Editorials

Analyzing Where the Chicago Blackhawks Currently Stand

By Mike Murdock
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 12: Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks talks with Connor Murphy #5 and Duncan Keith #2 in the second period against the Winnipeg Jets at the United Center on October 12, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 12: Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks talks with Connor Murphy #5 and Duncan Keith #2 in the second period against the Winnipeg Jets at the United Center on October 12, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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The Chicago Blackhawks fell into their old habits and lost to the Golden Knights. What does this mean going forward?

The streak continues. The Chicago Blackhawks retain the dubious honor of being the sole team in the NHL that has yet to defeat the Vegas Golden Knights. I don’t know about you, but Tuesday night’s shootout loss left a very bad taste in my mouth.

The Blackhawks while once again not playing a full 60 minutes, nevertheless held the lead with less than 2 minutes left in regulation and still managed to lose. This was exactly the type of statement game they needed to win and collect 2 points at home against a conference rival, if they have any hope of playing in the postseason.

Kirby Dach Shin(e)s Bright

On this night, we saw 18-year-old rookie, Kirby Dach, hang around the net long enough to beat Marc-Andre Fleury and score his first-ever NHL goal.

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For Dach, it’s certainly a game he’ll never forget. While his playing time has been limited, and making the jump from the WHL to the NHL is certainly a challenge, playing on the 2nd line with future Hall of Famer Patrick Kane can only help him. While plausible arguments can be made both in favor of and against Dach staying with the ‘Hawks, the best way to accelerate his growth is to keep him in the NHL.

Lights-out Goaltending

While most baseball fans bemoan the closer by committee system — yes, I realize the 2 sports are vastly different — I am personally not a fan of the rotating goaltender routine that the Chicago Blackhawks are currently deploying thus far. Taking absolutely nothing away from 2-time Stanley Cup winner, Corey Crawford, who has done a “good” job in his 4 starts, the play of Robin Lehner thus far — Tuesday night in particular — has been excellent.

At a minimum, Lehner should get the next few starts to see if he can maintain this high level of play.

Bottom-Six Outplaying the Top-Six

While I feel David Kampf is best suited as a 4th line center, and Brandon Saad as a 1st line winger, the current 3rd line of Saad-Kampf-Kubalik has found both chemistry and success in the early going, with the combination of both speed and net front presence. The 4th line, however, has been nothing short of stellar.

In only 7 games, Drake Caggiula has 2 goals. Ryan Carpenter has not only helped stabilize the PK, but as Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun Times points out:

"Going into Tuesday, he was ranked 8th in the entire in the NHL in faceoff win percentage at 63.3 percent. Alex Nylander, while frustrating at times, seems to have found a role alongside the other two.—Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) October 23,2019"

As for the top-six, while Andrew Shaw’s grit is a big reason why Stan Bowman re-acquired him in the offseason, he needs to draw penalties as opposed to taking them. Meanwhile, both Jonathan Toews and Alex DeBrincat, while streaky players, need to start scoring goals consistently.

Yes, it’s still early in the season and the calendar still says October, but the Chicago Blackhawks need to only look back 1 year to recall just how painful it is to try and dig out of an early season hole.

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