Welcome to the October edition of Blackhawks Bytes, a series featuring quotes and comments from players, coaches, management, journalists and fans alike concerning everything Chicago Blackhawks. The purpose of this ongoing column is to capture a slice of the existing outlook, attitudes and culture surrounding the team. Please join me as we have some fun with the everyday, albeit fascinating aspect of human nature; the power of words.
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The Blackhawks’ season is underway, and they’re off to a surprisingly solid 3-2-0 start! After predictably losing their first two contests against more talented opponents, they earned their first win of the season on Oct. 15 against the struggling San Jose Sharks. They rode that momentum into two more come-from-behind victories versus the Detroit Red Wings and the Seattle Kraken. Head coach Luke Richardson seems to be pushing all the right buttons early on. This team is competing hard, and they are improving with each and every game. It’s still early, but there’s hope this team might be better than expected. Let’s check in with a few of the players regarding some of the latest happenings during this first month of the 2022-23 campaign.
Jack Johnson Participates in Banner Raising
The Blackhawks faced the Colorado Avalanche for their first game of the season on Oct. 12. This was also the home-opener in Colorado, which was preceded by their Stanley Cup banner raising ceremony. It was excellent timing for previous Avalanche defenseman Jack Johnson, who is now a member of the Blackhawks. He had a front row seat on the opposing bench to watch his former teammates enjoy their special moment.
Then all of a sudden he was out there with them, Blackhawks sweater and all! It was quite unprecedented; certainly not the kind of thing you see every day.
congrats Jack ❤️ pic.twitter.com/pO1HSq8kZt— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) October 13, 2022
In this humble writer’s opinion, anyone who thinks Johnson shouldn’t have been included doesn’t understand the true meaning of sportsmanship. This man went to battle with his team, and that shouldn’t be diminished simply because management chose not to re-sign him. He had every right to participate. Johnson himself expressed his appreciation.
It’s a special thing to be a part of. And it’s just another thing in the long list of things I’m extremely grateful of, for Colorado and the organization, the city, the fans, my teammates. And also the Blackhawks for letting me be a part of it. [Jonathan Toews] even offered to have the whole team go on the bench and be there to support me but I told him, you guys get ready for the game.
The 35-year-old veteran talked about how strange it was to refocus just a few minutes later and play for the opposite team. But he managed just fine, logging 20:42 minutes of ice time (second only to Seth Jones) on the Blackhawk’s top defensive pairing. He’s a professional, after all.
Kurashev’s Summer Training
Blackhawks’ forward Philipp Kurashev and San Jose Sharks’ winger Timo Meier found out recently it certainly is a small world. Both hailing from Switzerland, they were together at a team practice for the world championships when they realized their summer homes are only 10 minutes away from each other.
Well shucks, why not train together? This is exactly what they did, becoming good friends in the process. Meier has been in the league for seven years, and established himself as a star player for the Sharks. Kurashev, on the other hand, is just beginning his third season. He’s still trying to figure out what it takes to be successful. Which is why this set-up was probably more advantageous for Kurashev than Meier. Either way, the two competed hard and tried to bring out the best in each other. Here’s what Meier had to say about Kurashev’s potential.
He has a really good shot, so once he feels comfortable getting in those areas where he can get the shot off and not overthink things, [he can] just let it rip and give it a chance to go in. He has an unbelievable skill set. For him, it’s just [about] finding that comfortableness and playing in all three zones. He has a real bright future ahead of him.
Can Kurashev break out like Meier is suggesting? He’s done well in the first five games, accumulating a goal and two primary assists while playing on the third line and the second power play unit. On a rebuilding team, he could easily be given plenty of opportunities to prove himself this season. Hopefully his offseason training will be helpful in his quest for success.
Dickinson Playing on Instinct
Let’s move on to some of the game action from the start of the season. Forward Jason Dickinson recently became a Blackhawk in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks that also gained Chicago a 2024 second-round pick. The 27-year-old had a rough 2021-22 campaign with the Canucks, but he’s looking for a fresh start with the Blackhawks that’s more reminiscent of his time with the Dallas Stars.
He’s doing a phenomenal job so far, notching two primary assists and a tally of his own in his Blackhawks debut against the Sharks. He added another goal Sunday afternoon versus the Kraken, for two goals and two helpers in just three games. Dickinson has done all this with very little help in the way of coaching, practices or video sessions, considering his start with the team was delayed due to visa issues. He spoke after his debut about how that might actually be a good thing.
I think the best players in the world play the game without thinking, right? Everything’s on instinct, so there’s definitely something to it. I know over my career that I’ve overthought too much sometimes, and that definitely is a problem for when I start playing poorly. So yeah, just going out there and playing. Simple as that.(from ‘For Blackhawks’ Jason Dickinson, no thinking, just scoring in victorious debut’, The AthleticCHI – 10/16/22)
This has been an ongoing theme for the Blackhawks and from the coaching staff. Richardson has simplified the defensive scheme, and players are raving about how they know exactly what is expected of them. Dickinson might be one of the newest members to this thought process, but he already seems to have the right idea.
Tyler Johnson’s Take on Success
At 32 years old, forward Tyler Johnson is one of the Blackhawks’ veterans. After all, he’s raised the Stanley Cup two times with his former team, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Johnson dealt with his fair share of injuries last season. But this season he’s healthy and looking to make an impact with the Blackhawks. He’s also a very smart player that brings a bit of a player/coach mentality to the team. Johnson recently gave his insight on what can make the Blackhawks better.
Good teams don’t really make reads. They just react, and they always know where everyone is. Early on in the year, it’s tough to be like that. But as the year goes on, you should be able to get the puck and literally have your eyes closed and know where the other four guys on the ice are going to be. That’s just timing.
Once you get that, that’s what makes teams look like they play really fast.
Again, Johnson is speaking about just reacting and playing on instinct. Obviously, the players need to build chemistry with each other. This was on full display this past Sunday by Johnson and his linemates, Jonathan Toews and Taylor Raddysh, against the Kraken. Like the rest of the team, this line struggled to start off the game. But then they started to click in the third period, and it resulted in this lovely goal to tie the game.
Johnson contributed a power play goal earlier in the contest, and he now boasts two goals and three assists on the season. This is currently tied with Sam Lafferty for first place on the team. Here’s to more timing and more chemistry for Johnson and the Blackhawks!
Khaira Speaks to the Blackhawks’ Identity
The Blackhawks aren’t going to win every game this season. They’re likely going to lose more than they win. But they’ve just won three games in a row, and they’re feeling pretty good about themselves. They’re already becoming known for their identity of being hard to play against, and being especially strong on the forecheck.
They lived up to this in their win against the Kraken, being credited with 40 hits. Jujhar Khaira was responsible for six of them and he also tallied his first goal of this season, a shorthanded effort. He spoke with confidence about the team’s resiliency after the game.
Jujhar Khaira: “We’re never out of the game. We feel that after that San Jose game. We’re relentless, we’re resilient [and] we’re going to keep going.”— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) October 23, 2022
Khaira believes, and the rest of the team believes, that they’re headed in the right direction. Coach Richardson has them all buying in to a mentality of hard work and playing for each other. This is embodied by the Blackhawks new hashtag they’ve been using, #ReadyToWork.
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Let’s see if the Blackhawks can keep up this mentality as the season goes on.
Thank you for reading this edition of Blackhawks Bytes! The Blackhawks are off to a great start to the season. With this kind of work ethic, they should be a fun team to watch moving forward. Keep it here at The Hockey Writers for all the latest news and analysis as the season progresses.