Through their first four match-ups with the Detroit Red Wings this season, the Chicago Blackhawks are proving to be anything but wary of their most familiar foe. While each respective fanbase expected a refueling of one of the longest-lasting rivals in league history, it’s fair to say that neither anticipated the other would be a perfect 4-0-0 after their first two sets.
Fortunately, for Blackhawks fans, that’s the exact position they find themselves in at the moment. It’s still far too early in the year to be concluding any one team’s storyline by the end of it. Yet, there are some pivotal narratives that emerged throughout Chicago’s most recent two-game set against the Red Wings.
Game Day Results
Once again, a rising Chicago roster did not fumble the opportunity to lead the charge against a lacklustre Detroit lineup.
Feb. 15 @ Detroit Red Wings: 3-2 (W)
Feb. 17 @ Detroit Red Wings: 2-0 (W)
Success in hockey requires a full-team effort. Stars may get the brightest spotlight, but role players still have to do their part to piece the whole plan together. While the Blackhawks have extracted a lot out of their locker room, one can only imagine how much better they’d be if every player was performing at their best.
Strome Trending As a Non-Factor
Heading into the first of the two-game set on Monday evening, Dylan Strome was riding the wrong kind of wave. He had gone four games in a row without earning a single point and only had two through his previous seven matches.
Unfortunately, even after facing one of the most scored against teams in the league, that trend continued as Strome steered clear of the scoresheet even as he averaged over 13:00 of ice time per contest. And the lack in production can’t be blamed on his surroundings, as he still played alongside others that did better with their time.
The reality is that Strome just isn’t pulling his weight as of late. Whether this is simply one of those expected slumps that athletes experience every so often or it becomes the storyline of Strome’s season is yet to be seen. For his — and the Blackhawks’ — sake, let’s hope he snaps out of it soon.
Success Through Splitting Starts
While it seemed Kevin Lankinen was poised to start every single game from here on out, we knew Malcolm Subban would find his way back between the pipes at some point. Following a win in his showing against the Dallas Stars last week, he was given the chance to set the tone against the Red Wings this past Monday.
After a tough opening night outing that saw Subban’s record absorb the Blackhawks’ thumping at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning, he’s now earned five of a possible six points through his past three starts. Including stopping 27 of 29 in his recent overtime victory over Detroit.
Lankinen then landed back between the pipes for their second meeting with the Red Wings on Wednesday night. To no one’s surprise, he performed as we’ve all come to expect. He not only earned the win, but his 29 saves were good for his first career shutout.
Although Lankinen has been the talk of the town, and for good reason, Subban is quietly accumulating solid stats of his own at 2-1-1 on the season. Whether that means he’s proving to be a quality backup option or that he deserves more time in the starter’s crease is yet to be seen, but for now the Blackhawks can still enjoy being the benefactor of getting the most of their netminders.
They’re Still Streaking
Chicago continues to surprise their counterparts, as they’re playing much better hockey than anyone could have anticipated. And while they’re gathering points at a successful rate, they’ve also seen their share of streaks thus far this season.
From losing their first four to recently coming off a stretch in which they won four of five, it was going to be interesting to see how they’d handle a re-match that the Red Wings were surely looking to be on the right side of.
Unfortunately, for Detroit, Chicago is back to their winning ways as they’ve now won three in a row and earned points in eight of their last nine. Although streaks can be a narrative for the wrong reasons, these Blackhawks continue to find ways to make their successful storylines.
Winning the Close Ones
Chicago’s previous 10 games heading into this week were all decided by two goals or less — eight of which by only one. So, it was safe to assume the same type of pattern would round out this set against the Red Wings.
Both games were as close as can be, as far as the scoreboard is concerned. In fact, although the Blackhawks won 2-0 in the second meeting of the series, it could easily have remained 1-0 had it not been for a final minute empty netter.
While game-by-game goal differential may seem like an insignificant tidbit, it can say a lot about those involved. In such close match-ups, any slip-up or misplay could directly sway the results one way or the other. The Blackhawks have continued to maintain control towards securing their victories. And their coach has taken notice, too.
“I thought Boqvist was excellent. Made a lot of plays, very comfortable on the offensive blue line. He looked like he was playing with a lot of confidence and he’s unlucky, I think, not to produce something. He made a lot of plays. Defensively, I thought he was strong, too. Good job getting stops in D zone and being clean getting us out.”
Finding ways to consistently hold the lead, let alone as a developing squad in a league with this much parity, speaks to Chicago’s maturity. The fact that they are already able to maintain such calm confidence in these types of scenarios bodes well for what’s to come.
Next Up, Carolina
The Blackhawks will now travel to Raleigh for their second set against the Carolina Hurricanes, after weathering the storm the first time around. Despite taking three of four points earlier in the month, the Hurricanes are one of the hottest teams in the league at the moment with a record of 7-2-1 in their past 10.
Not to be outdone, the Blackhawks are also an impressive 7-2-1 in that same span. One of these teams will soon see their trend head the other way, but if the Blackhawks can continue to perform as they have been then these are sure to be closer than would be comfortable for Carolina.
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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.