Before I jump into some thoughts about last night’s Blackhawks win, there was history in the NHL last night. Unfortunately (or, fortunately if you were in the building), the Blackhawks were on the wrong end of Alexander Ovechkin’s hat trick to reach 800 career goals. But he hadn’t scored since then, staying one goal behind Gordie Howe for second in NHL history. That was until he scored not once, but twice in a win against the Winnipeg Jets last night to reach 802 and pass Howe.
The outpouring of congratulations was pretty remarkable, from the Jets staying on the ice to shake his hand like a playoff series had concluded to the Red Wings, for whom Howe played for so many years, tweeting congrats.
- On to the Blackhawks’ win last night, let’s take a step back from the doom and gloom of the past month and remember the purpose of this season. The Blackhawks are trying to grow the value of their assets so if/when someone calls about a player at the deadline, they’re able to help accelerate the rebuild. One of the guys who is doing a really nice job of adding to his potential trade value even amidst the struggles has been Max Domi, who is up to 23 points in 32 games this season after a two-point performance last night. He had 39 points in 72 games last year, so he’s on a terrific pace (50-55 points?) and is scoring in the right areas.
- When things went a little off the rails in the third period last night, the Blackhawks backed away from their young defensemen. But I thought Ian Mitchell and Isaak Phillips had pretty good games. As you can see from the GameScore Impact Card below, Phillips graded out as the best defensemen in the lineup for Chicago last night. Mitchell picked up an assist and was credited with two blocked shots and one hit in the game. Phillips blocked one shot with one hit and two shots on net. I’m cool if Caleb Jones gets a few more games off.
- Alex Stalock was terrific last night, and I was so happy to see him doing the thing. As I wrote when he was activated off IR, I’ve dealt with my share of concussions so seeing him able to work his way all the way back and then win a well-played game (he stopped 27 of 29) and help create offense was really fun.
- The biggest names on the marquee were the ones who drove the action last night. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews each had a three-point night and led their team to its first win since the start of the month. As you might expect, the questions after the game were largely leading the two down memory lane. And Toews was especially nostalgic about the crowd being loud and the performance he shared with 88.
“There’s no doubt this season it’s being talked a lot, given the situation of where our team’s at and where the two of us are in our career,” Toews said. “When it’s talked about, it’s definitely on your mind a little bit more to enjoy every moment. You never know how long you’ll play the game, let alone play in a city like Chicago in front of our fans. It really never gets old.
“It’s one of those things that you can’t ever let yourself take it for granted. It’s pretty special. A couple games ago, we played our 1,000th game together, so that was another thing that was pretty special to myself. It’s nice to make a couple plays together like we did for old times’ sake and get us a win.”
- The NHL is now on break for three days. There isn’t a game or practice (or even travel) allowed until the 27th. The Blackhawks will have to fly to Carolina on the morning of the 27th and play that night against the Canes because of the break. It’ll feel a heckuva lot better coming off a win on home ice than it would have if the losing streak had continued.
- The NHL is off until the 27th, but the World Junior Championship tournament begins on Monday the 26th. As a reminder: the Blackhawks have five prospects in the tournament. But there are a few others who are eligible for the 2023 NHL Draft who are worth watching in the coming weeks as well.
- Things I didn’t expect to see on the timeline: this story from ESPN about a couple Blackhawks fans who wrote a holiday movie that starts with a kiss cam. Apparently the writers kissed in a bar and the Hawks scored in real life, and that spawned the idea for a holiday movie. Sure, why not. Have you seen it? Let me know in the comments. Surprisingly, I haven’t seen this one.
- Finally, the Bulls won a huge game at Madison Square Garden last night on a big time, clutch shot from DeMar DeRozan at the buzzer. You love to see it.