Gosh, I miss hockey! While the NHL is looking at ways to finish out the NHL season and reward the Stanley Cup, we’ve all been without hockey for quite some time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chicago Blackhawks’ last contest was a 6-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Mar. 11.
To that end, this seems like a perfect time to feature highlights from the Blackhawks’ shortened 2019-20 season. For those interested, I’ve included my similar piece from the 2018-19 season below. It’s always kind of fun to compare.
Without further ado, here are my picks of the most defining Blackhawks’ moments from this past season, in chronological order.
1. Dach’s First NHL Goal
Kirby Dach was the Blackhawks’ surprising third overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. Most had top prospects Bowen Byram (No. 4 pick), Alex Turcotte (No. 5 pick) and even Dylan Cozens (No. 7 pick) all being drafted before Dach. Could the six-foot-four center possibly live up to the high selection, or would he be a bust?
Unfortunately, Dach sustained a concussion at the Traverse City Prospects tournament in September. Chances of the youngster finding a regular spot on the Blackhawks’ 2019-20 seemed slim. But the Blackhawks showed faith in him, and Dach made his NHL debut on Oct. 20 against the Washington Capitals.
It only took him until his second game to attain his first NHL goal. While it wasn’t exactly pretty, Dach put himself in the right place at the right time (in front of the net)!
Now we all know the 19-year-old has gone on to achieve eight goals and 15 assists in 64 games this season. While these stats aren’t especially impressive, Dach has shone his ceiling is extremely high. And there’s nothing quite like your first NHL goal.
2. A Game of Firsts
Fast forward to Nov. 13, when the Blackhawks took on the Vegas Golden Knights in Sin City. Since the Golden Knights entered the league as an expansion team in the 2017-18 season, the Blackhawks had lost to them seven times. This 5-3 win was their first ever victory against the newest NHL team. But that was just the beginning of many firsts from the evening.
Defensemen Calvin De Haan and Erik Gustafsson both scored their first goals of the season in this tilt, and it was the first time two Blackhawks’ blue liners scored in the same game.
Former Golden Knight Ryan Carpenter returned to T-Mobile Arena for the first time since being traded to the Blackhawks. How did he do? Not too shabby! The depth forward recorded an assist, a takeaway, a blocked shot, three hits, and went 7-of-15 on the faceoff dot.
Dach scored his first NHL goal while playing the Golden Knights (as discussed above), and he tallied his first multi-point game of the season against them in this game. He notched a goal and the secondary assist on de Haan’s goal. Dach’s linemate, Zack Smith, provided the primary helper on de Haan’s goal, which was his first point as a Blackhawk and his 100th career assist. He added another apple on Dach’s tally for good measure.
Finally, this was the first time of their 2019-20 campaign where the Blackhawks were down by two goals yet rallied for the win. All in all, it was a good night.
3. Kane’s Point Streak
It’s become expected that Patrick Kane is on top of the Blackhawks’ leaderboard every season. Sure enough, he led the team this season as well with 33 goals, 51 assists, and 84 points. He also went on a 15-game point streak during the month of November. In a span of 15 games, the star winger accumulated 11 goals and 13 assists for 24 points. This included three two-point games and three three-point games, and earned him the third star of the month.
Believe it or not, this was just the third-longest streak of Kane’s career. He went on a 20-game run last season and a 26-game streak in the 2015-16 campaign. (from ‘After 15 games, Patrick Kane’s resilient point streak finally snapped’, The Chicago Sun-Times – 12/3/19)
Kane also enjoyed a 13-game streak later this season which started on Dec. 31 and ended on Feb. 1.
4. Special Mom’s Trip Wins
The Blackhawks’ annual Mom’s Trip commenced on Dec. 5 against the Boston Bruins. There’s always some extra motivation to do well when your mom is in the house. Carpenter got things started when he notched his first goal as a Blackhawk. It was a shorthanded tally, which was highly appropriate considering the gritty depth forward has been integral in the resurgence of a successful penalty kill this season.
Dylan Strome, who had missed the last four games with a concussion, scored a power play goal just 37 seconds later. Alex DeBrincat made it 3-0 with a pretty tally in the third period. But alas, the Bruins stormed back with three unanswered goals of their own. Never fear, Captain Jonathan Toews is here! Sure enough, Toews came up clutch with the overtime game-winning goal.
It was a feel-good game in the middle of a mediocre season. Oh by the way, the Blackhawks won 2-1 in a shootout the next night as well against the New Jersey Devils. Dach was the unlikely hero this time, putting away the game-winning goal in the fifth round of the shootout. It was a fitting conclusion to a highly successful mother’s trip.
5. Lehner Wins Shootout
Goaltender Robin Lehner faced his former team, the New York Islanders, on Dec. 27 for the first time since becoming a Blackhawk. He had the satisfaction of walking away with a 5-2 win, but it was two nights later I’d like to highlight here.
With a .924 save percentage and a 2.86 goals against average going into the night, Lehner earned his fourth start in five games against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Down 2-0 in the third period, the Blackhawks managed to force overtime with goals from Strome and Gustafsson.
Unfortunately no goals were scored in overtime and the game went to a shootout. This is where everyone wished the Blackhawks had started netminder Corey Crawford instead. You see, Lehner is notorious for struggling in the shootout and isn’t afraid to admit it. Up until this contest, Lehner was 0-3 in shootouts with the Blackhawks.
But this time was different. He did let in one goal, but thwarted two others. With the help of shootout goals from both Toews and Kane, the Blackhawks were victorious and Lehner finally got the monkey off his back.
