We’ve officially made it to mid-January, and the 14th week of the Chicago Blackhawks’ 2021-22 campaign. As of Saturday’s contest versus the Anaheim Ducks, the Blackhawks have competed in 38 contests, just shy of half-way through their 82-game season. There have been all kinds of ups and downs so far throughout this tumultuous crusade. The team welcomed three new faces this past week, along with celebrating an old friend. Here are these top stories, with exclusive perspective from our crew of Greg Boysen, Brooke LoFurno, Shaun Filippelli and Gail Kauchak. Let’s get to it.
Galvas Proving Himself – Shaun
With Seth Jones and Jake McCabe in COVID protocol, defenseman Jakub Galvas made his NHL debut against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Jan. 11. Regardless of the circumstances that helped Galvas find his way into the Blackhawks lineup, it’s still up to the 22-year-old to make a case for why he should stay there. And he’s successfully doing so, after only his first three games in the NHL.
The former fifth round pick may not have been on the radar of many prior to the 2021-22 season getting underway, but it’s safe to say that the defenseman has now earned their attention. It’s not that he’s putting points on the board, as that’s far from being his strength, but he’s proving to be a pivotal presence when it comes to his main priority — defending.
Incredible sequence: Jakub Galvas saves a goal right on the line, Riley Stillman bats the puck out of mid-air then seconds later Erik Gustafsson jumps out of the box and connects with Brandon Hagel. #Blackhawks pic.twitter.com/zG4Es0DsRd— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) January 16, 2022
Galvas’ ability to control play in his own end is proving to have a direct impact in the opponents’ zone. Admittedly, this stance is based on such a small sample size of effectiveness. However, the fact that Galvas is already showing such a level of comfort and confidence at this level of play should garner the respect it deserves.
Having played mostly overseas since being drafted in 2017 and only being in his first year with the Rockford IceHogs as of 2021-22, it’s impressive to witness his seamless transition with the big club.
Already averaging over 20:00 per night, having played in all scenarios, clearly Chicago has a lot of faith in what the prospect is capable of. It seems to be to the franchise’s benefit to continue relying on his impact, too, as they’re undefeated with Galvas in their lineup.
Reichel Gets a Look – Greg
The Blackhawks’ top prospect Lukas Reichel got his first taste of the NHL with games against the Canadiens and Ducks. The 19-year-old looked relatively comfortable centering a line with Brandon Hagel and Patrick Kane. He didn’t pick up any points in his 30:46 of total ice time. He got five of his seven shot attempts on the net. He won just five of his 14 faceoffs but went 5/11 versus the Ducks. Head coach Derek King did his best to shelter Reichel by starting him in the offensive zone nearly 79% of the time.
I’ve been clear that the Blackhawks should take their time with Reichel. I didn’t mind them giving him a small sample of life in the NHL. Sometimes, a young player getting a couple of games can motivate him when returning to the AHL. They used him correctly by playing him in the top-six. Now, he can return to the Rockford IceHogs and be a key player on a team making a run for the postseason. It serves him better to play big minutes in meaningful games. The Blackhawks may not have too many of those down the stretch, even with the recent win streak.
Learning About Lafferty – Gail
On Jan. 5 the Blackhawks finally said goodbye to their failed reclamation project Alex Nylander, trading him to Pittsburgh Penguins. Depth forward Sam Lafferty was the return in this transaction. Lafferty hadn’t been able to crack the everyday lineup for the Penguins, appearing in only 10 games and registering just two points.
The scouting report on the 26-year-old is that he’s a physical bottom-six guy who likes to hit a lot (223 hits in 96 career games). Well, we all know the Blackhawks have a plethora of depth at forward already. Needless to say, nobody was too excited about this acquisition.
But the six-foot-one center/left winger was happy for a change of scenery in an attempt to find a fit with another team. He got off to a good start in his first two games with the Blackhawks. Against the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 13, Lafferty lined up as the fourth line center and recorded two shots on goal, two hits, and won two-of-three faceoffs in a healthy 15:17 minutes of ice time. 3:28 of those minutes was on the penalty kill, which was the most PK time of all forwards and third only to defensemen Connor Murphy and Calvin de Haan.
Against the Anaheim Ducks on Jan. 15, Lafferty was promoted to third line center in between Henrik Borgstrom and Philipp Kurashev. Ironically, he registered less ice time there at 11:37 minutes. Yet he still made the most of his assignment, contributing four shots on goal, three hits, one blocked shot and winning four-of-eight faceoffs.
Rumor has it the Blackhawks might finally be embracing a rebuilding mode. They will likely be sellers in the coming months and looking to move several forwards for draft picks and prospects. With this being the case, they want to continue to develop their current prospects in the minor leagues instead of forcing them into NHL duties too early. This is why they acquired Lafferty. He will fill that roster spot instead. Hopefully the three-year “veteran” can keep up the good work and continue to contribute for the Blackhawks down the stretch (from ‘Blackhawks’ Alex Nylander experiment ends with trade to Penguins’, The Chicago Sun-Times – 1/5/22).
Shaw’s Legacy Night a Success – Brooke
Everything about Andrew Shaw’s legacy night perfectly encompasses who he is. Although Shaw is not a “Hall of Fame” player, he earned that mark in a lot of fans hearts because of the way he played. He played the game hard and came up with some big moments that led to the two Stanley Cup Championships.
He was always good for the greasy goals and the “what the heck?” moments, which is what happened during the Blackhawks and Canadiens game. There was a feistiness to that game along with that weird game-winning goal in overtime from Kurashev. The tribute, the game, and speech could not have made for a better legacy night than for Shawzy, himself! It was great!
Please join us this Tuesday for our weekly Blackhawks Banter show, where we will discuss the above topics in person, as well as much more! Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel, find us on your preferred podcast platform, and connect with Blackhawks Banter on Twitter, so you catch every new episode the moment they drop.
Gail Kauchak has covered the Chicago Blackhawks as a content writer since 2014. She previously wrote for Fansided’s Blackhawk Up, and has been part of The Hockey Writer’s team since 2017. It’s not always easy to balance life’s responsibility’s with one’s passion, but Gail’s doing her best to make it happen. Quote to live by, “Follow your dreams, and good things will happen.” Wait, maybe it’s “Good things happen when you shoot the puck!” You get the idea.
Follow Gail for her unique commentary about this storied franchise. And be sure to catch her and the rest of the Blackhawks’ crew on their weekly Blackhawks Banter show, as well as follow her on Twitter.