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The Blackhawks Have Won A Game: Are They A Playoff Team?

No, they are not. I’m trying to get better at clickbait-y headlines and I thought maybe that would do the trick, but no, the Hawks aren’t a playoff team.

HOWEVER, they did look like one last night. The Blackhawks were organized defensively, the played with effort and purpose, got contributions from across their lineup, and they SCORED ON THE POWER-PLAY! A Christmas miracle.

Last night is an example of why I am VERY anti-tank. This team has too much talent to tank. This season is already a lost cause, from a practical sense, but there is enough talent on this roster that it can be re-tooled for next year with a handful of reinforcements and suddenly be very dangerous. This year is about competing, learning, bringing back a winner culture, even if they don’t consistently win. Against the Preds, the Blackhawks did all of the things winning teams need to do and they got the result they were after. And you know what else…it was fun. It’s fun to win. I still believe in the core of this team. I’m intrigued enough by supplemental players like Strome, Sikura, Hayden, and Kampf to wonder what next year might look like with a few trades, a couple big free agent signings, and Mitchell and Adam Boqvist coming on defense. Instill those good habits, create a winning culture, and get structure. This is a foundation year, not a rebuilding year.

—Cam Ward is an absolute pro. Last summer has been highly criticized, but the Cam Ward signing gets an A-grade from me. His numbers overall aren’t great, but he’s shown up and done his job when called upon this year. He’s seldom going to steal a game for you, but he’s given the Blackhawks a chance to win every night and last night they finally came through for him

—Dylan Strome continues to impress me. He’s a smart player and knows how to play with other elite guys like, for example, Patrick Kane. He’s also willing to go to the front of the net and his presence there has led to goals for himself and for others. When they made the trade for him I said that he was probably the #3 center on a really good team. If he gets just a little bit stronger and a little bit quicker he can become a legit #2 center. He would be the PERFECT guy to play between Kane and Panarin. Even more so than Anisimov was.

–The narrative around the Hartman trade last year was that he wasn’t fast enough to play at the NHL level. Well…he looked pretty fucking quick last night. He made plays. Blocked shots. Had a couple of nice scoring chances. The package, in theory, was good for Hartman. A first round pick and a prospect. Well…not everything can be evaluated in a vaccuum and the Blackhawks have a limited window to win. Hartman would’ve helped this team in the bottom 6. Stan Bowman said that the Hawks needed two NHL players back for Schmaltz because they didn’t have much forward depth in the prospect pool. Well Stanley, that’s because you traded Danault, Teravainen, Hartman, and Hinostroza. 4 bonafide NHL forwards. Could’ve kept all of them.

–Speaking of young talent, it was a nice night for the Blackhawks defense. Goals from Forsling and Gustafsson, strong play out of Murphy and Dahlstrom. Dahlstrom has looked very solid since getting called up from Rockford. He played 17 mins of 5 on 5 last night and never looked out of place. Murphy has also given the defense a bit of a shot in the arm. His limitations are with the puck, but he’s smart, tough, and plays the game the right way. Gustafsson had the GWG on the PP and Colliton sent a message to him in the postgame presser

Nobody has ever doubted Gustafsson’s talent and this felt like a bit of a heavy-handed compliment from Colliton, which I liked. “He’s got the world at his feet if wants…it’s about raising the minimum level”–Jeremy Colliton. True. Gustafsson has all the talent in the world, which is why it’s frustrating to see a guy at 26 years old who has been in North American pro hockey for a while now, still making rookie mistakes without the puck on his stick and still not competing hard enough for 50/50s in his own end. Ideally, on a good team, I think Gustafsson should be the 3rd pair left-shot dman who can come in and run your second PP unit. We’ll see if he ever actually get’s there.

I know Murphy and Forsling were injured at the start of the year, but with Dahlstrom, Forsling, Murphy, and Jokiharju all looking very capable this year it makes it even more annoying that Stan doubled down on Rutta, over-paid Gustafsson, and signed Manning. That’s 5 million in dead money that didn’t need to be spent.

–Happy Birthday to Alex Debrincat. That boy is 21 years-old. I get the impression that he doesn’t really party or drink so 21 isn’t as big of a deal for him as it is to the rest of us degenerates, but he’s really turned into a nice player too. He’s the type of guy you want on a winning team. Not just for the goaltending, but the way he competes.

–Patrick Kane is now the Daddy on this team. That’s what it feels like. He will play on every line, play in every situation when asked, plays the game the right way, carries the team offensively, and will even stick up for his teammates.

You don’t need a letter on your chest to be a leader. Kane knows what a winner looks like and acts like and it feels as if he’s trying to instill that character into this team by example. He doesn’t get enough credit for all the things he does for this franchise outside of the score sheet.

There’s enough going on with the Blackhawks to give you hope for next year. They’re playing and playing with pride. It’s great to see, even if the talent 1-23 isn’t there. It can be a winner again with 19 and 88 still as the face of the team. #JoinOrDie