Stalock’s Stellar Night, Bjork’s Confidence, Considering the Rebuild Plan, and Other Blackhawks Bullets
I want to open up this morning’s bullets with a reflective comment about last night’s stunning win over the previously-hot Ottawa Senators. Ottawa came into the game winners of five straight games; to many, Monday night’s game felt like a lay-up for a team that was making itself relevant in the playoff conversation in the Eastern Conference. That did not happen, and it was largely because of the performance of Alex Stalock.
- Stalock stopped all 35 shots he faced. In the first period, the Sens were clearly the better team but Stalock was terrific. By the time the second period began, Ottawa was frustrated and started gambling; that gambling led to a flurry of odd-man rushes for the Blackhawks that turned into three goals and a blown-open game. And it all comes back to Stalock slamming the door for long enough that his skaters could put together some impressive offense.
- I went with three skaters for my three stars last night. Anders Bjork had what might have been a career night for himself. Seth Jones almost had a hat trick. And Jason Dickinson ended a long scoring drought. They were my three stars. Stalock deserved better than an honorable mention last night, however.
- With everything that Stalock has been through over the past three years, including the concussion symptoms that held him out of action for so long this year, it was great to see him pitch a shutout last night. After the game, he put on the “team-first” face and talked about how great it is to win in the NHL and that the two points in the standings are what matter… but it has to be at least a little extra special for him to play the way he did against the team he faced last night. And he deserves it — he’s been awesome all year. And, as Charlie Roumeliotis wrote last night, he’s been one of the best goaltenders in the league when healthy this season.
- Remember that time when the Blackhawks acquired Bjork and gave up literally nothing? I joked a few times on Twitter last night about No. 24 for the Blackhawks being the same player, whether the name plate on the back read LAFFERTY or BJORK, but there’s absolutely something to that. Head coach Luke Richardson said somewhat tongue-and-cheek that he liked 17 and 24 together (a reference to Dickinson with Lafferty and now Bjork) and that line was magic on Monday night. For his three-point effort, Bjork talked about how important it is to have confidence in the game. And he should have plenty of it after a big night.
“Confidence is such a huge thing in sports, so it’s nice to get some offensive production,” Bjork said after the game. “But I think for me personally, I’m trying to have a complete game and play the right way and do the little things right and be a two-way forward. I’m not trying to get a bunch of points every night, I’m trying to play the right way, so I’m going to keep my head focused on that.”
- Ben Pope at the Chicago Sun-Times wrote about the Blackhawks taking the next step in the development of the rebuild on Monday afternoon. As I wrote in my post-mortem after the trade deadline on Friday, the foundation of their aggressive rebuild strategy was a boatload of high (read: first and second-round) draft picks. That mission is accomplished. Now, it’s up to the organization to continue drafting well, develop players at an appropriate pace, and then spend money wisely to support the young players when they arrive in the NHL.
- Here’s some of what Davidson said on Friday after the trade deadline from Pope’s story:
“We’ve got to do our job at the draft table,” Davidson said Friday after the trade deadline. “We’re in a really good spot now. Entering [the] last draft, we had zero first-round picks, and we ended up with three. Now we’ve got a ton of draft picks moving forward in really valuable spots. We’re really happy with that.
“Would it be nice to add in different areas of the prospect pool? Perhaps. But it’s nothing we’re going to chase, because through our own draft selections, we’ll fill up our prospect pool pretty quick. And then it’s all about development. We don’t have to go find assets. We’ve got them in the bank already. It’s all about capitalizing on them.”
- Alex DeBrincat spoke with the media after Ottawa’s morning skate yesterday. It was a bittersweet moment for him; most of the guys he played with are gone now. Of course, two of the high picks the Blackhawks used in the 2022 NHL Draft came from trading DeBrincat to Ottawa.
“I looked at the board and I guess I don’t know too many names on there,” DeBrincat said. “But it’s still cool to be back. A lot of memories here, so it’s been fun.”
- Speaking of the players added to the system with the picks acquired in the DeBrincat trade, there was a nice piece on Kevin Korchinski that popped up on the timeline yesterday. His perspective continues to impress, as does his understanding that playing on a Seattle roster stocked full of high NHL draft picks — including Blackhawks prospects Nolan Allan and Colton Dach — will only help push him to be better when the time comes to be a professional full-time.
“As a player, you kind of welcome and want that pressure,” Korchinski said. “There’s a lot more pressure situations in the world. You can be a doctor or a fireman. I just play hockey.”
- The Blackhawks’ three Thunderbirds will play in a game tonight that’s LOADED with NHL talent. How about 19 drafted players!
- With the Big Ten conference tournament rolling and other conferences getting into their brackets soon, USA Today and USA Hockey Magazine dropped their updated poll on Monday. Minnesota, the top seed in the B1G, hangs onto the top spot. The Blackhawks have prospects at Nos. 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 14 and 20.
- Max Domi scored his first goal for Dallas last night.
- Finally, free agency rumors are starting to heat up in the NFL. The Chicago Bears own the most cap space in the league and the No. 1 overall pick. Love me some options and the Bears have a ton of them right now. But… just because you have options doesn’t mean you’re going to automatically be better. Just as I’ve said a hundred times about the Blackhawks: if you have money to spend, spend it wisely. We’ll see how the Bears’ young GM sets the table for his draft class.