As the Chicago Blackhawks work beyond the quarter-season mark of their 2021-22 campaign, the storylines surrounding their on-ice play have already shifted dramatically. What began as their worst starts in franchise history has since seen a turnaround that has their record nearing the .500 mark. As such, you can bet there is a lot to talk about. Both in terms of what’s changed to get them here and even that which still needs to if they hope to progress from this point.
While the team’s resurgence offers up a number of pleasant narratives to explore, there are still some less than ideal updates that matter all the same at the moment.
Let’s explore further, in this edition of Blackhawks News & Rumours.
Toews Finally Scores His First
Having missed the entirety of 2020-21, the offseason news that Jonathan Toews was back to practicing with the team was beyond encouraging. Toews in the lineup is always to Chicago’s advantage, regardless of an expectation of regressed production due to age.
Besides, he’s still found a way to be impactful even after celebrating his 30th birthday, having averaged a pace of 0.85 points per game throughout the three seasons leading up to his year off. It wasn’t an overreach to expect much of the same, with his return.
Despite the high from seeing that Toews would be with the team from opening night and onward, it’s safe to say he has been playing through one of the worst starts of his career. Statistically speaking, anyway. 25 games into the campaign, and he had only accumulated nine points – all assists.
Heading into Chicago’s 26th game of the season against the Montreal Canadiens, Toews was surely hoping to end his five-game pointless streak. Well, he did one better and finally scored his first goal of 2021-22.
Toews now has 10 points through 26 games and is still proving impactful at the dot with a 58.9 faceoff win percentage. He’s averaging over 18:00 per night and will continue to be looked to for influence and impact as long as he’s part of this roster.
Hopefully, notching his first tally of the year helps encourage more of the same throughout the remainder of the season. Because when Toews is succeeding, it’s much easier for the rest of the Blackhawks to do the same.
Fleury Makes History, Again
As if Marc-André Fleury hadn’t already done enough to solidify his case for becoming a future Hall of Famer, he raised the bar by earning his 500th win in the NHL. Doing so, he joined an exclusive club that consists of only two other goaltending greats – Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy. Pretty good company to keep.
Heading into the 2021-22 season, it wasn’t necessarily obvious what version of Fleury the Blackhawks would see. Although he’d just come off his first-ever Vezina Trophy win, the reality was that he was already in his late thirties and his effectiveness would have to decline at some point or another.
There’s no denying that Chicago’s collective failures at the start of their schedule were a result of lacklustre individual efforts. While the team in front of him wasn’t pulling their weight, Fleury was far from the netminder that just enjoyed an award-winning season. That said, as each part of their lineup began to improve, so did Fleury – and vice versa.
From losing his first five games of the season to kick off a disappointing October, Fleury had a much better November and has already won three of his first four through December. For this team to see any success by year’s end, they’ll need Fleury to continue playing as he has been. Like the Hall of Fame-worthy athlete he’s already proven to be.
Khaira Released From Hospital
Jujhar Khaira, an offseason acquisition known for his physical play, was on the wrong side of a hit at the hands of the New York Rangers’ Jacob Trouba earlier this past week. The situation resulted in Khaira being taken off the ice in a stretcher, before heading to the hospital for evaluation.
Thankfully, early signs seem optimistic for Khaira as he was released from the hospital the following day.
“Despite the significant injury, his prognosis is excellent, and we expect a full recovery,” Blackhawks physician Dr. Michael Terry said. “At this point, it is too early to put a timeline on return to play.”
Khaira is currently in concussion protocol. Time will tell how quickly he can recover and get back to playing alongside his teammates. That said, that any sense of good news followed such a scary scenario is a step in the right direction.
McCabe Family Welcomes Newborn
Another of Chicago’s many pre-season signings was Jake McCabe. The veteran defenseman was brought in to add a level of structure and sturdiness to their blue line and he’s done just that managing over 20:30 per night for the club thus far this season. Good for the fourth-highest average ice time of any non-goalie on the team at the moment.
After missing the past few games for personal reasons, McCabe’s rationalization became a lot more clear when the time came to share this welcomed update.
Life always comes before hockey and that it was a good news situation for the McCabe family that kept him out of Chicago’s lineup is a bonus. We often see players return from this type of absence with unparalleled energy. Yet, even if he’s back to just doing what he already was this season, McCabe’s presence will still be of benefit to the Blackhawks.
Congratulations to Jake and Gaby on their newborn baby boy!
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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.
Find me and more of my work at mralwayswrite.com.