Blackhawks defenseman Calvin de Haan hadn't played in an NHL game that counted since having shoulder surgery in December. He had six points (one goal, five assists) and a +/- rating of +10 in 29 games with Chicago before the procedure.
The NHL pause on March 12, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, allowed him to recover and be back in the Hawks' lineup for the NHL's 24-team postseason tournament.
De Haan, who missed the majority of the Blackhawks' Phase 3 training camp dealing with a family emergency, was on the Hawks' second pairing with defenseman Connor Murphy in Saturday's 6-4 Game 1 win over the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
Murphy, who missed time at camp with a groin injury, had 19 points (five goals, 14 assists) and a +/- rating of +2 in 58 games with the Hawks during the regular season.
Together, de Haan and Murphy were a dependable pair against the speedy and skilled hometown Oilers, and got better as the game went on. Both D-men logged a +/- rating of 0 in Game 1 with four hits and one blocked shot a piece. Murphy also fired four shots at Edmonton's net.
Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton liked what he saw from de Haan in his first official game back since the surgery, and from the pairing as a whole.
"Very solid and more and more comfortable as he gets more time on the ice," Colliton said of de Haan's game on Saturday. "Together with Murph, they haven’t played together a whole lot, seems like a natural fit. But with the injuries both had – Murph was injured early and de Haan the whole second half – they haven’t had the chance to play together much. Now they’re together, I think they’ll get better and better as we go. They were solid for us."
Murphy felt the Hawks' team game as well as his and de Haan's relationship off the ice allowed the pair to be effective so far in the tournament.
"It's been great playing with Haaner," Murphy said. "These games haven't been so hard defending against St. Louis (Wednesday's 4-0 exhibition win) or Edmonton so far just because of how great we played as a team and limited a lot of their speed and offense.
"Overall, it's always nice playing with a veteran guy who's so smart and predictable out there and communicates a lot, and I feel like me and Haaner have a good relationship even off the ice that leads us to playing smoothly together when we're out there. I don't think it takes long to develop any sort of chemistry, especially since the team's been together all year, whether there's injuries or not. It's definitely nice to be paired with him."
If de Haan and Murphy continue to play how they did against Edmonton in Game 1, they'll be providing a lot of balance and reliability to the Hawks' blue line. The Blackhawks can definitely use a repeat in that department as the Oilers will be looking to put forth a better effort on their home turf in Game 2.
The Blackhawks take on the Oilers in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Qualifier at 9:30 p.m. CT on Monday.