Not only have the Chicago Blackhawks finally broken the six-game skid that ran through parts of two different calendar years, but they’ve also begun a type of streak that they haven’t experienced since after their coaching change in mid-November. Can they make it three wins in a row on Thursday?
It seems far more likely now than it did just a few short weeks ago, as the Blackhawks are benefiting from a full team effort of late. Veterans are performing as necessary, while newer names step up when needed. Collectively, they are simply finding more effective ways to compete.
As we wait to see if Chicago can extend their current run, catch up on the latest stories surrounding the club in this edition of Blackhawks News & Rumours.
Fleury Victorious in Return to Vegas
There was no doubt that Marc-André Fleury‘s return to his former home rink would be an emotional one. Helping the Vegas Golden Knights reach the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season, let alone winning his first-ever Vezina Trophy as a member of the club, it’s safe to say that Fleury was instrumental in helping to establish a foundation for the organization’s fanbase.
Fleury’s first visit back in Vegas was sure to include its rightful fanfare. However, the moment that video tribute stopped and the puck was in play, it was a safe bet that we’d witness a much less friendly Fleury. He has made a career out of proving skeptics wrong and he’d do the same on this particular night.
There are a couple of factors to consider, in terms of setting the tone for the evening. First, the struggling Blackhawks were considered underdogs against a much stronger Golden Knights lineup. Second, but no less important, it’s been made more than evident that Vegas believes Robin Lehner is the better netminder of the two.
None of that got in the way of Fleury’s 30-save performance, though. He demanded the spotlight all night long en route to the 2-1 victory. Meanwhile, those in charge of naming the game’s three stars still found a way to sprinkle in some disregard for his greatness by placing him in the middle of that pack.
Yet, the more accomplished goalie got the last laugh in this one, as Fleury at least landed ahead of Lehner in that very ranking. And rightfully so.
Although it’s too early to tell if Fleury will still be a member of the Blackhawks when they return to Vegas on March 26, you can rest assured that he’ll be up to the task of repeating this type of dominance if he’s the one controlling Chicago’s crease.
De Haan Scores First of 2021-22
Averaging nearly 19:00 of ice time and two blocks per night through his third season with the Blackhawks, it’s obvious that Calvin de Haan is an important member of their blue line. However, despite maintaining top-pairing minutes, his impact is felt most when it comes to limiting production rather than providing it.
That said, de Haan made sure to notch at least one on the year in Chicago’s 4-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets this past Tuesday. As Ben Pope pointed out following the contest, scoring a single goal every season seems to have become de Haan’s pattern.
With the latter half of the 2021-22 campaign remaining, we’ll see if de Haan can break his own streak and start a new one that includes accumulating at least two goals per year. In the meantime, given that his reliability is best illustrated beyond the scoresheet, any point production should always be considered a bonus.
What you should expect out of him is to continue managing heavy minutes — not score goals.
Galvas Impresses in His NHL Debut
Jakub Galvas was drafted by the Blackhawks in 2017 and has spent his time since playing overseason in Europe. However, he landed a roster spot on the Rockford IceHogs to start the 2021-22 campaign. Not only that, but his performance with Chicago’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate has been enough to earn him a call-up to the big club.
Galvas made his NHL debut on Jan. 11 against the Blue Jackets, logging the second-most minutes of any non-goalie in Chicago’s lineup that night. He was also relied upon in every scenario throughout the game — even strength, shorthanded, power play. The 22-year-old continues to impress, with every opportunity granted.
“I’ll be honest with you, I was very surprised how good he played,” King said “I knew he was pretty calm with the puck and could skate and could make plays and was a smart player, but he looked really good today. He stepped up. That’s not easy.”
Regardless of the reasoning behind how Galvas got into Chicago’s locker room, the reality is that he now has a chance to make a case for why he should stay there. It would appear he’s already succeeding, as all signs point to him remaining in their active lineup for at least another night.
Reichel Poised to Play With Blackhawks
The skill that Lukas Reichel displayed while playing in Germany throughout his teenage years, let alone his continual progression, made it likely that he would find a way to flourish whenever he brought his talents to North America. Judging from his numbers with the IceHogs early on in 2021-22, it’s fair to say that was an accurate presumption.
Producing at a point-per-game pace in the AHL, Reichel’s 20 points and 11 goals both lead Rockford’s roster in each respective category. While the NHL is an obvious step up in competition, Reichel appears more than ready to make his Blackhawks debut on Jan. 13 against the Montreal Canadiens.
How long he stays with the Blackhawks is yet to be seen. That said, it makes too much sense to at least gauge what the 19-year-old is capable of at the highest level of play. Especially since he can only offer upside to a struggling Blackhawks squad.
While the opportunity will help the club further assess what they have in Reichel, it will also encourage some much-needed enthusiasm around the franchise. The winger is, by far, Chicago’s most anticipated prospect at the moment. He’s already done enough to earn this shot, so good on Chicago for letting him take it.
Regardless of the fact that Reichel will likely return to the IceHogs sooner rather than later, the experience he will be able to garner in the meantime will work to enhance his progress. After all, it takes playing among the best to encourage such elevation. This is the first step towards seeing Reichel as the NHL regular that all expect him to become in due time.
Shaw’s Legacy Set to Be Celebrated
In preparation for their 2021-22 calendar, Chicago announced a number of key games set to include added fanfare. On the list were Legacy Nights, wherein some recently retired Blackhawks would be celebrated for their contributions to the franchise. Following the postponement of Marian Hossa’s event, originally scheduled for Nov. 9, next up is Andrew Shaw.
Shaw will be honoured on Jan. 13 when the Blackhawks host the Canadiens. Fitting, as those are the only two franchises he ever played with during his decade-long career in the NHL.
It was easy to see why Shaw remained a fan favourite throughout his 544 games played in the regular season and 72 in the playoffs. His passion was contagious. He put it all on the line, every shift. Although he spent time playing in both cities, most of his NHL tenure occurred where he reached the heights of his career — in Chicago.
Shaw accumulated 151 points and 689 hits throughout 362 games as a Blackhawk, along with 35 points and 167 hits in 67 postseason contests with the club. Always a source of energy for the lineup, his contributions were pivotal. Especially throughout both Stanley Cup runs he was part of, in 2013 and 2015.
Following his latest concussion, which occurred midway through the 2020-21 campaign, Shaw made the decision to retire. Surely, not an easy conclusion to come to for the then 29-year-old. However, for the sake of his health, it was clearly the right one.
While there’s no telling what more Shaw could have accomplished, had it not been for his history of injury forcing him out of the game, all he was able to achieve in Chicago makes him more than worthy of his Legacy Night celebration.
Hopefully, given the entertainment value he provided fanbases of both franchises at all times, his two former teams can return the favour by putting on a show for Shaw.
Freelance thinker, paying too much attention to digital aesthetic. Oxford comma enthusiast. Spider-Man supporter. Sports fan, with two favourite hockey teams. If the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs ever meet in the Stanley Cup Final, you can find me wherever they’re playing that night.