Don’t look now but the Chicago Blackhawks have now won four games in a row! They’ve improved to 9-7-4 for 22 points and are knocking on the door for a wildcard spot in the standings. It’s been a true team effort as the Blackhawks have turned things around from their slow start to the season. As referenced in last week’s column (linked below), there was something notable to watch in each matchup this past week. Based on the outcomes, I’d say the Blackhawks outdid themselves in that department.
Blackhawks Matchups of the Week
@ Vegas Golden Knights, Wed. Nov. 13, Win 5-3
@ Nashville Predators, Sat. Nov. 16, Win 7-2
Vs. Buffalo Sabres, Sun. Nov. 17, Win 4-1
A Game of Firsts
The contest against the Golden Knights involved a plethora of firsts for the Blackhawks. Most importantly it was a win! Since the Golden Knights entered the league as an expansion team in the 2017-18 season, the Blackhawks have lost to them seven times. Until last Wednesday night. The victory also marked the first time the Blackhawks won back-to-back games so far this season.
There were also several individual firsts. Defensemen Calvin de Haan and Erik Gustafsson both scored their first goals of the season, de Haan’s being his first as a Blackhawk. This marked the only time two blueliners have scored in the same game in 2019-20.
Former Golden Knight Ryan Carpenter returned to T-Mobile Arena for the first time since being traded to the Blackhawks. How did he do? Not too shabby! The depth forward recorded an assist, a takeaway, a blocked shot, three hits, and went 7-of-15 on the faceoff dot. He’s a keeper.
Rookie Kirby Dach scored his first multi-point game of the season against the Golden Knights, tallying a goal and the secondary assist on de Haan’s goal. Dach’s linemate, Zack Smith, provided the primary helper on that goal, which was his first point as a Blackhawk and his 100th career assist. He added another apple on Dach’s tally for good measure.
One more note from a team aspect. The Blackhawks found themselves down 2-0 early in this contest but scored five-unanswered goals and came away with the win. You guessed it; this was the first time this season the Blackhawks have been down by two goals and yet rallied for the win. All in all, it was a good night.
The Blackhawks’ Redemption
Remember back on Oct. 29 when the Blackhawks were outshot 51-20 and shut out 3-0 by the Predators? Well the Blackhawks certainly remember it because of what opposing goaltender Pekka Rinne said after the game.
Don't think we forgot what Pekka Rinne said after last time in Nashville…— Blackhawks Talk (@NBCSBlackhawks) November 16, 2019
The #Blackhawks are looking for revenge TONIGHT on @NBCSChicago Plus. TUNE IN at 6:30 or STREAM at https://t.co/ckdg3pwO3w pic.twitter.com/ptfoxCZt2f
On Saturday the Blackhawks flipped the script, chasing Rinne out of his net in the second period after he allowed 4 goals on 14 shots. The Blackhawks scored 3 more times for a statement 7-2 win.
The defensive corps continued their trend of helping out offensively. Gustafsson found the back of the net for his second game in a row, and Brent Seabrook added his second goal of the season. While the second line of Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, and Patrick Kane has been on fire lately (Kane scored again in this one), the first line finally broke through with some contributions. Alex Nylander scored twice, while Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad both ended the night with two assists. Dominik Kubalik and David Kampf added goals as well.
Defenseman Connor Murphy returned after missing the last 11 games with a groin injury, helping to stabilize the blue line. He played a hefty 20:05 minutes of ice time, and contributed two takeaways, three blocked shots, and one shot on goal.
Dach Shows His Stuff
While Dach scored his first multi-point game on Wednesday, he had to one-up himself Sunday night. He became the hero by scoring the first two goals of the game, making it his first multi-goal outing in the NHL. He’s the third 18-year-old in Blackhawks history to do so, joining Eddie Olczyk and Kane.
The Blackhawks’ rookie now boasts a four-game point streak comprised of four goals and two assists. Overall, he’s recorded five goals and four assists in 14 games. And he’s managing all this on the fourth line with a couple of unlikely linemates in Smith and Carpenter. These two grinders have done an excellent job of playing hard and getting Dach the puck, along with the time and space to work his magic. It’s been really fun to watch.
Speaking of which, the Blackhawks had the youngster on the ice with Kane at the end of the Sabres game in an effort to get him a hat trick. Dach joked to reporters afterward, “I obviously wanted it pretty bad. Kaner gave me a couple of nice chances and I might owe him a steak dinner for missing those ones.”
Dach is only averaging a little over 11 minutes of ice time, and of course he’s being protected situationally playing on the fourth line. But look to see head coach Jeremy Colliton give him more responsibility moving forward, including perhaps some time on the power play. With his nose for the net, he could certainly help that unit.
Other Blackhawks’ Notable News & Notes
- Mentions of Kane have been sprinkled throughout this article, but it should be emphasized the red-hot winger is currently on a nine-game point streak, with eight goals and nine assists in that span. Kaner continues to lead the way.
- They may be winning, but the Blackhawks are still giving up way too many shots on goal. They allowed 42 against the Golden Knights, 41 to the Predators, and 34 against the Sabres. Well at least it’s getting a little better as they go along. Let’s see how this progresses moving forward.
- Goaltender Robin Lehner has been the talk lately, but Corey Crawford suited up for two of the last three games. In said games, he stopped 72-of-76 shots for a .950 save percentage. Nothing to complain about in net.
- Forward Drake Caggiula has been under concussion protocol and out of the lineup since last Wednesday. There has been no further update on his condition.
- In AHL news, former Blackhawk and two-time Stanley Cup champion Kris Versteeg terminated his one-year contract with the Rockford IceHogs on Sunday. He attributed his decision to ongoing health issues and the more physical aspect of the AHL versus the NHL. (from ‘Versteeg explains why he asked for release from Rockford IceHogs’, The Daily Herald – 11/17/19)
The Blackhawks will host those jerks the Carolina Hurricanes this Tuesday, who have 25 points and currently sit in third place in the Metropolitan division. The Tampa Bay Lightning come to town on Thursday. They only have 20 points to the Blackhawks’ 22, but they’ve also only played in a league-low 17 games (to the Blackhawks’ 20 games). To round out the week, the team travels to the American Airlines Center Saturday to take on their division rival, the Dallas Stars. The Stars are currently in the first wildcard spot in the Western Conference, with 24 points.
Let’s see if the Blackhawks can tack on some more wins and add to their four-game win streak!