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The Chicago Blackhawks welcomed the red-hot Ottawa Senators to town on Monday. The Senators came into the tilt winners of five in a row and just three points out of a playoff spot. This was also Alex DeBrincat’s first game back in Chicago since getting traded to the Canadian capital last July. He was given a nice ovation after a video tribute during the first television timeout.
The Blackhawks were outshot 11-3 during the opening frame but took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission. Philipp Kurashev broke the scoreless tie late in the first period. He used a nice drag move to allow Ottawa defenseman Jake Sanderson to slide by him, then beat Mads Sogaard to the glove side for his ninth goal of the season.
The second period was the Anders Bjork and Seth Jones show. Bjork had the primary assists on a pair of Jones goals 3:29 apart. These goals put the Blackhawks up 3-0 while being outshot 17-7. Bjork’s monster period continued when he found Jason Dickinson in the slot from behind the net for his third primary assist of the frame. To put this in perspective, he had three assists in 58 games for the Buffalo Sabres last season.
Early in the third period, Lukas Reichel gave us a hopeful look into the future. He snuck in behind Jakob Chychrun and showed off some silky-smooth mitts by tucking a backhand behind Sogaard for his second NHL goal.
As fun as the rare offensive outburst was, Alex Stalock’s performance was even more impressive. He stopped all 35 shots he faced to pick up his seventh win and second shutout with the Blackhawks. The Senators could have easily had this game’s first two or three goals if it wasn’t for Stalock, and who knows where it could have gone from there.
Greg’s Hit: Seth Jones Continues to Lead at Both Ends
The 2022-23 season really turned around for Jones when he was paired with Jake McCabe. I wondered if his production would dip significantly after his partner was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Seth has been paired with his brother Caleb for the past couple of games, which has helped with his offensive game.
Jones has been showing his knack for knowing just when to crash the net, and he did so once again to extend his goal streak to three games.
Bjork set up Jones again just a couple of shifts later. He scored his fourth goal in the last three games by skating to a soft spot on the ice in the left circle and shoveling the puck into the net for his 10th goal of the season. The All-Star defenseman now leads the team with 31 points.
Jones’ possession numbers didn’t look great on the night, but that can be said across the board. He did make a series of good individual defensive plays throughout the game. The most memorable came during a first-period Senators power play while the game was scoreless. He sprung into action and prevented a pass to an uncovered Drake Batherson at the right dot that could have ended up with a shot into a wide-open net.
In the four games since the McCabe trade, Jones has four goals, 12 shots on goal, eight hits, and seven blocked shots. He has been stepping it up when it could be very easy for a player to phone it in.
Mario’s Hit: Alex DeBrincat Returns To Chicago
It took 63 games for the Ottawa Senators to make their way to the Windy City, and 63 games for Alex DeBrincat to return to face his former club in the city he once called home. After being selected in the second round of the 2016 NHL Draft, Alex DeBrincat grew up with the Blackhawks organization, in front of our eyes. He made a name for himself alongside Patrick Kane and became an All-Star in the league with the Blackhawks.
Over this past summer, DeBrincat was traded to the Senators in a divisive move by general manager Kyle Davidson. However you feel about his exit from the team, DeBrincat still clearly holds Chicago special to him.
In the opening few minutes of the game, the Blackhawks honored DeBrincat in his return and the fans gave him a standing ovation.
Although his time in Chicago didn’t see him win any awards or Stanley Cup, or really even get into the real postseason, DeBrincat played his way into stardom in the city and fans will likely always hold him in high regards.
In the 5-0 loss for the Senators, DeBrincat finished the game with seven shots on goal and was a minus-3 in 17:30 minutes of action. Likely not the return to town he was imagining.
Jay’s Hit: Time to recognize the job Luke Richardson is doing
As everyone knows, the Blackhawks entered this season with zero expectations. The fans knew it, the players knew it, Kyle Davidson knew…err…planned it, and Luke Richardson knew it. Early in the season, I wondered how long Richardson would be able to keep a losing Blackhawks team motivated and working hard. Well, Monday’s win over the Senators was the Blackhawks’ 63rd game of the season, and they haven’t quit yet.
With Patrick Kane gone and Jonathan Toews’ future in limbo, the Hawks had yet another excuse to mail in the remainder of their season, but it’s not in their DNA.
I think the fact that the entire coaching staff, from Richardson to Derek King, to Kevin Dean to Derek Plante, is made up of NHL veterans who had to work for their success resonates with their players. None of them were superstar players. Aside from Seth Jones, there are no more superstar players on this roster. These coaches know the work it takes to find success when one is not blessed with superstar talent. When Davidson was looking for a head coach, said he wanted someone with a presence.
He found it in Richardson.
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