Gain Desjardins, Lose Motte, Keep Winning

A couple of days ago, Andrew Desjardins was officially taken off of the IR. It looks like his first game back from the injury he suffered in the preseason will be this Wednesday night against the St. Louis Blues. This is a big benefit for the Chicago Blackhawks, who had made national headlines for their special team struggles.  The penalty kill has improved of late, partially due to the improved play of rookie Tyler Motte, and the addition of Desjardins makes this improvement all the more exciting.

Desjardins, Motte Out

Unfortunately, the spot that Desjardins will likely slot into is left open due to Tyler Motte being ruled out for around three weeks with a left leg injury. Motte collided into the boards this weekend with Radek Faksa while playing the home-and-home against the Dallas Stars. While not part of the Blackhawks’ core, Motte has made quite the impact as a rookie, recording three goals and three assists. More than that, Motte has something that most Blackhawks younger players lack: Joel Quenneville actually trusted him.

You like his character, you like what he brought to our team. That versatility is something that we really like about him … and we had trust in him.

Motte, age 21, has spent the majority of his regular season time on a line with Richard Panik and Jonathan Toews. With Panik’s surge as a scorer and the prestige of Toews, that’s quite the line to break into the NHL with. While part of that has to do with the salary cap situation in Chicago, Motte has earned his time, and has seized the opportunity. The injury bug always seems to bite at less-than-ideal times, and Motte (and the Blackhawks) hope his three-week recovery will be merely a blip in his rookie campaign.

More Aid on the Horizon

Another injured player’s return seems imminent, as Trevor Van Riemsdyk, who was placed on injured reserve at the same time Desjardins was taken off, may join the team on its upcoming road trip. TVR is part of a suddenly deep defensive group for Chicago, and some may barely notice his absence. With players like Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson cemented in the top four and the offseason additions of Brian Campbell and Michal Kempny, that leaves TVR and Gustav Forsling to fight over the remaining sixth defensive position. Forsling has stepped up in recent games, and has performed admirably on the second power-play unit, so Van Riemsdyk will have to prove he shouldn’t be the odd man out. With the defensive depth, and some lack of depth in the forward group, these two young defensemen may be also battling to remain off the trading block. In any capacity, the duo both being healthy is far preferable to the alternative.

The Blackhawks will hope that those returning to health will keep their success going, as they have won their past six games. Some in the analytics community have shown that Chicago is essentially one of the most “overachieving” teams in the league in terms of the quality of play compared to their record. As Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times puts it, “they’re winning, but not looking great doing it.” Lazerus goes on to point out that you can either argue that they’re due to regress and start losing more games, or what may happen with the return of some injured players, “things will really pick up if they start playing better.” Here’s to hoping it’s the latter, as the Blackhawks face a tough Blues team on the rarely accurately titled “Rivalry Night” on NBC.