It’s been a few days since we’ve last seen hockey. As of this past Wednesday, there were protests in the manner of postponed games by the players of the National Hockey League and the rest of the sports world. It’s been an impressive statement, to say the least, and hopefully it will lead to more discussion and action in the fight against racial inequality.
As of Saturday, the intense playoff hockey battles begin once again inside the two bubbles. We all know the Chicago Blackhawks aren’t part of these festivities anymore, and they are officially in their offseason. The Blackhawks are licking their wounds and taking this time to access their priorities moving forward. We’ve been privy to some Zoom player interviews this past week. Let’s explore what the boys had to say in today’s news and rumors.
DeBrincat Needs To Score
Forward Alex DeBrincat spoke on scoring only 18 goals this season versus 41 goals in the 2018-19 season.
DeBrincat on falling from 41 to 18 goals: "Haven’t figured out why they weren’t going in as much this year. That’s something I’ll try to figure out… I feel like I was putting it where I wanted. Maybe goalies are reading me better or maybe I need to tweak something in my shot."— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) August 26, 2020
DeBrincat further noted, “It was a good learning thing for me to go through and hopefully will make me a better player down the road.”
We can only hope. It’s hard to turn against DeBrincat; he’s basically done nothing but smile since he came to the Blackhawks. The franchise actively sells that smile and incorporates him into their marketing plan alongside the current faces of the franchise, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. They obviously see him as one of the new faces. Let’s also remember, the “Cat” is only 22 years old. He has a lot of room to learn and grow.
And score more goals. Hopefully it will all come to fruition likes it’s supposed to.
Will Boqvist Bulk Up?
Young rookie defenseman Adam Boqvist had his growing pains this regular season and postseason. The 20-year-old probably could have used a full season in the AHL, but he was pushed into NHL service based on injuries and the Blackhawks’ disappointing start to 2019-20.
Boqvist utilized his time in the NHL with an impressively rapid learning curve, but there is still work to be done. One of his many struggles was winning puck battles in the corners, leading many to argue he needs bulk up this offseason. Here was his response,
You want to be bigger and stronger so you can skate better, shoot better, handle guys in the corner better… But I’m not going to be the guy who has big hits to put them in the glass all the time. I’m going to use my stick more, my feet.
Some might disagree, but it sounds to me like Boqvist has the right idea about how to improve. Yes he will work on getting bigger and stronger, but that’s not the primary focus. He’s also going to work on playing smarter.
Murphy Talks Playoffs
Let’s face it; hockey players aren’t always the best interviews. They have catch phrases and repetitive terms they like to use. They don’t always tell you very much, and they usually don’t show a whole lot of personality. But Blackhawks’ defenseman Connor Murphy gave a very insightful interview. It’s worth showing here:
Murphy talked about what it was like to take to the ice for the first playoff series in his seven-year career.
It’s such a different feeling when you get to play a team in a series. You know that you can kind of figure out how to play against certain guys or you have your matchups, and be able to go through a whole series versus in the season you’re obviously bouncing around to different teams every night. So just having that competitiveness that it brings out in everyone, the bonding it brings…these games you know that they mean a lot every shift you’re out on the ice. That part was a lot of fun.
The blueliner also spoke about being more vocal in his leadership role next season. He commended the current leaders on the team, but emphasized that “everyone has something to offer” and he will assume “a piece of that leadership role”.
It’s good to see Murphy’s confidence grow, both on and off the ice.
Speaking of the playoffs, Blackhawks’ historian Bob Verdi’s recent article spelled it out. Albeit under some crazy circumstances, the Blackhawks experienced playoff hockey after not qualifying the last two seasons. They didn’t let it go to waste, winning in four games in the qualifying round against the Edmonton Oilers, and then hanging tough in five games before being eliminated by the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round. Verdi further mentioned there were 10 players who experienced their first-ever NHL postseason berth.
Here are the 10 players he refers to, with their age in parentheses.
- Connor Murphy (27)
- Dominik Kubalik (25)
- David Kampf (25)
- Matthew Highmore (24)
- John Quenneville (24)
- Dylan Strome (23)
- Alex DeBrincat (22)
- Alex Nylander (22)
- Adam Boqvist (20)
- Kirby Dach (19)
This newly found playoff experience must set the standard for this young team. It should be the primary goal for next season; to get there again.
It may be the Blackhawks’ offseason, but there’s still plenty of updates regarding players, prospects, the upcoming 2020 NHL Draft, and more. Keep it right here at The Hockey Writers for all your Blackhawks’ news and rumors!