Don’t panic, but with their 4-1 win over the Flyers on Thursday night, the Blackhawks have won five of their last six games. I know…you’re panicking. It’s going to be okay.
The Hawks have a road-heavy schedule remaining. Their last road win (before Thursday) was December 3. They will also likely be losing a significant part of their roster by early March. Even with the hot streak, the Hawks still have the third-lowest point percentage in the NHL. Keep in mind, the teams the Blackhawks are “chasing” for the last spot in the league are unlikely to be major sellers. The Ducks will move out a couple of veterans like John Klingberg, but not the volume or impact that the Hawks will move. Columbus was trying to win this year, and have been hampered by injuries. Arizona’s plan remains to be seen, but even if they move vets like Jakob Chychrun or Shayne Gostisbehere, they’re not moving Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane-level talents.
Isaak Phillips scratched again
It was just Wednesday when Greg Boysen and I asked Blackhawks defenseman Isaak Phillips how important it was for his development to stay in the lineup on a regular basis. “I think it’s huge…getting a rhythm, especially playing with the same partner, Phillips said. “It definitely helps. You can tell by the third or fourth game…you’re making reads on breakouts a lot easier. It’s a lot easier when you’re getting in a rhythm, playing a lot of games. I like that, for sure.”
This is especially frustrating to me. I understand that Luke Richardson (rightly) doesn’t want Ian Mitchell sitting in the press box night after night, but why does it have to be Phillips, who has three points in his last three games, who sits? What are Caleb Jones and Jack Johnson providing that can’t land them in the press box so both kids can play? It’s nothing against those guys, but while I know that tanking is the goal, Phillips and Mitchell will NOT be the reasons the Hawks get “too good for Bedard.” In fact, the sequence in the Tweet below was the direct result of Mitchell fumbling the puck and falling down at the Flyers’ blue line.
TV analyst Troy Murray has gone out of his way over the last few games to highlight how confidently Phillips is playing. We’ve seen Phillips starting give-and-go plays, calling for the puck. That, according to Murray, is a prime indicator of confidence.
It feels like every time either Mitchell or Phillips finds their stride, they end up back up in the press box. It has to be frustrating for both.
These lineup decisions have been my only criticism of Richardson this season. Next time we get the opportunity at practice, I will ask him his reasoning for not having both in the lineup simultaneously. Perhaps they feel healthy scratching Johnson will impact his trade value, but after 1,067 NHL games, teams know what he has to offer. A one-off healthy scratch for a 36-year-old defenseman isn’t hurting his trade value.
Seth Jones in finding his game
With his assist on Jonathan Toews’ second-period goal, Seth Jones has scored seven points in his last three games.
Before the game, Richardson was asked about Jones’ recent jump in play. “He’s a dominant player,” Richardson said. “When the team isn’t doing well, and you try and do too much and you get off your game…I think he’s settled back into his game. He needs to be skating and moving, and not forcing things when they’re not there. Over the last few games, Seth’s decision making…is really getting back to where everyone is used to seeing Seth Jones playing.”
Richardson also went on to credit Jones’ defensive partner, Jake McCabe, for the improvement, as well. “They like playing with each other. They’re competitive.”
Hawks get first regular season win in Philly since 1996
November 9, 1996 was the last time the Blackhawks took a regular season win from the Flyers in Philadelphia. It doesn’t mean much, but it’s certainly noteworthy. “There is a history and sometimes teams try to take some motivation on that…both sides. So we’ve got to make sure they don’t try to feed off it any more than we try to.”
In that game in ’96, the Blackhawks had goals from Gary Suter, Eric Daze, Murray Craven and Tony Amonte. Jeff Hackett made 33 of 34 saves in the…wait for it…4-1 win. Garth Snow took the loss for the Flyers, and was pulled for current Penguins GM Ron Hextall in the second period.