Toews’ Return, Good Night for Athanasiou, Vlasic Impresses Again, and Other Blackhawks Bullets
Jonathan Toews made a solid — I won’t use the word “triumphant” because they lost — return to the ice last night for the Blackhawks. Frankly, I think he looked better than most people expected. Captain Serious turns 35 soon, is coming off two months out of game action because of illness, and was coming back against one of the youngest, fastest, most dangerous teams in the entire league. He ended up the night with an assist in exactly 14 minutes of ice time and won eight of 12 faceoffs. You know, the usual. But how did Toews feel about his first game back?
- Here’s what head coach Luke Richardson had to say about the return of his captain:
“It was good to have him back,” Richardson said postgame. “I thought he was a big presence on the bench, very vocal and made a nice play. I would’ve loved for him to shoot that puck on the power play but I think the guy just read it perfect. The goalie was solid on him, so it’s a nice try. But I thought he gave us some energy when we switched lines up a little bit in the third. I would’ve liked to get them out a few more offensive zone face-offs, it just didn’t work out that way, the way the lines were running. So, finally in the third I thought it was just time to put him there for good. He did a good job, set up a nice goal.”
- Andreas Athanasiou had his fourth multi-point game of the season last night, with the goal off Toews’ nice pass and then a shot that was redirected into the net by Lukas Reichel. His goals (16), assists (15) and points (31) totals are now all the highest he’s recorded since his career-best season in Detroit in 2018-19. Most importantly, he’s skated in 75 games this season.
- Alex Vlasic skated 19:48 last night, which trailed only the Jones brothers on the blue line. He tied for the team lead with three blocked shots and was credited with two hits as well. Vlasic also saw almost a full minute of PK time, which was a nice experiment against a potent team in the Devils. There were a few times during the game that you couldn’t help but see how much space he takes up with his enormous reach. The biggest thing I’ve noticed about Vlasic during his recall has been how much better he uses his length to take away angles for an attacking forward and how much more confident he is in his size as a professional. The work he’s been doing in Rockford has been noticeable, which bodes incredibly well for the Blackhawks’ future.
- Speaking of the Blackhawks’ future on the blue line, the Seattle Thunderbirds had a playoff game last night and Nolan Allan had a big night. Allan, Chicago’s first-round pick in 2021, had a goal and an assist as Seattle beat Colton Dach‘s former teammates from Kelowna 4-1. Seattle leads the series 2-0 and Allan was the game’s No. 2 star last night.
- Samuel Savoie had an assist as his Gatineau team made a statement last night, beating St. John 9-0. Yeah, that’s a niner kids.
- The San Jose Sharks beat the Arizona Coyotes 7-2 last night (yes, that’s me laughing at the Coyotes). The Blackhawks and Blue Jackets are now two points clear of the Ducks for dead last and have a five-point cushion on San Jose with less than two weeks left in the regular season. The Blackhawks own the worst point percentage in the league; Columbus has one game in-hand still.
- If you saw the adorable pictures and videos of the Blackhawks with puppies on the ice after Friday’s practice, we learned a little more about why the good boys and girls were there. The Blackhawks have started a new partnership with Determined to Rise Animal Foundation thanks to the efforts of forward Colin Blackwell and his fiancé, Lauren Prodoehl. There were 13 puppies on the ice, and I get the feeling a few might find new homes with hockey players soon. Ben Pope shared some more details on Saturday.
- You know what I love? When a Chicago team throws money at a big-time free agent and the (sadly) rare occasion that it appears that team picked the right guy to pay. Marian Hossa, Jon Lester… the list isn’t really very long in recent years. And yeah, I’ll own that the sample size is only two games. But it appears the Cubs got the right guy in Dansby Swanson.