As the Chicago Blackhawks earn results more suitable for a rebuild of late, having lost six of their last seven, it’s not as though the franchise isn’t finding ways to surprise. Given what they’re actively overcoming, with so many sidelined, it will be interesting to see what more this particular lineup is capable of when it’s at full health.
This edition of Blackhawks News & Rumors will keep things as optimistic as possible, focusing on hot starts yet to cool down and off-ice storylines that matter in real-life.
Mrázek’s Back But Stalock’s Still Out
With the seemingly neverending string of injuries for the Blackhawks to start the season, the club has already had to resort to dressing four different goaltenders so far in 2022-23. Fortunately for the franchise, Alex Stalock was ready to step up and silence skeptics after Petr Mrázek went down in only his third start of the year.
During Mrázeks’ absence, as of midway through the game in which he was injured on Oct. 21, Stalock put together an impressive stat line that included stopping 135 of 150 shots faced en route to a 3-1-1 record. But, before he could further his comeback campaign, it was the 35-year-old Stalock’s turn to take some time off after being on the wrong side of a vicious hit early on in Chicago’s contest on Nov. 1.
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Despite the Blackhawks then being left without their No. 1 and No. 2, they made the necessary adjustments to ensure their net would be protected in the meantime by calling up Arvid Söderblom and signing Dylan Wells. That said, there’s no doubt they were elated to hear that Mrázek’s return would align in as timely a fashion as it has.
Poised to be Chicago’s starter after being acquired this past offseason, the organization surely hopes to extract as much out of Mrázek as possible while he’s a Blackhawk, given what the 30-year-old has proven capable of throughout his 11-year career.
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Luckily for the Blackhawks, Mrázek appeared to be in mid-season form upon his return. Despite his first game back concluding in an overtime loss, a .943 save percentage (SV%) on the night helped ensure Chicago secured at least one point.
If the Blackhawks can continue to count on peak-level performances from their veteran tandem of Mrázek and Stalock the rest of the way, Chicago could easily shatter any preseason presumptions that suggested bottom-of-the-barrel results.
Toews Continues Scoring for Chicago
Now up to 10 points through his first 13 contests of 2022-23, Jonathan Toews has been enjoying a much-needed resurgence. Especially when considering that it took him twice as long to accumulate that total in 2021-22, after missing 2020-21 entirely.
Most impressive has been Toews’ ability to score, having already tallied seven on the year. In contrast, he didn’t reach that amount until Chicago’s 49th game of 2021-22. That said, it’s relevant to note that the captain’s current shooting percentage (S%) of 24.1 will undoubtedly dip down toward his career average of 13.8 as the season progresses.
Nevertheless, while unlikely that he’ll maintain this 44-goal pace, Toews scoring as he has thus far in 2022-23 has been a welcomed sight for both the Blackhawks and their supporters. Especially as the franchise works to fight off fixating on disappointment throughout its rebuild.
Safe to say, Toews will be adding another 20-goal season to his resume. Perhaps he’ll even hit the 30-goal milestone for the fourth time in his career. He’s nearly a third of the way there, already.
Blackhawks’ Annual Dads’ Trip Returns
For the first time in a few seasons, with such activities having been limited throughout that span, the Blackhawks’ annual dads’ trip is back. On the road with their sons as they travel through California to play the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks, this is the type of event that highlights why hockey is so special to so many.
Including recent call-up Alec Regula, who was more than willing to credit his dad as being a pivotal figure in shaping his passion and career.
“He’s the one that got me into the game,” Regula said. “Growing up, [he would be the one] taking me to all the weekend trips for tournaments and stuff like that. So, I think this is something [the team does] that’s very special. You can kind of give them a little pat on the back for everything that he’s done.”
Regardless of what the Blackhawks may or may not accomplish on the ice throughout 2022-23, there’s no doubt that this type of bonding experience will be atop the organization’s list of celebration-worthy moments by its conclusion.
As the Blackhawks look for more success than the mere five points they’ve earned through their past seven contests, fans are just as anxious to find out what version of this team they’ll see the rest of the way. Whatever the answer turns out to be, any amount of optimism witnessed thus far suggests that supporters will at least get to enjoy some more surprise storylines along the way.
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.