Did the Blackhawks Win Last Night? Yes.
It was November 24th since the last time the Hawks tasted victory. Last night, they got 40 saves from Corey Crawford and a better all-around effort with a 6-3 win over Pittsburgh.
Selfishly, I am sooooo happy this team won a game of hockey. It's been a difficult team to cover lately and there's been a lot of grumpy cats around here; with good reason too, losing is no fun.
Can the Hawks give this kind of effort every night? Of course, they can. It might not be enough to win every game, but it was great to finally see a good start (and the 1st friggin' goal), solid special teams and rolling 4 lines/3 D pairings that competed hard all game.
Here are my 5 takeaways:
* 4th line BANGERS - I've said this multiple times but I'll say it again; I really didn't understand why this Martinsen-Kruger-Hayden line wasn't kept together longer after a solid pre-season. They have the ability to energy and physicality and I really hope they stick with these guys for a while. The most used line this year has been DeBrincat-Toews-Kahun (9.35% frequency), while this BANGER line has only been used 1.62% under Q/Colliton. Marcus Kruger specifically had a great game with strong play in all zones, 1 G, 1 A, +2 in 9 mins TOI. He is a guy that I suspect will be moved at the deadline to a team looking for a depth centre with some winning pedigree.
* Carl Dahlstrom – Nice game by him. He had 22+ mins of ice time (3rd most on CHI), had an assist, 3 shots on goal and 1 hit. I heard from a contact that said that Dahlstrom's recall might have something to do with Henri Jokiharju heading to play for Team Finland in the WJHC later this month. It's not confirmed but sounds like the Hawks are really thinking about sending him there to get a nice boost of confidence as a leader on that team. The same thing happened last year when Victor Mete from Montreal went to play for Team Canada and then returned to the Canadiens after the tournament concluded. Jokiharju would only miss 4 NHL games during this time while he's on loan, so really not the worst idea in the world.
* Erik Gustafsson – After not dressing the last couple of games due to illness, I asked around to see how the Hawks were feeling about Gus these days. While I didn't get a definitive answer, I was asking because I believe he could be a candidate to be moved as well. He's on a $1.2M AAV contract (until 2020-21), is a great skater and could help out a team offensively. We all know his issues have been in his own end, so a team would have to take on that risk.
* Injuries – It's getting crowded in sickbay. Anisimov, Forsling, Gustafsson, Davidson are all on the mend with Forsling and Gustafsson close to returning. This is going to create an issue with too many defenders (I think there was 158 on the active roster last time we checked) and not enough ice. Keep an eye on this situation. If Stan can find a trade partner for guys like Rutta, Manning or Gustafsson he'll take a pick/prospect/AHLer to free up room. If he can't make this happen in time, you may see a guy like Rutta sent to Rockford.
* Don't Get Any Crazy Ideas – The Hawks got the monkey off their back with this win, but this still doesn't change this team into "a playoff team" and shouldn't change the overall gameplan from Stan and Co. This team need a reboot and I'm hoping (with my fingers crossed and eyes closed) that Stan can make the right moves to improve overall depth, speed and team defence.
* BONUS - Dylan Sikura played a quiet but solid 9:33 last night. He had 1 SOG and a couple takeaways. He added a nice element of speed and energy to that 3rd line with Kampf and Perlini. He should get more comfortable as the season goes on. I suspect he's here for a while now.
The Hawks next game is tomorrow vs. the Jets as they will be looking to play another 60-minute effort in front of their fans. Back on the farm, Rockford goes again tomorrow as well as they take on the Griffins at 6 pm CST.
See ya out there!