Luke's Bold Challenge, Great (But Too Many) Penalty Kills, Kane Buzz, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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Luke’s Bold Challenge, Great (But Too Many) Penalty Kills, Kane Buzz, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks won their third straight game last night. When you add to that the fact that two of the wins — Calgary and Colorado — have come against teams with hopes of deep playoff runs this year, this has been a really impressive run of play for the Blackhawks. When you add to that the fact that they’ve done it without Patrick Kane in the lineup, it’s been terrific. And to pick up a few wins along the way with all of the struggles this team has had is good for morale.

  • I’ll start with the Kane-less part of the lineup over the last three games. After the Calgary win, Jonathan Toews admitted he gave Kane a little grief about winning a game without him — but didn’t after two because the light-hearted jesting might not land as well. Both Sam Lafferty and Taylor Raddysh were asked if they were “okay” without Kane in the lineup but neither took the bait. In fact, Lafferty went as far as to admit the short-side move he scored with was something he had talked about in practice in the morning skate with Kane.
  • The tic-tac-toe — or, dare I say, Toews-Tyler-Taylor — passing play on what stood up as the game-winner was some of the best even-strength puck movement we’ve seen recently. That line was buzzing last night and it paid off with a huge goal. And where was Raddysh? Parked in front of the net.
  • I want to spend a little this morning going back to the coach’s challenge late in the third period last night. It was a big call by head coach Luke Richardson at a huge part in the game: at least based on the call on the ice, Colorado had just tied the game and the Blackhawks were playing a lot more defense than offense. There have been more than a few games this year where the lead disappeared and the wheels came off quickly, and going to the penalty kill again was rolling the dice big time.
  • After the game, Richardson said the immediate reaction from the video room was to not challenge the play. But he saw the play and was confident he knew what he was doing. After a little further review, the video room agreed with the challenge and it worked out for the Blackhawks. Here’s what Richardson said postgame:

When I first saw it, right away I saw Rantanen’s stick pushing Petr’s pad. I wasn’t sure where the puck was at that point, and the puck went in after right where his pad was. For me, the way the rule reads, that’s goalie interference. At first I heard a “no” relayed from our video room or Jimmy upstairs, then right away they said, ‘no, they like the call.’ And I might have had to override them anyway because I thought it was the right call and they did a great job. they double checked with the goalie coach and it all came back clear. It took a little longer than expected for them to see that, but the overhead’s clear and you can see Rantanen pushing Petr’s pad and he turns his body sideways where the puck goes in. to me, that was just the proper call and they got it right in my opinion and we deserved that opportunity to win that challenge and win the game.

  • Petr Mrazek‘s response when asked about the challenge? “Yeah, to be honest, four minutes, five minutes left in the game, those are tough decisions but great job by the video coaches and coaches on the ice.”
  • I also want to go back and celebrate the Blackhawks’ collective defensive effort last night, especially on the PK. When you consider how the Blackhawks have struggled killing penalties lately (all year if we’re honest) and the skill and weapons on the other bench, handing the Colorado Avalanche five power plays wasn’t advised. But handling six penalty minutes inside the final eight minutes of the first period and two more at inopportune times was a marvelous effort.
  • The Blackhawks’ defensemen were as physical as I’ve seen them all year last night. Seth Jones wasn’t afraid to throw the body. Jake McCabe did his thing. Isaak Phillips stepped up big time. It was a full unit effort. And the commitment to the systems and structure over the past three wins — five games, according to Richardson — has been strong. As the Blackhawks get and stay more healthy, we’re starting to see some of the returns on the effort we saw back in October when they surprised a few people.
  • Former NHL player Shane O’Brien, one of the hosts of the Missin Curfew podcast who also does work on the NHL Network on Sirius/XM, threw the Vegas Golden Knights into the mix for Kane at the trade deadline. “From a reliable source in Vegas” has traditionally been a big “yeah oooookay,” but with a team in Vegas it’s at least interesting that he puts this out there with confidence. I’m not sure how they make the money work (likely would need a third team involved), but Vegas in a position to go for it with Jack Eichel. But, as the guys talk about, they’ve pushed their chips in almost every year the franchise has existed and, at some point, it’s going to catch up with them.
  • On Thursday, the Hockey Commissioners Association announced the watch list for the Mike Richter Award, given annually to the top goalie in men’s NCAA Division I hockey since 2014. There are 41 goaltenders on the list, broken down by conference. The Blackhawks’ two top goaltending prospects in college, Boston University’s Drew Commesso and St. Cloud State’s Dominic Basse, both made the list.
  • From the announcement release, here’s how the voting works from here:

A committee of voters — made up of a cross section of coaches, administrators, scouts and media — will pare this list down to approximately 15 names within the next three weeks and then ultimately choose the winner who will be announced in April during the NCAA Frozen Four.

  • Can I interest you in a lovely goal from Sam Savoie last night for Gatineau?
  • Could we be getting our first axe to fall in the NHL soon? There have been rampant rumors about Bruce Boudreau’s job security in Vancouver since the team got off to a slow start, but a little rebound here and there has kept him employed. But a recent stretch of awful play has people talking up Rick Tocchet as the heir apparent for the Canucks. I will note that Boudreau got the job last year when the players tuned out the last coach… so maybe it isn’t all on the guy calling the shots behind the bench and the butts in uniforms on the bench?
  • It’s not Blackhawks related, but this is worth watching. Nela Lopusanova, a 14-year-old playing for Slovakia in the Women’s World Junior Championship right now, pulled off “The Michigan” yesterday. Awesome effort with the big payoff! Love to see it. And, did I mention she’s 14?!?
  • Finally, everyone here at Bleacher Nation is absolutely thrilled to announce the launch of Bleacher Nation: NFL. My guy Patrick Flowers, who you’ve seen in this space a lot over the past couple years, is taking the lead as we cover everything in the National Football League. Make sure you jump into the mix and follow on Facebook and Twitter (below). Patrick does great work so this is going to be great!
  • And one last fun coming soon nugget here at Bleacher Nation: we’re going to add some fun new functionality so you’ll be able to pick and choose what you want to see when you come to Bleacher Nation. So if you don’t want to see the Bulls or Bears or Cubs or NFL or White Sox (what? I kid!) you’ll be able to select the stuff you see!

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