I like how things are going.
I know a mediocre start isn’t what Chicago Blackhawks fans were hoping for when the puck dropped on opening night, but let’s get real, those Jonathan Toews/Patrick Kane/Marian Hossa years when the team dominated the league just doesn’t happen that often. So, let’s stay in the now.
I sometimes feel that watching the Blackhawks is like my golf game. I have plenty of pars and birdies through 18 holes to have a good score, but it’s those double and triple bogeys that mess it all up. Until Thursday night’s dismal showing against the Philadelphia Flyers, five of the six Hawks losses this season were decided by one goal.
The woes and perils of last season aren’t going to be solved immediately. After all, you don’t shift from first to fifth gear. You need to go through all the others to reach top speed – that’s how manual transmission works.
Robin Lehner sees it. Prior to joining the Blackhawks over the summer, he saw the team’s potential:
“When I chose to sign with this team, it’s because I really believe in this team,” Lehner said. “There’s a lot of great hockey players on this club and we’ve seen it in spurts in the beginning of the season. I think the last few games have been really really good. Small, small details and we’re going to be very dangerous. I’m really liking what I’m seeing from a lot of the guys. A lot of the young guys are playing great and the core guys here, maybe it looks far away but it’s really close. It really is.”
Those “young guys” – Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Kirby Dach are the future. Those “core guys” – Toews, Kane, Brandon Saad and Brent Seabrook are the foundation right now.
Are the additions of Lehner and Calvin de Haan during the offseason what was needed to make the turn? Maybe? Those are the things I like to hear and I like to talk about, and the things we didn’t hear or talk about last season.
Related: What Will Patrick Kane Do Next?
Lehner likes what he sees, and that gives me hope. We’ll just have to be patient.
And Defense Too
The Hawks will need defense too.
Yes, it’s getting there, but it needs to be A LOT better. There is a glimmer of light in the darkness, the likes of which have been not seen since the departure of Niklas Hjarmalsson — which was the beginning of the downturn of the Hawks defense.
Coming within just over a minute from a shutout over the Vegas Golden Knights was a good start. It took an empty net, offensive effort to squeeze one past Lehner, and the late-game potential of a shutout was something that hardly ever happened last season.
The defense is just too loose, allowing too many turnovers in front of the net and placing additional pressure on Corey Crawford and Lehner in goal. That needs to stop. Take care of the puck!
With Connor Murphy out for a spell, hopefully de Haan can step in and have the impact we have all been hoping for since his name came up. But the corner won’t be turned until this just gets better.
Kirby Dach & ‘The Young Guys’
I remember in 2007-08 when Toews and Kane arrived in Chicago. Next thing I knew, my 7-year-old daughter asked for what would be her first of two 88 sweaters, and she was constantly arguing with her brothers about which of the new Hawks’ young guns was better.
Well, after Kirby Dach found the net for his first NHL goal Tuesday night against the Golden Knights, I got the question, “So, what’s Dach’s number?” Sorry, Kane, but you may have been replaced.
After coach Jeremy Colliton put Dach on the line with Kane and Strome, Kane gave some indication that there was chemistry there. Once Strome settles into his role on the wing, they are going to be an exciting line to watch.
DeBrincat, coming off a lights-out season in 2018-19 is also finding his rhythm. Let’s keep our fingers crossed the momentum continues and he starts to heat up.
There a number of things that need to start happening, and some that need to stop happening before we start to see results. One thing that stands out in particular, is that I’d like to hear Toews’ name being called more often as I’m listening to Pat Foley and Eddie Olczyk call the games. He’s been too quiet and that needs to change.
Once it does, we’ll start seeing some results. And, for Isabelle, it’s 77.
Scott brings several years of local hockey coverage with the Kankakee Daily Journal to the Hockey Writers, along with coverage of NCAA Hockey, Softball, Basketball, and Soccer with HEROSports. He is also a regular contributor to FloSoftball and Coach & Athletic Director Magazine.