Hawks Insider

No tanks: Blackhawks finding ways to stay competitive

/ by Charlie Roumeliotis
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
Hawks Insider

The Blackhawks pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the season on Tuesday night after beating the Boston Bruins, who are one of the best regular-season teams in NHL history, 6-3 at the United Center. And they did so in front of a sold-out crowd of 20,188, which was the fourth-highest attendance of the season.

I'm sorry, what?

Somehow, the Blackhawks are finding ways to stay competitive. Even in a "tank" season. And even after the roster was stripped down to the bare bones after the trade deadline, with Max Domi, Patrick Kane and Jake McCabe being the main substractions. It doesn't make much sense.

"They’re a team," Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson said after the win. "That’s the key word, is team. I think that started from Day 1 at training camp. ... There’s a lot of belief in that room."

Richardson deserves a ton of credit for the job he's done this season. Sure, they're near the basement of the NHL standings, but the Blackhawks have largely been competitive within those games, even in the losses.

Think about this: 23 of 67 games this season have been one-goal games for the Blackhawks, who are 12-5-6 in those games. Another six have ended in a two-goal game because of an empty netter, and 11 more games have been wins. 

In total, that's 40 of 67 games that have essentially been victories or one-goal losses for the Blackhawks this season, which is almost 60 percent. You'll take that any day of the week.

"I don't think it's surprising," said Joey Anderson, who has four points (two goals, two assists) in his last four games with the Blackhawks. "You know what, everyone in this room comes in every day with the same mindset to win every game. And obviously, they're a great team and we knew we had to play a full 60 minutes tonight, and that's exactly what it took."

The Blackhawks lead the NHL this season with eight multi-goal comeback wins, which is a franchise record. They also have six third-period comeback wins, adding another one against Boston.

The Blackhawks don't quit under Richardson. This is exactly what he was hired to do, to lay a strong foundation, and you can see it reflected in the team's game.

The tanking talk is fun for the fans, who are salivating at the thought of Connor Bedard in a Blackhawks uniform. Richardson's job isn't to think about that. It's to develop a winning culture, and he's succeeding, if it doesn't seem like it in the wins and losses column.

"I told them right from Day 1, I'm not here to do that," Richardson said of tanking. "I'm going to make their job really hard and our objective. I have all the trust in the world after watching last year's draft, no matter what pick we have, that the scouts came up with three really good first-rounders and some great second, third-rounders and down the line. 

"We coach each game. We're playing the Boston Bruins, probably the best team in the NHL obviously this year, and we're trying to figure out the best game plan to beat them. Whether that helps or hurts long term, I don't think it's going to really do much from a coaching perspective because I think I'm pretty happy with — and it's not over yet — but the first year's stepping stone for culture and what we want to do here and accomplish."

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