The Chicago Blackhawks were missing a few guys that took the team charter out to Dallas last week. Since we last saw them, Jack Johnson, Jake McCabe, Sam Lafferty, and Patrick Kane were all traded. Thursday’s morning skate was a bit surreal as it was the first time it truly sunk in that No. 88 was no longer part of this franchise. On their way into the game, fans were allowed to thank Kane in a giant mural in the parking lot outside of the United Center.
Based on the lines at morning skate, Max Domi was supposed to center the top line between Lukas Reichel and Philipp Kurashev. However, as I was taking the elevator up to the pressbox, the team announced that Domi would be held out of the game for roster management purposes. Reports shortly came later that he will be traded to the Stars with Dylan Wells for a 2025 second-round pick and Anton Khudobin.
The puck finally dropped and the Blackhawks had to the chance to put all the distractions from the past few days out of their collective heads and focus on hockey. They played a pretty good first period except for giving up a pair of power-play goals to Roope Hintz. Cole Guttman scored his third NHL in between the two penalty kill failures to get the Blackhawks on the board. He made a savvy play by going hard to the net after Tyler Johnson’s shot and was rewarded with a rebound goal.
Seth Jones tied the game as his wrist shot from the right point found its way into the back of the Dallas net just 26 seconds into the second period. Dallas returned the favor when Jamie Benn broke the tie in the opening minute of the final stanza. The Stars’ captain’s goal proved to be the winning tally as he and Esa Lindell added late empty-netters for a 5-2 win, the first in the NHL for young goaltender Matt Murray.
Greg’s Hit: Lukas Reichel Shows Defensive Game in Return to Chicago
The last time we saw Reichel in Chicago, he looked like the player we had all been waiting for. He scored his first career NHL goal and had three points in three games. But Kyle Davidson stuck to his plan and sent the 2020 first-round draft pick back to the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League.
“I just focus on what I can control,” Reichel said this morning. “When they sent me down to Rockford, I tried my best there. Right now, I am focusing on my game and playing the same way as I played the last call-up.”
Head coach Luke Richardson would not commit to exactly how long this stint will last, but he will be heading back to Rockford for the Calder Cup Playoffs.
“The plan for him all season is to have some stints up here but to go down there and be a high-end talent guy. To be the guy down there will put confidence in him that he can do it. He can also transition that when the time is right to come here. I don’t know how long this will be. He will probably play playoff games in Rockford, and that is a huge experience.”
Something to keep in mind, for a player to be eligible for the AHL postseason, they need to be on the roster when the trade deadline passes. So, expect Reichel, Cole Guttman, Brett Seney, David Gust, Isaak Phillips, and Ian Mitchell to be “re-assigned” to Rockford tomorrow so they can play in the playoffs.
With the pending Domi trade, Andreas Athanasiou was added to the line top line with Kurashev. Reichel did not have the greatest offensive night as they were hemmed in their own zone much of the team, although he did create a prime scoring chance on a late third-period power play. The trio had nine shot attempts to 17 allowed for a 34.62 CF%, the lowest of any Blackhawks line. However, Reichel showed that he can play a responsible defensive game. He was rarely out of position, broke up numerous passes, backchecked, and was credited with two blocked shots. What Reichel does when he doesn’t have the puck is just as important as what he does with it for his development and staying power at the NHL level. Seeing him have a solid defensive effort is very encouraging.
Jay’s Hit: Seth Jones Acknowledges New Leadership Opportunity
The topic of conversation all day was Patrick Kane’s departure, but what stood out to me were Seth Jones’ postgame comments. The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus asked Jones if he feels the need to step up and take on a bigger leadership role in their absence. “Yep, for sure,” Jones said. “I’m trying to be a little more vocal myself.” Jones went on to say, “I take it as an opportunity to make myself better and to make everyone else better in the room. It’s not easy to talk when you’re not playing your best hockey, so that puts a little bit more emphasis on my game to be on top of my game every night, so I can say stuff when needed in the room.”
Jones, for all of his experience, is soft-spoken, but with Toews absent and Kane now in New York, the experienced veterans on this team, like Jones and Tyler Johnson might feel a bit more freedom to lead. Not to say Kane and Toews were stifling anyone else from leading, but as two of the NHL’s Top 100 players of all time, their presence can be intimidating.
Now is the time for the next generation of Blackhawks leadership to emerge, and Jones, who has eight years left on his deal, is in a perfect position to do so.
Mario’s Hit: For Those About to Tank, We Salute You
Look at this starting lineup and tell me that landing the best odds at the top overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft isn’t all but sealed for the Blackhawks.
No team in the NHL is going to get as bad as these Blackhawks are going to be for the final 21 games of the season. No Patrick Kane. No Jonathan Toews, likely. No Max Domi. No Jake McCabe. None of them.
Philipp Kurashev and Lukas Reichel are your bright spots, and one of those two will be heading back to the Rockford IceHogs to help push them into the Calder Cup Playoffs and it’s not Kurashev.
To all of the tank deniers and doubters, show me a worse NHL lineup. You can’t.
With tonight’s loss, the Blackhawks are 21-35-5 in 61 games and have 47 points. They are second-to-last in the NHL in points, just one ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets, and are second-to-last in the league in points-percentage (.385).
21 games to go.