Top 5 Chicago Blackhawks Moments of 2021-22

From off-ice issues to a front-office overhaul, almost everything that could have gone wrong went wrong for the Chicago Blackhawks this season. With one last regular-season game remaining, times are tough for a Chicago franchise that probably hasn’t seen the worst of its rebuild yet. There are many questions heading into the offseason, too, from how the organization will approach this year’s NHL Draft to possible new contracts for pending restricted free agents like Dylan Strome and Kirby Dach.

It would be easy to look at this season’s results and dwell on the negatives. But as bad as it was, there were still many fun moments, from player milestones to significant wins. Here are my top five Blackhawks moments from 2021-22 as the regular season concludes.

5. March 3 vs. Edmonton Oilers: Kane, DeBrincat Connect on Legacy Night

After splitting their first two regular-season matchups, the Blackhawks hosted the Oilers in an early March contest to close out a six-game homestand. Not only did Chicago welcome superstar forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to the United Center for the lone time this season, but the game also marked three-time Stanley Cup champion Duncan Keith’s homecoming. Coincidentally, it was Niklas Hjalmarsson’s Legacy Night, in which the Blackhawks honored the 14-year veteran with a pregame ceremony and other activities.

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With two fan favorites in the house, the game didn’t disappoint. The teams finished the first period tied at two before a scoreless second. Then, in the third, Dominik Kubalik broke the tie about three minutes into the period before polarizing Oilers forward Evander Kane scored the game-tying goal with 50 seconds left in regulation.

However, just over two minutes into overtime, Seth Jones found Patrick Kane, who sent the puck to Alex DeBrincat for the overtime winner — his 30th goal of the season — as Chicago defeated Edmonton 4-3. The duo had found overtime success on many occasions before, including wins earlier in the season against the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues. This one, though, felt a little more special because of the occasion while also limiting a high-energy Oilers squad.

4. Jan. 26 at Detroit Red Wings: Strome Leads the Way in Motown

After falling to the Detroit Red Wings 6-3 on Oct. 24, which turned out to be the final game under former general manager Stan Bowman, the Blackhawks traveled to the Motor City for their first of three eight-goal outbursts this season. Chicago took a 4-0 lead after the first period before their Original Six rivals struck back in the second, narrowing the Blackhawks’ lead to 4-3.

In the first 10 minutes of the third, the Blackhawks had a 6-3 lead before the Red Wings again narrowed it to 6-5 before Brandon Hagel, and DeBrincat added insurance for the Blackhawks in the game’s final four minutes en route to an 8-5 win.

Dylan Strome Chicago Blackhawks
Dylan Strome, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

While 11 of Chicago’s 18 skaters recorded at least a point that night, the game was particularly special for forward Dylan Strome, who recorded his first NHL hat trick. It was his first of two this season. Before the game, Strome had been a big source of trade speculation. However, after his hat trick, that narrative started to change due to his success in Chicago’s top-six, specifically with linemates DeBrincat and Kane. With 47 points through 68 games in 2021-22, it’s been a tale of two seasons for the 25-year-old forward, who was scratched for much of the season’s first month. His performance against Detroit helped boost his offensive production.

3. April 14 vs. San Jose Sharks: Foley’s Farewell

Normally, a late-season contest between two bottom-feeders — in this case, the Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks — wouldn’t have much, if any, significance for either team. That wasn’t the case for Chicago. In late June 2021, the Blackhawks announced longtime TV play-by-play voice Pat Foley would be stepping down from his role at the end of the 2021-22 regular season. While the Blackhawks announced Chris Vosters as Foley’s full-time replacement on April 3, Foley still had three games left to call, and his final matchup didn’t disappoint. The Blackhawks defeated the Sharks 5-4 in a shootout, giving fans one last “‘Hawks win,” Foley’s signature call.

The game itself was entertaining, with both Kane and DeBrincat tallying three points, but Foley’s farewell was the story of the night. Before the game, the Blackhawks honored him with an on-ice ceremony, and almost every commercial break featured video tributes to the Hall of Fame broadcaster, from former players to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to some of the biggest names in sportscasting, like Mike “Doc” Emrick and Joe Buck. After the game, Foley was recognized as the game’s first star and addressed the crowd before signing off for the final time. It was an emotional evening for Chicago fans young and old, given Foley’s 39-year run as the voice of the Blackhawks.

2. March 8 vs. Anaheim Ducks: Kane’s 6-Point Night & Strome’s Second Hat Trick

Just five nights after assisting on DeBrincat’s game-winning goal, Kane made history and reminded fans why he should be considered the greatest U.S.-born player of all time. In another eight-goal outburst, the Blackhawks defeated the Anaheim Ducks 8-3, with Kane tallying one goal and five assists. It marked Kane’s career-high for points in a single game; he had five points against the Ottawa Senators back in January 2018.

Four of Kane’s six points came in the first period as the Blackhawks took a 5-0 lead through the first 20 minutes. In the second period, Chicago continued to dominate as Hagel scored just 19 seconds in before, much like six weeks earlier against Detroit, Anaheim scored three straight goals to narrow Chicago’s lead to 6-3. But after opening the scoring in the first period, Strome ended the second on a high note to make it 7-3 Chicago before completing his second NHL career hat trick with just under three minutes left in the game.

Patrick Kane Chicago Blackhawks
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Along with Kane and Strome tallying six and four points, respectively, DeBrincat also tallied four points, including one goal and three assists. While role players like Jake McCabe and Ryan Carpenter also found their way onto the scoresheet, Chicago’s top line of DeBrincat, Strome, and Kane drove the offense and provided a spark for what’s been an impressive campaign for the trio.

1. Dec. 9 at Montreal Canadiens: Fleury’s 500th Win

When the Blackhawks acquired three-time Stanley Cup champion and former Vezina Trophy winner, Marc-André Fleury from the Vegas Golden Knights in July 2021, it wasn’t a given that he was going to play in a Chicago sweater. However, Fleury quickly bought into the Blackhawks’ culture, and while it wasn’t an impressive start for the 37-year-old veteran, he quickly became a fan favorite despite Chicago’s lack of success. In fact, he hid many of the Blackhawks’ defensive deficiencies and had some solid performances before being dealt to the Minnesota Wild at the deadline.

Perhaps no moment this season better encapsulated Fleury’s legacy than when he recorded his 500th win against the Montreal Canadiens, a 2-0 shutout. Stopping 30 shots, he became just the third goaltender in NHL history to reach the milestone, joining Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur. There aren’t many players who are universally loved across the NHL, but Fleury is one of them, and the Quebec native heard the crowd chant “Fleury, Fleury” as the clock wound down from both Chicago and Montreal fans in the Bell Centre.

While Fleury’s Chicago tenure was short — just under eight months — it was memorable, and he gave fans a reason to watch even during the worst stretches. It may seem strange to rank a moment this high for a player who isn’t with the Blackhawks anymore, but it speaks to Fleury’s impact on the club. Not many goaltenders reach such a level of success, and to see Fleury hit one of his biggest milestones with the Blackhawks was impressive.

Finding Silver Linings

There are several uncertainties regarding Chicago’s future. Odds are, the worst of the rebuild is yet to come, and no one knows how long it will last before they contend again. It may be hard to stay invested right now, but these types of moments, some of which were unexpected, should remind fans to stay engaged. That’s the beauty of hockey, too — anything’s possible in today’s game.

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Like many, my expectations for next season are very, very low. A bottom-five finish seems possible and, based on their turbulent last month, might be likely. However, positive surprises are bound to happen, even if they don’t come every game, which is something to look forward to for next season and beyond.

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