If you need any further evidence of how far the Chicago Blackhawks have progressed since the season began, consider what they were able to do against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals this past week. Facing off against two of the league’s best, Chicago averaged over four goals per game in those two contests, going 1-1-0 after barely missing out on extra time against Toronto.
Given that they’re averaging just over two goals per contest thus far this season, things are obviously going better than they had been. Yet, the pattern of winning one and then losing the next persists. Collectively, they still need to reach another gear in order to achieve any sustained success.
Focusing on those that are finding a way to get the job done of late, this is the latest edition of Blackhawks News & Rumours.
Connolly Earns His Chance in Chicago
Brett Connolly was acquired by the Blackhawks late last season, in a trade that included Henrik Borgström’s signing rights as the main piece of that deal. In fact, Connolly joining Chicago was more so a benefit to the Florida Panthers, who were then able to wipe his $3.5 million salary from their books as a result.
Connolly made it into 10 games with the Blackhawks in 2020-21. Although the 29-year-old has proven to be a capable veteran in this league, playing over 500 games for five NHL franchises to date, finding a fit within Chicago’s current plan was going to be a challenge. So it made sense to see that he would be starting the campaign with the Rockford IceHogs, instead.
What wasn’t as expected, though, was how persistent and productive Connolly would be in the American Hockey League (AHL). He tallied five goals and six assists in his first 16 games with the IceHogs, which was enough to see him sit among the team’s leaders. It also paved his path back to the NHL.
Connolly logged just over 11:30 in Chicago’s contest against the Washington Capitals on Dec. 15. Though he was held off the scoresheet against his former club, perhaps his work ethic and perseverance will be enough to warrant more opportunities at this level of play throughout the remainder of Chicago’s 2021-22 schedule.
Kane Reaches Yet Another Major Milestone
Now in his 15th season in the NHL, and considering the amount of winning both he and the Blackhawks have done throughout his over 1,000 games with the club, it’s no surprise that Patrick Kane has reached the heights that he has throughout his career.
Achieving a major goal-scoring mark last season, Kane tallied his 400th goal mid-way through the 2020-21 campaign. Quite a feat for an athlete known more for their playmaking abilities. Well, with that said, Kane has recently reached yet another tier of excellence that more directly aligns with the type of superstar he’s always been.
As if the 33-year-old maintaining a point-per-game pace so far in 2021-22 wasn’t impressive enough, Kane added his 700th assist to his totals earlier on this week. He’s now among only 56 players throughout the league’s history to do so.
With over 1,100 points to date, there’s no telling how many more Kane will add by the time he calls it a career. Especially if he continues to play as agelessly as has, throughout the rest of his 30s.
Jones Nets His First as a Blackhawk
Although he was technically acquired by the franchise before his big brother, Caleb Jones was never slated to have the same type of spotlight placed upon him as Seth. The fact was, upon becoming teammates, Seth had a more proven career behind him than Caleb and their individual expectations aligned.
Seth is approaching a decade in the NHL, so most know what to expect out of his play. Caleb, on the other hand, had less than 100 games of experience heading into 2021-22, so it’s far too early to determine the type of defensive impact that he’ll make his norm.
Safe to say, though, that he’s not as fixated on offense as his brother. Having only collected 19 points in his first three seasons in the NHL, Caleb wasn’t being infused into the Blackhawks lineup to spark production. That said, any points he’s able to accumulate are surely welcome. And he’s recently added his first goal as a Blackhawk to his resume.
What’s more, is it was the game-winner against the Capitals. Interestingly, that puts him ahead of Seth in that category so far this season. Caleb may not score as much, but he clearly makes them count when he does.
King Remains Perfect in Extra Time
This franchise has experienced an obvious shift in momentum since Derek King took over. Regardless of where the credit should be distributed for their turnaround, there’s no denying that the Blackhawks are playing a much more competitive game as a collective under King’s leadership.
While they are certainly winning more than they’re losing in recent weeks, Chicago is still struggling to reach a level of competitiveness necessary to find any sense of sustained success. It seems they are following up every win with a loss these days.
If that’s the pattern they are destined to expect the rest of the way, then all they need to do is ensure every contest requires overtime.
Obviously, that’s not a plausible strategy for these Blackhawks to implement. Even if they tried, it takes two sides to force extra time. Regardless, it’s no less impressive that King has been able to maintain this undefeated streak. Especially when you consider the clubs Chicago has beaten within that 6-0 stretch — the Nashville Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues, New York Islanders, and the Capital twice.
At the very least, the Blackhawks have to own the edge this gives them the next time they enter overtime or a shootout scenario. They need every advantage they can get, if they expect to reach any sense of meaningful success by season’s end.
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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.