Starting the season 0-3 doesn’t have Chicago Blackhawks fans feeling good about the season. In fact, there are already posts about tanking for the top pick. It’s clear that this team can’t compete yet and is missing major pieces.
It would be easy to write about the bad, but more useful to find silver linings. This is a rebuild after all and our eyes must turn to the bright spots. Over the course of the next few years, the next Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, or Duncan Keith must be found. That’s the point of leaning on youth.
The Blackhawks fall to the Florida Panthers in overtime, 5-4, but there were definitely bright spots.
The obvious bright spot is the powerplay.
Last year, the Blackhawks powerplay only scored on 33 of 217 attempts during the regular season for an abysmal 15%. During the playoffs, the Blackhawks weren’t much better at five of 30 for 17%. This year, in four games, the ‘Hawks have scored five times on twelve attempts for a ridiculous 42%.
Obviously, it’s a small sample size but worth mentioning in a start that has left fans scratching their heads and calling for the firing of Stan Bowman. Another highlight of the powerplay was Duncan Keith on the point. As the quarterback of the powerplay, he showed he can still direct the offense and distribute the puck in scoring position. Coach Jeremy Colliton should consider permanently starting Keith on the first unit.
The second takeaway is the reemergence of Dominik Kubalik for the Chicago Blackhawks.
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In his first three games, Kubalik was nearly invisible. He averaged about 14 minutes on the ice and just 49 seconds of powerplay time. While his time was limited, his activity mirrored that. Kubalik had just five shots on goal during those games.
As a result, Kubalik had no assists or goals. In-game four versus Florida, Kubalik put up seven shots, one assist, and two goals. If the Blackhawks are to have any measure of success, Kubalik will have to continue this kind of inspired play.
The final takeaway is the desire to compete has returned.
After a lackluster start, the Chicago Blackhawks put it to the Florida Panthers. The ‘Hawks outshot the Panthers in regulation 32-25. They outhit the Panthers 24-19, tied them in blocked shots with 13 apiece, and beat them to the puck winning 35-25 faceoffs. After going down 3-1 the Blackhawks fought back to take a 4-3 lead. That comeback was predicated on puck control, winning 50/50 pucks, and simply outplaying the Panthers.
Youngsters Brandon Hagel and Philipp Kurashev had excellent games, showing they belong in the NHL. Kurashev notched his first goal in what promises to be the beginning of an excellent NHL career. Both players worked pucks on the board and were aggressive around the net. They did not look like rookies tonight.
The Chicago Blackhawks let this one slip away in overtime, but they make some really nice strides. Some of the defensive gaffs and mental mistakes are still glaringly apart of their game, but there are definite improvements. As long as the trajectory continues in the right direction, Blackhawks fans should feel good about the team.