There's an adage by infamous philosopher Ryan Kesler that goes, "No human can withstand that many hits." An antithetical adage stresses that the best revenge is on the scoreboard, not with hits and fights.
When you have the best team in the league, then those adages make sense. However, when your team is rebuilding, what happens when your team is being manhandled and can't stick it to the opponent scorewise?
Thursday night's shutout of the Panthers could be a pivotal point in the season for the Blackhawks in that it can be a proverbial stand to finally display constant push back that goes beyond competing hard.
The point isn't that Ryan Carpenter took down MacKenzie Weegar in the fight but more so that he answered the bell after doing something that the Hawks need to do more of that's also legal in hockey: hit.
Similarly, the point isn't that Nikita Zadorov not only knocked Patric Hornqvist onto his butt and later obliterated him with a crushing hit but more so that he protected his teammates and sent a message.
In last year's playoffs when the Hawks were thoroughly outplayed by the Golden Knights, physicality played a significant part in Vegas wearing down and intimidating Chicago. There was virtually no push back.
This season is different for the Hawks. For one thing, the compete level is exponentially greater and consistently applied. Another thing is the recent fire lit under them to say enough is enough.
The goal isn't to destroy the opposition physically. The Hawks aren't built for that type of brand of hockey. But that doesn't mean they can't stick up for each other and go toe to toe with other teams.
This goes beyond the hulking specimens in Connor Murphy and Zadorov. Look instead at the blueline youngsters Adam Boqvist and Ian Mitchell as well as smallish wingers Alex DeBrincat and Brandon Hagel.
Boqvist was rendered useless and even scared in the Vegas playoff series. Even the early part of this season he seemed the same. Now, though, his confidence is soaring and he is holding his own more.
Mitchell will never be one to overpower the other team but he battles hard to protect his net. It doesn't matter how much bigger and stronger they are as he has the courage to wrestle a foe for positioning.
DeBrincat has come into his own as a well-rounded player. No longer just a sniper, he can win the war of dump and chase, plow his way to where he wants to go with the puck, and throw his weight around.
And Hagel is the little train that could by attacking in waves in all areas of the ice, gaining the inside, getting his nose dirty, digging for pucks, and pestering the opposition. He really is unstoppable.
Competing hard is a hallmark of today's Blackhawks hockey. Sometimes that's not sufficient to earn the win. Though not the panacea, push back can be an equalizer to help get the Hawks over the hump.
Game 35, March 27:
Blackhawks vs Predators
Game 36, March 28:
Blackhawks vs Predators
Blackhawks, 16-13-5, 37 Pts (4th)
Predators, 16-17-1, 33 Pts (6th)
Blackhawks, 2.91 (16th)
Predators, 2.44 (26th)
Blackhawks, 3.12 (22nd)
Predators, 3.06 (20th)
Blackhawks, 30-106, 28.3% (3rd)
Predators, 22-108, 20.4% (15th)
Blackhawks, 78-106, 73.6% (27th)
Predators, 82-114, 71.9% (30th)
For Nashville, Matt Duchene, Ryan Ellis, Luke Kunin, Brad Richardson, and Luca Sbisa are on IR. Also, neither the Hawks nor the Preds have any players on the NHL COVID-19 Protocol List.
The Predators projected lineup (per DailyFaceoff.com):
Forsberg - Johansen - Tolvanen
Jarnkrok - Granlund - Arvidsson
Cousins - Haula - Grimaldi
Trenin - Sissons - Olivier
Josi - Fabbro
Ekholm - Carrier
Harpur - Benning
Also available: Michael McCarron (W), Rem Pitlick (C), Mark Borowiecki (D), Jeremy Davies (D), Frederic Allard (D), Devin Cooley (G), Kasimir Kaskisuo (G).
For Chicago, they have 6 games versus Nashville over the next month so these game sets would be a ripe opportunity to throw Collin Delia back out to see what he has and/or give Malcolm Subban more starts.
Also, the excitement around Kirby Dach's pending return from a gruesome wrist injury ramps up with this weekend series. Could he dress today or tomorrow? Who sits then when Dach makes his season debut?
A potential scenario could be:
DeBrincat - Dach - Kane
Hagel - Strome - Kubalik
Janmark - Soderberg - Kurashev
Suter - Kampf - Carpenter
If this is the case, Lucas Wallmark, Matthew Highmore, Reese Johnson, and MacKenzie Entwistle are out. The coaching staff may still keep Dylan Strome on wing, though, bumping Carpenter to center.
In addition to forwards Brad Morrison and Chad Yetman getting reassigned and loaned respectively to the Fuel, so have defenseman Cliff Watson (reassigned) and goalie Tom Aubrun (loaned).
See you on the boards!