Admittedly, I considered giving Kirby Dach all of this past week’s praise following his surprise return to the Chicago Blackhawks’ lineup over the weekend. Elated as all were to see Dach rejoin his team, in anticipation of how much further he can elevate their efforts, he did only get into two of their four games while being kept off the scoresheet in each.
With that said, it would be a disservice to overlook the impact of those that actually had one throughout Chicago’s past four contests in exchange for celebrating Dach’s return. The reality is that we can successfully accomplish both without taking away the credit that is due to those who have earned it. Besides, Dach will surely find his way towards the scoresheet and this honour sooner than later.
Despite finding his way up and down the lineup on any given day, this rookie has been doing what he’s there to do since the start of the season. While he’s encountered some streaky production throughout the year, that hasn’t stopped him from sitting among all rookie leaders. Scoring in three straight last week and adding five points to his totals through Chicago’s four games played, Pius Suter deserves this spotlight.
Last Week’s Results
Chicago had a busy week, hosting four times in a six-night span. They were 7-4-2 at the United Centre prior to these two-game sets, so it seemed odds were in their favour to a greater degree than if they were still on the road.
March 23 vs. Florida Panthers: 3-2 (W)
March 25 vs. Florida Panthers: 3-0 (W)
March 27 vs. Nashville Predators: 3-1 (L)
March 28 vs. Nashville Predators: 3-2 (L)
Despite ending the week with back-to-back losses, the silver lining here is that the Blackhawks finally found a way past the Panthers. Unfortunately, though, the Predators are still proving to be a tougher challenge than expected as they are the only team the Blackhawks have yet to beat through 2020-21.
Looking beyond their 2-2-0 record on the week, one constant to find optimism in was the play of Suter. Not just because he averaged over 16:00 minutes of ice time per night, but because of what he did with that opportunity.
Suter’s Stat Line
It should come as no surprise to fans that Suter is here to score goals. He’s done that everywhere he’s played, finding progressive success through longer tenures with each team. However, what might be more of a shock is just how prolific he’s already been during his first year in the NHL.
Through four matches last week, Suter scored three goals, assisted on two, and set a pace of over a point per game. He was influential in every single contest, as his production was spread out fairly evenly. Despite not scoring on Sunday, Suter was directly involved in setting up Alex DeBrincat for both of the Blackhawks’ goals.
While his shooting percentage of 27.3 through Chicago’s past handful of games is obviously far from a sustainable mark, Suter still deserves credit for making good in such a manner. Scoring three goals on 11 shots is certainly something every opponent should take notice of.
Playing a Streaky Game
Past the halfway point of the 2020-21 campaign, it’s fair to assess Suter’s production this year as being streaky. But that’s ok, as it’s his first experience in what’s easily considered the most competitive hockey league in the world. The fact that he’s still finding success is where the focus should lie. Besides, he is a rookie after all.
With that said, we all looked forward to Suter returning to his scoring ways after he had gone six games without a single point heading into last week. In fact, through his previous 12, he had only accumulated two points total — both were goals. Well, he had other plans in facing off against the Panthers and Predators.
Suter enjoyed a modest three-game goal-scoring streak, capitalizing on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Unfortunately, he was held scoreless on Sunday but made sure to continue his point-streak by assisting on both of Chicago’s goals. As the Blackhawks look to find their way back into a playoff spot, they’ll need Suter to keep streaking in this direction.
Shining Bright Among Rookies
Suter signed this offseason, following an MVP year in the Swiss League that saw him earn 30 goals and 23 assists in 50 contests. Fans witnessed firsthand what Dominik Kubalik was able to accomplish in his rookie campaign after following a very similar path into Chicago, so anticipation was high for how Suter would succeed.
Well, he hasn’t disappointed. Scoring a hat trick to accompany his first goal in only his sixth game in the NHL, Suter is currently the lone Blackhawk to achieve that feat so far this season. On a team with players like DeBrincat, Kubalik, and Patrick Kane, it’s remarkable to think that Suter is the only one with three in a single night.
Even as Suter went quiet on the scoreboard through his recent stretch, he still remained near or at the top of the rookie leaderboard in a couple of categories. That speaks to just how much he’s done when he has been converting. Adding five points to his totals has him in fifth among first-year pros, while his three goals put him right back in the lead for that race.
More importantly for Chicago, Suter’s recent production now has him sitting in fourth on the team. With a little less than half the year to go, his current pace predicts he’ll add 10 more points through their remaining 20 games. However, if this Blackhawks team can get back to surprising through their rebuild, I’d bank on Suter finishing the season with more than 28 points.
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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.