Cue the Duckboats | Championship Collection for Banner 18SHOP HERE

Advertisement

If The Blackhawks Play How They Played Last Night They Will Be A Playoff Team

Woke up this morning without a care in the world. Walked the dog in the dark, no problem. Phone shut down on said walk because it frozen, who cares? It was single digits temperatures with the wind chill and I felt warm inside and it was because of how the Chicago Blackhawks played last night. If Patrick Kane says on a night where he delivered three points at home with a BIG win against a very good team that the Hawks are going to get things turned around and that they’re about to go on a roll…then guess what? The Blackhawks are about to get things turned around and they’re about to go on a roll.

And look…I don’t know what happened. I don’t know what caused the change. Maybe it was Colliton had a look in the mirror or a come to Jesus talk about how the Blackhawks should attack the offensive zone, but there was significantly less chip and chase play last night. The Blackhawks attacked the blue line with speed, they created more off the rush than any game I can remember this year. It was beautiful and fun hockey more the vast majority of the game. Like I said, I am not privy to game planning or film sessions with the team. Maybe this is how Colliton has wanted to play the entire time, but felt the team couldn’t do it successfully without getting the d-zone better first. I don’t know. What I do know is that EVERYTHING looked cleaner. Breakouts through the middle of the ice were cleaner, breaking up plays and causing turn-overs in the neutral zone, hanging on to pucks and looking to make plays. It was Blackhawks hockey. The kind we’ve been waiting to see all year. No clearer example than the Debrincat goal

It would’ve been very easy for Strome to just chip the puck down the wall there, but he didn’t. He played the puck to Debrincat who was attacking the Canucks with speed. They made a play in traffic. Perhaps a little bit more dangerous because it was 2 on 3 defenders. Well they were rewarded because Debrincat got the puck to a dangerous part of the ice and scored a goal that only he can score. Just an absolute snipe while getting knocked down and being off balance because he can put pucks wherever from wherever.

And when your skill guys are playing a skill game it translates into more confidence and comfortability with the puck. It isn’t a surprise to me that the PP was humming on a night where the entire team seemed more invested in playing an aggressive possession style. It wasn’t one-and-done. It was a constant attack with pressure and possession. The Power play came up large when the Hawks needed it most. The Blackhawks played the Canucks pretty even 5-on-5 and the power-play made the difference in the game. Special teams are always important, but they’re more important to the Blackhawks who needed those units to improve for games when their blueline is a little overwhelmed.

Speaking of the blueline…maybe the best game of the year for the defense as well. Everyone knows I am not a Gustafsson guy but he was very solid last night. He looked more like himself. He had the puck. He and Keith as a pair were aggressive with pinching down the wall to keep pucks in and they created extra zone time for their teammates. They were both very good all night and good defensively as well. Keith looked like a legit top pair guy last night. A guy who can be the engine and best dman on a playoff team. His old buddy Seabs didn’t look so bad either. I like the pairing of him and de Haan. De Haan is so solid in his own end. Good stick, he skates well, he’s smart and he puts the puck in good areas. More importantly he knows how to support teammates. He’s predictable. He does a great job at being an outlet and helping against cycle plays. Seabs needs help like that. Playing with Maatta or Gustafsson is always going to highlight some of Seabrook’s weaknesses.

Colliton got a lot of heat for saying “the combos don’t matter…” and while I understood his point, the combos definitely do matter because it sets up players for success. Strome worked his bag off last night winning loose pucks and generating chances for Kane and Debrincat. That line was cooking. Even if they weren’t perfect defensively, they were dangerous. It’s worth the risk of having them together instead of say…Kampf or Carpenter centering Strome and Debrincat.

Both Kampf and Carpenter are 4th line players. They just are. I know Stan and Colliton keep saying that Kampf has offensive upside, but he has 35 points in 124 career games. He is what he is…an effective 4th line center/winger. Same for Carpenter. Carpenter has 42 points in 137 games. Let those guys play their game on the 4th line. Check, win draws, take away space, and be a shutdown line to give Toews some relief in a defensive role. They did it last night. The 4th line was very good.

Advertisement

The Toews line is getting close. I feel it. Saad and Toews have always had good chemistry and Nylander gives them a little extra finesse and skill to hang on to the puck and make plays. Toews had six shots on goal last night and 5 of them were from in close. When both of the lines in the top 6 are dangerous and the 4th line is winning their matchups then the Hawks are a pretty good team.

That leaves the 3rd line which…needs some improvement. Dach effectively got bench in ironically was the game that cemented the fact that he’s here to stay and will be burning off the first year of his entry level deal. I don’t mind him getting benched here and there in tight games when you need wins. He’s 18. You’re not going to trust him in every situation and other guys had it going last night. Hopefully this was just a little bump in the road and he will be a factor as the 3C because like I said earlier, that allows Kampf to be bumped down the lineup. I’d love to see Shaw-Dach-Sikura at some point. Just one more guy who can hang on to the puck and better utilize Dach’s strengths than Caggiula.

All things considered it was a jolt of hope that the season isn’t lost at the perfect time. The November schedule is ROUGH starting with a road game tomorrow night in Pittsburgh, but if the Hawks play like they did last night they can play with anyone. That is the benefit of having 1) EXTREMELY high end skill and 2) $11M in goaltending. Crawford was at his best last night and the team played much better in front of him than they had. Lehner has been great all year. Having an elite goalie in net every single night frees the Blackhawks to play a high event/high danger game and when you have guys like Kane, Debrincat, Strome, and Toews I like the Blackhawks odds. That’s what I said before the season started. Play aggressive. Play the same style as last year, hope that de Haan, Maatta, Carpenter, Lehner, and Crawford make the defense and penalty just a little bit better and you’re in the playoffs. We saw it last night and if that directive came from Colliton then he can stay in my books. I don’t care who the coach is, to be honest. I want to win. I don’t actually, in real life, wish for someone to fail. I am glad that the team seemingly made adjustments. It was great to see the guys happy and smiling and joking around after the game. It was great to have fun watching the Hawks again. This team has a chance. Play like this because when you have Toews and Kane, all things are possible.