Blackhawks Banter: Looking Ahead to February

As the calendar flips from January to February this week, we decided to look at what has us excited for the upcoming month. Originally, this was going to be a slow month for the Blackhawks. However, with the cancellation of the Olympic break and that time being used to make up games postponed due to COVID, February will have a ton going on.

Our Blackhawks writing crew of Greg BoysenBrooke LoFurnoShaun Filippelli, and Gail Kauchak will get together to discuss this topic and more on the latest episode of Blackhawks Banter. Today, we are giving you a little sneak peek of the discussion that will drop on Tuesday morning.

Shaun – Alex DeBrincat’s All-Star Debut

Despite the fact that the All-Star Game and its associated festivities muster up an annual debate surrounding the relevance, there is no denying that those who get to participate represent the best that the league has to offer. As such, rather than falling victim to the jaded thought process that consumes much of the collective, I choose to simply enjoy it for what it is. An opportunity to witness such talent showcased under a different type of spotlight.

Although I see this year’s event in the same way, there will be one major difference that all of us Blackhawks fans get to embrace — DeBrincat’s debut.

Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks
DeBrincat is the Blackhawks’ All-Star. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

It’s safe to say that DeBrincat has earned the spot, as he battles alongside the league’s elite on the goal-scoring leaderboard. He’s also continually becoming much more of the focal point of his own lineup, despite it including a bonafide superstar like Patrick Kane. While Kane is still producing more than DeBrincat at the moment, it’s fair to claim that DeBrincat’s impact is proving to be more influential.

With nearly a decade in age difference between the teammates, the Blackhawks looking to their future means they have to see much more of DeBrincat as part of those plans. It’s not that Kane can’t still be of value, but it’s DeBrincat’s time to take the wheel and steer Chicago’s ship.

That all said, getting to witness DeBrincat at the 2022 All-Star Game seems like a pivotal moment in the trajectory of his career, let alone the way in which he’ll be looked at in Chicago from that point forward. And given that he’ll be there and Kane will not only furthers the narrative that the torch has already been passed.

Gail – Competitive Blackhawks Hockey

The Blackhawks might not be winning a whole lot of hockey games lately. But they’ve also had a tough stretch of contests, taking on the Colorado Avalanche and the Minnesota Wild in four of their last five outings. Both these teams are at (or close to) the top of the Central Division. For the most part, the Blackhawks have come to compete in these contests. I believe the team is starting to come together as a group and believe in themselves. 

So in February, I’m looking forward to seeing if the Blackhawks can continue this trend and put together some competitive hockey. Of nine contests, they face Central division foes in five of them.

To start things off, they will take on the Wild again, who they’ve already lost to twice. One of these contests went to overtime; can they finally pull out a win against their division rival?

They will also meet the St. Louis Blues and former Blackhawk Brandon Saad twice this month. Chicago has split contests so far with St. Louis this season. The Blackhawks and the Blues have had quite the fiery competition through the ages. It should be fun to watch this continue. 

Brandon Saad St. Louis Blues
Saad and the Blues are on the February menu. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Blackhawks face the Winnipeg Jets and the Dallas Stars this month, both of whom they’ve lost to already earlier this season. Will they even the score?

Beyond that, the team takes on the Florida Panthers, who currently sit at the top of the Atlantic division in the standings. It might not be the same as facing their former coach in Joel Quenneville, but it’s certainly a matchup to get excited about.

Finally, the Blackhawks will meet the New Jersey Devils, who they lost to in OT on Oct. 15, and the Columbus Blue Jackets, whom they beat 4-2 on Jan. 11. Both are very winnable games against teams who aren’t faring that well in the standings either. 

In short, the Blackhawks aren’t likely to win out this month and make a playoff run. But they could certainly play some competitive hockey and establish a winning culture and game plan moving forward. Let’s see where it takes them.

Brooke – Bring on the Special Teams

What I’m most looking forward to with the Blackhawks come February is how the special teams will continue to evolve. We are all assuming by the trade deadline that thing will look different with the roster, but even now, there has been a lot of experimenting with the Blackhawks with the power play.

 There are different anchors with Seth Jones and Erik Gustaffson. I think their power play has looked more cohesive as of late. Even on chances where they’re not scoring, I think it is looking more functional, so with different looks and players to come, it will be fun to see how the power play evolves.

Seth Jones, Chicago Blackhawks
Jones has been a weapon on special teams. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

When it comes to the penalty kill, they still struggle, but Sam Lafferty is a new face on the penalty kill that adds a new dimension of aggressiveness that is needed to kill a penalty. I think it will get better moving forward, so I’m looking forward to the unexpected that we can see from the special teams in February.

Greg – No More Taxi Squads & the Olympics

The two things I am most excited about for February don’t specifically have much to do with the Blackhawks on the ice. I am hoping that after the NHL All-Star Break the taxi squads will no longer be a thing, per the original plan. If you follow my American Hockey League (AHL) coverage, you know that the taxi squads cause chaos at the AHL level, which, in turn, trickles down to the ECHL and Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL). While I understand the necessity of the taxi squads, they do more harm than good for the minor leagues and the development of young players.

The Olympic hockey tournaments also get started this month, with the women’s tournament beginning on Feb. 2 and the men getting underway on Feb. 9. Despite no NHL players heading to the tournament, there are still plenty of reasons for Blackhawks fans to tune in.

Related – 2022 Guide to the Men’s Olympic Tournament

On the women’s side, Kendall Coyne Schofield will captain Team USA as they look for back-to-back gold medals. Goaltending prospect Drew Commesso will be a part of the men’s team. We just learned that former Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton will be the bench boss for Team Canada after Claude Julien was injured during a team drill. There will be plenty of ex-Blackhawks in the tournament like Artem Anisimov (Russia), Marcus Kruger (Sweden), Lucak Wallmark (Sweden), Joakim Nordstrom (Sweden), Dominik Kahun (Germany), and Michal Frolik (Czechia).

This is just one of the topics we will be breaking down on the new episode of Blackhawks Banter. Be sure to tune in after the show drops on Tuesday morning. You can watch us on our YouTube channel or listen wherever you consume your favorite podcasts.

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