Everything is Falling into Place for the Chicago Blackhawks
By Jeremiah Lee
The win vs Dallas proves that this still depleted Blackhawks team cannot be taken lightly.
The Chicago Blackhawks have a lot going well for them at the moment: Alex Debrincat is slowly coming back to his goal-scoring ways, Malcolm Subban is a reliable backup, Brandon Hagel is asserting himself in the lineup, and Philipp Kurashev and Pius Suter are top-six forwards. Not to mention Patrick Kane is still Patrick Kane, and Kevin Lankinen is the starter for this and next season on a very cheap deal.
Debrincat scored two goals against Dallas, and their offense has generated chances every game from different lines and groups. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who notices how much faster this team has become since game four of the season, either. Chances have come from every line, and this win should increase their confidence and quality of play as the season continues.
Jeremy Colliton is showing that he has the makings of a quality head coach in the NHL. These new systems have shot the Blackhawks a stratosphere away from where they used to be, and they defeated two Cup contenders within four days.
Those teams are as intact as a team can be in this unique season, despite the loss of Tyler Seguin on Dallas. Chicago lost Jonathan Toews, Kirby Dach, Ryan Carpenter, Adam Boqvist, and Lucas Wallmark, all quality NHL players. Adam Boqvist could thrive in this fast-paced style as well, meaning the Blackhawks can finally unleash his offensive potential in a manner that can increase his defensive awareness as well.
I wasn’t high on Colliton last season, or the start of this season, thinking he was rushed into the league. He was rushed, but he’s improved along with the team this season.
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All four lines have found success at some point so far, and each has been building some form of chemistry. Hopefully, the line combinations remain the same throughout the season as much as possible. Chemistry is what separates a good line from a great one, especially when they can make instinctive plays for offensive chances because they know where everyone on their line is, and where they will be.
The powerplay is still red-hot and does not look to end any time soon, and the penalty kill has been much better as of late. As I said here, the Chicago Blackhawks could ride their special teams and goaltending into the postseason as they play in a weak division. This team has become deceptively competitive in the last couple of months, and look to be getting better.
They FINALLY outhit their opponents this game as well, but that’s not the stat that I find the most encouraging. The one that I focused on is the blocked shots: 15 to Dallas’s 8. The defense gets back into position on the backcheck and sets up well in the zone to get in front of passing lanes. They forced 15 giveaways but also gave Dallas 6 takeaways. But hey, the Blackhawks beat another Cup contender. I’ll take that result any day.
The goaltending duo is solid. Malcolm Subban has become a whole new different player… Despite letting a soft goal into the net to tie the game. I think he only needs to focus on his awareness post-shot just a little bit more, and find where the puck is when he holds onto it. So far he’s let in two own-goals this season, all from a lack of awareness.
This past one squeaked past his arm into the net. Other than that, he’s a solid backup who can help the Blackhawks qualify for the playoffs. As for Kevin Lankinen… Well… We all know how he’s doing (0.928 save percentage, 2.32 goals-against average).
IF Stan Bowman plays this right, the Chicago Blackhawks will have their young guys back in the lineup in 2021-22 on at least two-year bridge deals, and the team will take pay cuts to build on what they have going here, and be paid accordingly once the expensive contracts expire and the salary cap increases.
With that said, they should NOT make a splash at the trade deadline. This roster needs as much experience as it can get, and you know you will lose a good prospect and a first-round pick for a coveted trade deadline target.
The Blackhawks play Dallas again tomorrow night at 7:30 pm.