Happy victory Saturday, Blackhawks fans. We’re waking up in a world where the Blackhawks won their last game. Enjoy it! And keep in mind that, even with the win, the Blackhawks are still in last place in the NHL — aka first place in the Connor Bedard Derby. Which, of course, is why losing to Columbus earlier this week was so important.
- I’m going to open by simply saying Jake McCabe has earned a trip to Florida for the All-Star Game. With all due respect to Seth Jones, McCabe has been the Blackhawks’ best defenseman this year and it really hasn’t been close in my opinion. And, keep in mind, he’s doing it coming back from fairly significant back surgery over the summer that delayed the start of his season. When the Blackhawks put McCabe and Seth on the ice together it really settled down the blue line.
- McCabe has also been one of the guys in the room who doesn’t have the stock answer filter on every time he’s asked a question. He’s been open about not being happy with the losing; that’s a big part of why his name has become trendy in trade rumors. But he’s also been able to joke around at times, answer questions openly and sincerely, and give the media a little attitude when it’s necessary. After the game last night it was necessary, and Jake got a good chuckle from the media in the room after the win.
- Fans will be able to vote for three additional all-stars beginning Feb. 12. Make sure you get on there and vote for McCabe. He’s earned it.
- I was really happy for Alex Stalock last night. He looked like he was emerging as an NHL starter in Minnesota a couple years ago before health issues took him completely out of the NHL. The Blackhawks really took a chance on a guy who had been out of the NHL for a while this past summer. When he suffered a serious concussion against the Islanders earlier this season he could have taken what was beginning as a promising season off the rails. But he’s come back strong and earned the shutout last night. He’s an engaging guy who loves playing and loves being part of the team. And those guys are really easy to cheer for every night. I hope he takes the top of the depth chart and runs with it.
- I am going to continue banging the drum to keep Ian Mitchell in the lineup. I was impressed when he stood up to Nick Ritchie last night after the noted goon pushed Jason Dickinson over Stalock. Mitchell is nowhere close to Ritchie’s weight class, but he stepped up. He’s also been showing increasing confidence defensively and continues to move the puck well. The more he plays, the better he gets. Surprise! Now, if the front office could find a way to also make room for Isaak Phillips on the regular, that would be ideal…
- After the game last night Luke Richardson was very complimentary of Lukas Reichel‘s game. And he was right: this was the best NHL game of Reichel’s young career. He was fast and confident. I don’t hold his previous appearance this year against him; he got called up at the last possible second, had a crazy day of travel to jump into the lineup in New Jersey, and didn’t have a well defined role. He was on the Blackhawks’ top line last night and played well.
- This is a fascinating article from Frank Seravalli as we’re now within two months of the NHL Trade Deadline. It focuses on trades that required a third team to make the money work. He includes a brief history of deals brokered through a third party, a list of six deals that includes two involving the Blackhawks (Robin Lehner to Vegas and Mattias Janmark to Vegas). Max Domi‘s trade to Carolina last year is also on the list.
- What makes this a really interesting read is the position the Blackhawks are in this season. There’s a good chance that, if the Blackhawks receive a trade request from either Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews, they could need a third team to eat some salary to make the deal work. The Blackhawks are also on the list of teams that could be used as a middle-man to eat salary because of the amount of cap space they’ll have to work with at the deadline. Here’s what Seravalli says about the Blackhawks’ $9.5 million in projected cap space at the deadline:
Take the above number with a grain of salt, because it will grow once they begin shipping off players, whether it’s Toews, Kane, Max Domi, Andreas Athanasiou or others. The Blackhawks have let it be known to everyone that they’re willing to act as a dumpster for bad contracts. They are ready to wield their cap space to the fullest extent possible.
- This is some kinda fascinating. Ethan Del Mastro is in his second season as the captain in Mississauga and is coming off a tremendous World Juniors performance, but there was a report on Friday night that he’s getting traded to Sarnia.
- It isn’t crazy to see significant trades in junior like this; remember, Nolan Allan was traded to join Kevin Korchinski in Seattle earlier this season. And, like Del Mastro, he was a leader for his junior team. (And, like Del Mastro, they both have a gold medal coming home with them this week.) It sounds like Sarnia is going for it this season in a big way, so acquiring Del Mastro would be a good start.
- As a reminder: any trades in junior have zero bearing on his rights with the Blackhawks. It’s like a Blackhawks’ pick transferring from one college to another. The only part I care about is the prospect going to a strong, well-coached destination that’s going to help his development continue.
- There was an update on Blackhawks’ first-rounder Frank Nazar yesterday. According to the story below from The Michigan Daily, Nazar “is progressing in his recovery as well and may be able to make his Wolverine debut soon.” But the Wolverines aren’t going to rush Nazar back, which is good to hear.
“There’s a goal of (Nazar) maybe in a couple weeks jumping on the ice, but I have no clue if he’s gonna be back or not,” Naurato told reporters Tuesday. “If it is, it’s a huge bonus. If Frankie does come back, he’ll be at 100%. For me, it’s the same reason you get the surgery, you think about their body, and he’s got 15-20 years of hockey, so just thinking about the kid.”
- On the prospect front, Paul Ludwinski scored a nice first-period goal for Kingston last night. Ludwinski, the Blackhawks’ first pick in the second round of the 2022 NHL Draft (No. 39 overall), has had an up and down season because of some injuries, starting with a concussion he suffered at the Blackhawks’ prospect showcase games against Minnesota. He’s still put 23 points on the board in 30 games, however.
- Dominic James scored the game-winner for Minnesota-Duluth in the shoot-out. The Blackhawks’ sixth-round pick in 2022 has as many goals (six) in 17 games this season as a sophomore at UMD as he had in 39 games last year. After a nice showing in the World Juniors for the US this summer, James has been solid for the Bulldogs this year.
- Finally, Zach LaVine went off last night in a big way.