As we near the conclusion of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, a silver lining is that the Chicago Blackhawks are therefore that much closer to a fresh start with the 2021-22 season. With that said, it would be irresponsible to ignore the many non-Blackhawks-related headlines dominating hockey these days, so we’ll continue to do our part in the meantime.
Not to worry, though, as we’re never short on finding Chicago content to infuse into the mix. On this week’s episode of Blackhawks Banter, Greg Boysen, Gail Kauchak, and Brooke LoFurno will be joining me to debate and discuss all things Blackhawks. And I, Shaun Filippelli, will be your host for Episode 32.
Enjoy this teaser, covering just some of the topics we’ll delve into on the full show, and be sure to watch or listen the moment it drops and is available across your preferred video or podcast platform. Don’t forget to get involved and let us know your takes, using #BlackhawksBanter across social media so we can be sure to see what you’re saying.
Creating the Right Fit for Reichel’s Debut
Lukas Reichel has been making headlines throughout Chicago ever since his first-round selection at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. He was praised in their preseason scouting report, missed the World Juniors, captured a DEL Championship, represented Germany at the IIHF Worlds, and has just signed his entry-level contract with the club.
It’s opening night, he’s in the lineup, and it’s up to you to set him up for success. Which position do you have him playing, who are his linemates, and what are you expecting out of his debut performance?
My first instinct is to put Reichel between Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane, but he will likely need to be eased in. Logically, it will make sense to put him on a line with two defensively responsible wingers to take pressure off of him.
Young centers tend to struggle without the puck, so making it easier for him to play defense will lead to more confidence and better all-around performance. As I have said before, it is up to the head coach to put his players in positions to succeed, so we shall see.
In Shaun’s recent piece highlighting the Blackhawks players at the recent World Championship, he highlighted a quote where Assistant GM of Player Development Mark Eaton described Reichel as “seeing things faster and better than other players.” Remind you of someone?
Yep, Kane and Reichel could develop some great chemistry together. After all, Kane has a penchant for breaking in new players (see Artemi Panarin and DeBrincat), especially those who see the ice similar to how he does. Reichel plays left wing so that he would fit right in alongside Kane on the right.
While Reichel doesn’t shy away from fishing pucks out of the corners, his defensive game could use some work. And he probably needs to add some more weight to compete in the NHL. This is him after supposedly recently adding 15 pounds. Yikes!
Sure, Kirby Dach as their center would be able to cover for some of these deficiencies, but it might be a little too much to ask to put the Reichel in this position right away. Nevertheless, if I’m the coaching staff, this is something I’d be checking out in training camp.
My expectations for Reichel aren’t high to start because he will be getting acclimated to the NHL and North American ice. But I am expecting him to show flashes of reliability as a forward and in the faceoff dot. I would put him as the third line center with the line Brandon Hagel-Reichel-Vinnie Hinostroza.
While I think it’s fair to expect that Reichel should turn into a top-line talent throughout his career, I wouldn’t want to throw him into that spotlight right away. Instead, I’d slot him in on the second or third line so that he isn’t front and center and can get a feel for the game first and foremost.
Of course, he’ll still be relied upon to produce, but it feels like a safer bet to let him work his way up and perform towards more playing time as opposed to potentially failing amid that type of pressure, resulting in a regression to his confidence. I want to build him up, not break him down.
With that said, despite now playing both center and wing, I’d put him back on the left side and let Dach set up for the draws. On the right would be DeBrincat. While they’re all still on the younger end of this roster, DeBrincat’s experience can compensate for Reichel while he and Dach can take draws interchangeably where necessary.
Their individual skill sets seem to complement as much as they align and Reichel, Dach, and DeBrincat could blossom into quite a dangerous trio for these rebuilding Blackhawks.
Former Blackhawk to Have Biggest Impact
With the Stanley Cup Semifinals now set, we have the Tampa Bay Lightning battling the New York Islanders and the Vegas Golden Knights matched up against the Montreal Canadiens. It’s easy to assume each favorite will make it through, but, as we’ve seen, that’s not always the way things pan out.
With that said, every remaining team has some type of Blackhawks connection throughout their roster. Which former-Hawk do you expect to be the biggest difference-maker for their team this round?
I think the ex-Blackhawk that can be the biggest difference-maker in the semifinal round is Phillip Danault. If the Canadiens are to have any chance to upset the Golden Knights, they need Carey Price to stand on his head, and they have to find a way to slow down Vegas’ offense.
Danault will lead the charge defensively and will match up against their top line. If he can do what he does best, then Montreal might have a chance.
If the Canadiens are going to have any chance against the Golden Knights, Danault needs to continue to shut down the opponent’s top players. He’s done an excellent job of this in the first two rounds against the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Winnipeg Jets. But the Golden Knights are a whole different animal; they’re a very deep team. While he’s at it, Danault should probably pick up his production a bit. He’s only recorded two assists in 11 playoff games.
Do I think Danault and company can usurp the Vegas powerhouse? Probably not, but I sure would like to see the Habs put up a good fight. Who knows, maybe we’ll even see a few more power-play goals from our old friend Erik Gustafsson.
Nick Leddy because he is a veteran that has the experience and knows what it takes to win the Stanley Cup. That kind of experience is so valuable to a team trying to win a championship, so I think he will have a big and positive impact for the Islanders in the semifinals.
Recency bias aside, having seen him traded away from the Blackhawks just a few months ago, I’m still drawn to what Mattias Janmark is capable of. Not only does he have Stanley Cup Final experience, having been there last year with the Dallas Stars, but he’s now part of one of the deepest teams that remain as he picks up third-line minutes in Vegas.
His postseason production has been spread out thus far, with seven points through 10 contests in 2021. However, his three goals all came on the same night. That said, while it’s an unsustainable pace to expect, Janmark is currently scoring on 27.3 percent of his shots. Clearly, he’s dangerous with the puck.
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Add in the fact that he’ll go up against Montreal’s bottom-six most of the time, and he could easily start the right type of streak on any given night. While the Canadiens focus on shutting down players like Mark Stone, Jonathan Marchessault, Max Pacioretty, and William Karlsson, Janmark could swoop in and capitalize while their guard is down.
Stanley Cup Celebration You Enjoyed the Most
June will be full of reminders of Stanley Cup winners from years past, as they celebrate their respective anniversaries of when they hoisted that year’s trophy. Included within that reminiscing are the 2010, 2013, and 2015 Blackhawks. It was a special decade that provided a lot of opportunities for fans to celebrate.
Looking back on their three Cups in that six-year span, which was your favourite to celebrate on a personal level? Give us the year and a creative title to encapsulate that memory, but save the explanation for the show.
2015: It All Comes Full Circle
2013: 17 Seconds
2015: Overcoming Pesky Preds
2010: Kissing the Cup
Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this sneak peek of what we’ll dive into on the next Blackhawks Banter. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel, like our Facebook Page, and follow us on Twitter, so you catch every new episode the moment they drop. You can also now listen to our show in podcast form on your preferred platform.
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Freelance thinker, paying too much attention to digital aesthetic. Oxford comma enthusiast. Spider-Man supporter. Sports fan, with two favourite hockey teams. If the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs ever meet in the Stanley Cup Final, you can find me wherever they’re playing that night.
Check out more of my work at mralwayswrite.com.