6. Kane Hits 1000 Career Points
In his 13th season in the league, Kane earned his 1000th career point on Jan. 19 against the Winnipeg Jets. He was the 90th player in NHL history and the fourth Blackhawk in franchise history to reach the milestone. It made it all the more exciting that it happened at the United Center, and Toews cleared it with the officials ahead of time so the entire team could join Kane on the ice in celebration.
But it wasn’t a highlight-reel goal that we’ve all come to expect from the man they call Showtime. Instead, Kane simply earned the secondary assist. Brandon Saad was credited with the goal and Carpenter with the primary assist.
Which seems rather ironic but somehow highly appropriate for this milestone, by the way. Kane might be one of the best hockey players in the world, but this is a team game and everyone has to work together to find success.
7. Record Goals in Calgary
The Blackhawks had a pretty fun outing on Feb. 15. when they defeated the Calgary Flames 8-4. It was their highest scoring game of the season (their second highest being a 7-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Nov. 16), and almost everyone got in on the action.
Sure, the usual suspects all scored in this one. Toews, Dominik Kubalik, and Saad scored, and Kane tallied an empty netter. But hey, Alex Nylander scored twice! DeBrincat notched a five-on-five goal even though his bread and butter was scoring on the power play this season. And Dach hit the back of the net as well.
All three of these players were happy to contribute after suffering scoring slumps. Once it was all said and done, the Blackhawks had goal contributions from all four lines. Toews and Kane both posted a three-point night, which is always a good sign of a win.
Related – Blackhawks: Upcoming Free Agents in 2020
It was a well-rounded victory, and indicative of the scoring power the Blackhawks have when they’re on their game.
8. Keith Hits Milestones
Duncan Keith obtained three important milestones all within one week in late February. The 36-year-old blueliner earned career assist No. 500 on Feb. 19 against the New York Rangers. He was credited with the primary helper on Kubalik’s goal in the second period. Two nights later against the Nashville Predators, his secondary assist on DeBrincat’s power play goal put him at 600 career points. He also assisted on DeBrincat’s overtime winner, putting his total at 601 points.
On Feb. 25 against the St. Louis Blues, Keith put the icing on the cake of his trifecta of honors with career goal No. 100. He unleashed a rocket from the point that made it through traffic and found the back of the net on the power play. With this goal he became the 100th defenseman in NHL history to hit 100 goals.
Keith’s milestones coincided with his taking over quarterbacking the first power play unit due to the loss of Gustafsson at the trade deadline. This worked out rather well for his production. In the last 10 games of the season, he was credited with two goals and five helpers on the man advantage.
9. Kubalik’s Hat Trick
Young Kubalik should be celebrated for his Calder Trophy-worthy efforts throughout his first season in the NHL. There are numerous highlights to choose from. He scored his first NHL goal in just the second game of the season. There was also the puck he batted in out of mid-air, which also happened to be part of his five-game goal streak in January (seven goals in that span).
The 24-year-old notched his 30th tally of the season on Mar. 11 against the San Jose Sharks, which incidentally was the last Blackhawk game before the pause and the last goal scored in the shortened campaign. Kubalik’s 30 goals was good for second on the team (Kane had 33 goals) and first among NHL rookies (Dallas Stars’ Denis Gurianov and Buffalo Sabres’ Victor Olofsson both had 20 goals).
But the best highlight in my mind was his first NHL hat trick on Feb. 27 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The dynamic left winger scored an even strength goal, a power play goal, and an empty net goal.
Kubalik’s success coincided with being placed on the top line alongside Toews, as well as the first power play unit. His hat trick was the perfect culmination of his hard work all season long. He’s shown he deserves the responsibility of playing a big role in the Blackhawks’ success. I, for one, can’t wait to see more!
10. Crawford’s Strong Finish
Many people, myself included, thought the Blackhawks made a big mistake when they didn’t work out a new contract with Lehner at the trade deadline. But you have to hand it to Crawford. Like he’s done his entire career, he blocked out all the outside noise and simply got to work.
Crow suited up for the Blackhawks’ last 10 consecutive games of the season, in spite of back-to-back contests in early March. The 6-5 loss to the Blues was a high-scoring affair on both sides, and affected Crawford’s stats a bit.
If you take that particular game out of the equation, the 35-year-old netminder posted a .936 save percentage and a 2.0 goals against average in that span. Even including the Blues game, his numbers were a .926 SV% ad a 2.4 GAA. Quite impressive, especially with such a heavy workload.
This two-time Stanley Cup winner ended the season strong, making a case for himself to be the answer in net moving forward.
Honorable Mention: Toews’ Shootout Record
The shootout has a bad name in traditional old-school hockey circles. Many feel this is a terrible way to determine the outcome of a game. After all, it’s more of a skills competition between one player and the goalie than it is true hockey battle.
That being said, I can’t resist adding an honorable mention to our list of Blackhawks’ season highlights. Toews scored a shootout goal to help lead the Blackhawks to victory against the Florida Panthers on Feb. 29. This tally made him the first player in NHL history to score 50 shootout goals.
The Blackhawks’ captain is notorious for coming up clutch, and this statistic is living proof of that.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my highlighted picks from this shortened Chicago Blackhawks’ 2019-20 campaign. Who knows, perhaps I can write an addendum to this piece if the NHL figures out a way to finish out the season and reward the Stanley Cup. Either way, he’s to more highlights and more hockey in the future!