this week I wrote about Lafferty’s play making general manager Kyle Davidson look like a genius. He isn’t alone in that regard. Many of the moves Davidson has made since becoming the GM have looked terrific thus far. Yeah, the top-end players fans have come to expect big things from over the past few years aren’t here any more but the role players Davidson has collected are proving they can be more than just “role players.”

Before Tuesday’s game I asked Toews about how the roster producing top to bottom has helped the top guys — himself and Kane — not worry when pucks don’t go in. Before Tuesday, Kane hadn’t scored a goal and Toews has mentioned there have been times when he would have liked to have finished but it didn’t work out. The captain was pointed with his response.

“A big part of creating offense is not feeling pressure,” Toews told me. “Going out there and creating and making plays and being in the moment and not feeling you have to force anything or squeeze the stick too hard. So far our power play and our top guys who are used to scoring or having expectations every single night – it definitely takes a lot of pressure off when you have production throughout your lineup.”

Kane was asked after the win over Florida on Tuesday about how the depth has helped the team perform so well this year. His response echoed what his long-time teammate said hours earlier.

“I think it’s a big reason we’re having success right now,” he said. “We’ve lost some big pieces, obviously. But we’ve had some new guys come in and step up. And it’s been probably more of a group effort this year than it was on most nights last year. So trusting the whole lineup, a lot of players up and down the lineup.”

Kane acknowledging the Blackhawks relied too heavily on himself and Alex DeBrincat to drive the offense is telling. Sometimes it can be good to not have a superstar you look at to drive the play. And, even with Kane and Toews still here, the rest of the roster knows they need to play hard to stay in the lineup.

Head coach Luke Richardson has spoken a lot about the entire roster buying into their new philosophies and approach, and he has to feel great about the results on the ice. He said in his first press conference at the start of preseason that he wants to make Davidson’s job harder by winning games because he wants to win and — guess what! — he’s doing that right now.

After the Blackhawks’ fourth straight win, the head coach talked about how his roster is rallying internally and doing their thing no matter what people want to say about the organization’s approach to this season.

“Coming in, we have the type of personalities that don’t really care [about what people are saying about the Blackhawks’ ‘tanking’],” Richardson said. “I think they look at it as an opportunity and they’re making the most of it… they have a great attitude about it. I mentioned … we’re trying to recognize the noise within the room, what we’re saying instead of what’s outside the room. That’s most sports, but it’s hard to do in a big market especially. The guys are doing a great job and I think it’s a long season. We’re going to have our ups and downs. This is an up. We want to make sure we ride it as long as we can and riding it doesn’t mean sitting back. It means you keep pushing — you want it more.”

The Blackhawks have clearly taken an “us against the world” mentality this year and are excelling in that mindset. It’s been fun to watch so far, and that depth will help the Blackhawks continue to improve because history tells us the points will be there for Kane (and Toews) eventually.

Author: Tab Bamford

Tab is the Lead Blackhawks voice for BN. He is the author of two books about the Blackhawks, most recently "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter at @The1Tab