Blackhawks Thoughts: Still Winless After 9 Games

It would be an understatement to say its been an extremely difficult week to be a Chicago Blackhawks’ fan. This once dominant franchise has fallen from grace in the biggest of ways after the Jenner and Block report on the 2010 sexual assault allegations became public this past Tuesday. I’d like to express my deepest condolences to Kyle Beach for what he’s had to endure, as well as commend him for his courage in coming forward as a victim of this abuse. I can’t even imagine how difficult it was to be so vulnerable in front of millions of people. But this act of unquestionable bravery can save so many others from the same fate. It can also serve as a steppingstone to address the ugly underbelly of hockey culture, and the world at large.

Our crew here at The Hockey Writers is extremely saddened by these events, and my colleague Greg wrote a heartfelt piece addressing some thoughts and emotions I’m sure all of us are feeling. We will further address our views during our upcoming Blackhawks Banter show this Tuesday.

Related – Blackhawks Scandal Leaves Hockey Fans Reeling

It seems rather trivial in the big picture, but this current Blackhawks’ team is attempting to salvage a very rough start to their 2021-22 campaign. Add in the current situation, and it’s quite the disaster. With the exception of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, this young team has nothing to do with this scandal. Yet in many ways they’re paying the price of the fan’s wrath. It’s an easy thing to do, but it’s not exactly fair. I feel for these players, who still want to win hockey games and serve their team and each other proud.  

While it’s every fan’s right to choose their path moving forward, I choose to support them. With that said, I’d like to carry on with some of the on-ice developments from this past week.

Blackhawks Game Results

Vs. Toronto Maple Leafs, Wed. Oct. 27, Loss 3-2 (OT)

@ Carolina Hurricanes, Fri. Oct. 29, Loss 6-3

@St. Louis Blues, Sat. Oct. 30, Loss 1-0  

Isaak Phillips Debut

The Blackhawks actually made some good history Friday night when defenseman Isaak Phillips made his NHL debut. Phillips was selected 141st overall (5th round) in the 2020 Entry Draft. He became the first-ever player from Team Jamaica and with Jamaican-born roots to suit up in the NHL.

Isaak Phillips Rockford IceHogs
Defenseman Isaak Phillips was called up from the Rockford IceHogs and played in two games for the Chicago Blackhawks this past week. (Todd Reicher/Rockford IceHogs)

The 20-year-old didn’t do too bad for himself. He played on the third defensive pairing with Erik Gustafsson, and recorded two shots on goal, one hit, and unfortunately a holding penalty in 11:01 minutes of ice time. In the Blues game head coach Jeremy Colliton shook things up a little, pairing Phillips with Jake McCabe. But in this contest Phillips only recorded 8:21 minutes on the ice.

Phillips got into the lineup after Ian Mitchell was sent down to the Rockford IceHogs, and he was called up before Nicolas Beaudin, who played in 19 games for the Blackhawks last season. It will be interesting to see what happens from here. Likely defenseman Riley Stillman will be available off the Covid list moving forward. Either way, kudos to Phillips on his first two NHL games!

Player Losses Taking Their Toll

Yes, it’s tough to watch this Blackhawks team right now as the losses keep on adding up. But let’s face it, the Hurricanes and the Blues are very good teams. They only have one loss between the two them, mind you. It’s also important to point out that the Blackhawks are playing with quite the depleted roster right now.

Related – Blackhawks: Making History, Player Firsts, Toews Speaks & More

At the onset of the season, the team started without two defensemen who were on track to be in the starting lineup for the Blackhawks. Wyatt Kalynuk succumbed to an ankle injury, and Caleb Jones to a wrist injury. These two losses set the defensive corps back from the get-go.

Then a Covid outbreak hit the team. For the last four contests Kane, Jujhar Khaira, Henrik Borgstrom and Stillman have all been unavailable. Having arguably your top offensive weapon out is enough in and of itself. But beyond that, Khaira and Borgstrom are depth forwards the Blackhawks have been leaning on so far this season. And we’ve already spoken about the depleted defense. Having Stillman out isn’t doing the Blackhawks any favors.

Patrick Kane, Blackhawks
Patrick Kane is just one of many recent losses to the lineup for the Chicago Blackhawks. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Finally, veteran forward Tyler Johnson left Friday’s game against the Hurricanes in the second period. He didn’t suit up for the Blues game due to neck soreness, accumulating one more casualty for the Blackhawks. Hopefully this is a minor issue.

The good news is the Blackhawks haven’t added anyone to the Covid list since last Sunday. Hopefully they are over the hump in that regard, and can start integrating these players back into the lineup. If this is indeed the case, it should give the team a nice boost headed into next week.

Strome’s Shot

Considering all the above-mentioned losses, its amazing to me that forward Dylan Strome has only cracked the lineup three times over the Blackhawks first nine games. He suited up against the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 21 and the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 24, averaging a little over 12 minutes of ice time and contributing one assist while also racking up six penalty minutes. Ouch. It’s well-known Colliton doesn’t trust Strome’s defensive play, and those stats don’t exactly do him any favors.

But even so, when your team is losing wouldn’t you think Strome could bring more to the table than players like Mike Hardman and Reese Johnson? Sure, these two offer a physical presence and they’re hard to play against. But they don’t provide much more. Heck, if Tyler Johnson hadn’t gone down in the Hurricanes game, Strome still might not have made the lineup. But Johnson was out, and Strome drew in against the Blues.

Dylan Strome Chicago Blackhawks
Chicago Blackhawks’ Dylan Strome drew into the lineup for the third time this season against the St. Louis Blues. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

It was a great opportunity for the 24-year-old, centering the second line in between buddy Alex DeBrincat and Hardman. In 15:10 minutes of ice time, Strome contributed two shots on goal, two takeaways and went 5-for-10 (50%) in the faceoff circle. We’ll see if Strome can keep his place in the lineup as other players become available.

Other Blackhawks Tidbits

  • The Blackhawks finally broke their cycle of not having the lead. They scored first in both the Maple Leafs game and the Hurricanes game. It’s a step in the right direction.
  • Special teams continue to come through for the Blackhawks. They’ve scored nine goals on 36 opportunities on the power play, which is 9th in the league. They’ve also only given up four goals on 31 opportunities on the penalty kill, good for 6th in the league.
  • While not having the greatest start to the season, netminder Marc-Andre Fleury bounced back with a solid night on Saturday against the Blues. He stopped 36-of-37 shots for a .973 save percentage. Hopefully he can continue to build on that.

As the calendar turns to November, the Blackhawks host the Ottawa Senators on Monday and the red-hot Hurricanes again on Wednesday. Then they head to Winnipeg to face the Jets on Friday before taking on the Nashville Predators at the United Center on Sunday. Four more games to pull out that first win!

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