In 2015, the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. This season, they’re last in the Central Division. Something needs to change.
In the Feb. 23 game against the Dallas Stars, well-seasoned players like Patrick Kane swarmed the ice with typical high energy, but something was off. Five minutes into the second period, he gained possession of the puck and began charging the goal, but was forced to flip the puck at the last second, right into Dallas goalie Anton Khudobin.
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Every once in a while, that old drive and determination resurfaced, and during that game, those resurgences led to the Hawks’ only goal, scored at the beginning of the second period.
Duncan Keith flicked it to Dominik Kubalík. Kubalík passed it back to Keith. Keith passed it to Kane, who passed it back to Kubalík, who slapped it into the goal.
Kubalík’s authentic celebration on the ice felt like a flashback to a few years ago. To a time when the Blackhawks rallied together and there were more purposeful than aimless shots on goal. To a time when objectives like the Stanley Cup were sought after with energy and intensity.
The Blackhawks roster is peppered with older players like Kane, Jonathan Toews and Keith – a group of skaters who won the Stanley Cup together in 2015. Though their camaraderie is obvious and their ability to locate each other on the ice uncanny, something is missing.
Chicago is currently 27-27-8 for the 2019-20 season, which begs the question of whether or not the Hawks could use some new faces on the team.
Lucas Carlsson’s Journey to the Blackhawks
Lucas Carlsson, a 22-year-old Swedish defenseman from the American Hockey League’s Rockford IceHogs who was selected by the Blackhawks in the 2016 Draft, might be the answer to that question.
During his season with the IceHogs, Carlsson has scored the most goals (five) of all IceHogs defensemen. In pictures, he seems to resemble a younger, more mild-manner Kane. The same shaggy blonde hair and blue eyes, the same driven expression.
Carlsson’s Blackhawks debut began with a last-minute phone call a few days ago.
“I was kind of shocked actually,” he said in a video posted to the Blackhawks Twitter account. “Mark Bernard (Blackhawks president) called me in the morning and said I was going to Dallas, so it was a dream come true.”
Carlsson didn’t spend much time on the ice during Sunday’s game, but it isn’t the time that mattered. Watching the video on Twitter, it’s clear that he’s been working diligently for those minutes on the ice, taking his skills and experience up a notch or two.
“I try to keep it simple,” Carlsson said. “You know when you’re playing up here, you have to do everything quicker, everything faster.”
Sunday’s game ended in a 2-1 loss, but Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton recognized the challenge the other team posed.
“I thought our group played hard. It was a tight game, you know that’s a good team over there,” Colliton said in a video posted to the team’s Twitter account. “Obviously there’s always individual mistakes or certain plays you want to do different, but can’t fault the compete level, and we played to the end and we had our chances.”
A 2-1 loss isn’t bad, but the team might find that mixing it up is what they need to start collecting some wins.
Carlsson is only 22 years old. He’s got a year left in his contract. He’s looking forward to playing a few more games with the Hawks, and he’s got that hungry look in his eyes. It’s a look that seems to have been largely absent from the team for too long.
Keep an eye on this defenseman whose stats say he can find the goal. He might be what the Blackhawks have been waiting for.