Some Thoughts On The Blackhawks After The Oilers Game

Overall, a much better performance than Wednesday night in St Louis, but the Blackhawks still dropped the game in OT. I suppose if you’re a glass half full kinda guy like me, you’ll be okay with a point in the standings on the second half of a back to back. I am way less angry than I was yesterday. Quick thoughts from the game last night.

1) I went to the game last night because I wanted to see Connor McDavid in person. I would prefer to never see him in the United Center again. He’s that good. Scary good. Butt clenched up tight every time he was on the ice and double tight when he had the puck good. McDavid had the highlight reel assist above, but there was another “holy shit!” moment in the third period. He got the puck in his own zone below the tops of the circles and you could see it in his eyes that he just decided “I’m just gonna blow everyone’s doors off and create a chance by myself” and he did exactly that. That boy is dangerous.

2) Connor Murphy

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I won’t lie to you, I don’t know if numbers support this claim but I also don’t really care. I liked what I saw from Murphy last night. He was physical at both blue lines. He moved the puck well. Seemed to have some good synergy with Oesterle who did a nice job supporting the puck and creating easy outlets for Murphy. Murphy’s confidence seems to be growing. He only played 15 minutes last night, but I think he will earn more ice time.

3) Anisimov might be a problem. It’s been rough through the beginning part of this year. I always make excuses for guys in the early stages of the year, but he doesn’t look right to me. The last two years playing with Kane and Panarin his job was relatively easy. Give the puck to those super talented guys and get to the net for cookie points. Kane and Panarin played a slow-down east-west type of game and that suited Anisimov’s abilities well because he wasn’t asked to keep up or push the pace. Now he is asked to do those things and he is struggling. He struggled when promoted to the 2C spot when Schmaltz was hurt, he’s struggled on the 3rd line, and he was demoted to the 4th line to start last night. Now, I would say that he got better as the game went along last night. He created some offense and he’s been pretty good at the dot to start the year, but…that kind of stuff isn’t worth 4.5M.

Anisimov money

That’s a lot of money for a bottom 6 center that can’t play the fast pace style the Blackhawks seem to want to employ this year. Next summer the Blackhawks will need money for RFAs John Hayden and Ryan Hartman and potentially a LOT of money for UFA Jan Rutta. They can’t afford $4.55M/AAV. They need to start working on getting him off the books NOW because even though centers are extremely valuable and Anisimov isn’t terrible, this isn’t a luxury the Blackhawks can afford. Especially when you consider they have Kero, Wingels, Bouma, Hinostroza, Kampf, and Dauphin capable for filling a bottom 6 center role for a fraction of the cost. I don’t even think the Blackhawks need to get anything back. I’d call the Rangers, try to get a draft pick, and bank that money towards a rental help at the deadline. Anisimov does have a full No-Trade Clause, but I can’t imagine he’d exercise that clause to stay on a team where he’s getting 4th line minutes.

I fully admit that trading a veteran center mid-season for essentially cap relief might not be prudent in the short term, but we’ve all seen this nightmare before. Needing to tie a nice young player to a boat anchor to get some bad money off the books. Pick up the phone, Stan.

4) Anton Forsberg looks really good. Once again the Blackhawks appear to have a great 1-2 punch in net. For whatever reason the Blackhawks have had ZERO ability to draft and develop a goalie since Corey Crawford, but they’ve found great solutions elsewhere wtih guys like Raanta, Darling, and now Forsberg. Not saying Forsberg is at Darling’s level, he’s not, but its not a like they have a Louie Domingue situation on their hands either.

5) It was awesome having Eddie Olzcyk back in the building last night. They showed him on the jumbotron at one point. LOUD standing ovation and “Eddie, EDDIE!” chants. Hopefully that’s good medicine for him and helps with his recovery.

All in all, its been a solid start to the year. As I have said all summer and into the season, there’s going to be an adjustment and growth period for this team, but I think they’re showing some signs. They won’t be underwater with shots forever. They need to play with a bit more speed and control the puck a little more, but this is a pretty talented group. I like the D better than I thought and this team will score. As long as they are in the top 3 in the Central they’ll be a dangerous team come post-season time. No need to panic.