It seems the Chicago Blackhawks were underestimated this season. Sure they made the playoffs last year and even beat the Edmonton Oilers in the preliminary round, but they only got a chance because the NHL decided to go with an expanded postseason format after the prolonged pause to the 2019-20 campaign. If the season had played out naturally, the Blackhawks would have probably missed the playoffs for the third straight campaign.
Besides, even if you took the 2020 playoff run at face value, the Blackhawks entered the season with some serious question marks. They didn’t re-sign Corey Crawford over the offseason or sign a replacement, so the team entered the 2020-21 campaign without a proven starter. On top of that, the Blackhawks haven’t had Kirby Dach, Alex Nylander, Brent Seabrook, or captain Jonathan Toews at all this season. It would have been difficult for any team to overcome that many significant injuries, let alone one who back in October described themselves as “rebuilding.”
And yet with a 2-0 victory over Columbus on Thursday, Chicago is now 11-6-4. That’s 37.5% of their season done and they’re in a playoff position. At this point I think it’s fair to say that the Blackhawks aren’t just off to a hot start.
Kevin Lankinen gets a lot of the credit for stepping up and establishing himself as the Blackhawks starter, but it was Malcolm Subban who earned the shutout last night. Patrick Kane has been a big part of Chicago’s success too. He has 31 points in 21 games, including a goal on Thursday that was the 399th of his career. If the season were to end today, then Kane would deservedly be in the conversation for the Hart Trophy.
It’s not over yet though and Chicago has to keep pushing forward with a pair of games against Detroit this weekend. The Red Wings haven’t exactly been a tough opponent, but they have won two of their last three games, including their contest against Nashville on Thursday, so Chicago would do well to not underestimate them. After all, the Blackhawks should know better than to take an underrated team lightly.
NY ISLANDERS 7 BOSTON 2
Jaroslav Halak was in net for all seven Islanders goals. The game was actually tied at 2-2 going into the third period, but the Islanders launched 18 shots on net in the third period and five of them got by Halak. The Bruins goaltender faced 37 shots overall.
Craig Smith scored a goal for the Bruins. He has four goals and eight points in 16 contests this season.
The Islanders seven goals were spread out over seven players. Jordan Eberle, Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, Oliver Wahlstrom, Anders Lee, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Adam Pelech each found the back of the net.
Nick Leddy assisted on two of the Islanders’ seven goals. Despite the offensive onslaught, Leddy was the only Islanders player with multiple helpers.
Semyon Varlamov saved 34 of 36 Bruins shots. He had to face 15 shots in the first period and 13 shots in the second, but he held his own over that time, keeping things close until the Islanders pulled away.
WASHINGTON 5 PITTSBURGH 2
Tom Wilson scored the game-winning goal. He has seven goals and 14 points in 17 contests this season.
Nicklas Backstrom contributed a goal and an assist for the Capitals. He’s up to nine goals and 24 points in 19 contests.
Vitek Vanecek stopped 26 of 28 Penguins shots. He was beaten twice on six shots in the third period, but the Capitals hung on in the final frame.
At the other end of the ice, Tristan Jarry turned aside 30 of 33 shots. The Capitals scored four goals in the third, but two of those goals were empty netters.
Brandon Tanev scored a shorthanded goal for the Penguins. He’s up to five goals and seven points in 18 contests this season.
TAMPA BAY 3 CAROLINA 1
The Hurricanes’ only goal was scored by Brett Pesce. He has two goals and 10 points in 19 contests this season.
James Reimer stopped 19 of 21 Lightning shots. Although he lost, at least he ended his run of eight straight starts where he allowed three or more goals.
Yanni Gourde scored the game-winning goal. That gives him five goals and nine points in 18 contests this season.
Mikhail Sergachev also found the back of the net for Tampa Bay. It was his first goal and 13th point in 18 games.
Curtis McElhinney saved 31 of 32 shots last night. He has a 2-1-0 record, 2.71 GAA, and .896 save percentage in three games.
FLORIDA 3 DALLAS 2
Joe Pavelski scored a goal for the Stars. He’s up to 10 goals and 20 points in 15 games.
The Stars had a 2-0 lead going into the third period, but the Panthers rallied with three goals in the span of 3:11 minutes. Aleksander Barkov got things started with his eighth goal of the season at 13:39 of the final frame.
Frank Vatrano contributed the game-winning goal. He has five markers and seven points in 19 games.
Jake Oettinger stopped 32 of 35 Panthers shots. As mentioned above, the three goals he surrendered were all scored in the third period. He faced 15 shots in that frame.
At the other end of the ice, Sergei Bobrovsky saved 37 of 39 shots. He’s allowed two or fewer goals in four of his last five games.
CHICAGO 2 COLUMBUS 0
Malcolm Subban earned the shutout by making 26 saves. It was Subban’s first shutout of the season and the second of his career.
Boone Jenner had a team-high four shots against Subban. All the same, his point streak couldn’t reach three games.
Patrick Kane accounted for the game-winning goal. It was the 399th marker of his NHL career.
Chicago’s other goal was scored by Carl Soderberg. He has four goals and eight points in 16 games.
Joonas Korpisalo stopped 25 of 26 Blackhawks shots. He’s 5-5-4 with a 3.37 GAA and .890 save percentage in 15 games.
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OTTAWA 6 CALGARY 1
David Rittich stopped 16 of 20 shots before being yanked halfway through the game. Artyom Zagidulin got into the game, making his NHL debut, and saved nine of 11 shots the rest of the way.
Calgary’s only goal was scored by Milan Lucic. It was his fifth marker and eighth point in 21 games.
Colin White netted two goals for the Flames. He’s up to four goals and nine points in 18 contests.
Connor Brown scored the game-winning goal. He has five goals and 12 points in 22 games.
Matt Murray saved 29 of 30 shots on Thursday. He’s won three straight games, giving him a 5-9-1 record this season.
NEW JERSEY 4 BUFFALO 3 (OT)
Pavel Zacha scored the overtime winner and registered two assists. That gives him five goals and 12 points in 15 games.
Jesper Bratt netted a goal and registered an assist for the Devils. He has a goal and six points in nine contests.
Mackenzie Blackwood saved 29 of 32 Sabres shots. He’s allowed three goals in each of his last three starts.
At the other end of the ice, Linus Ullmark stopped all 15 shots he faced in the first period. He suffered an injury though, so Carter Hutton replaced him and allowed four goals on 25 shots the rest of the way.
Sam Reinhart scored a goal for the Sabres. He has seven goals and 14 points in 15 contests.
DETROIT 5 NASHVILLE 2
Sam Gagner led the charge for the Red Wings with a hat trick. He now has three goals and five points in 14 contests.
Pekka Rinne stopped 27 of 31 Red Wings shots. He allowed at least one goal in each period.
Jonathan Bernier saved 37 of 39 shots on Thursday. He has a 5-3-0 record, 2.59 GAA, and .918 save percentage in 10 games.
Luke Glendening had a goal and an assist for the Red Wings. He has two goals and six points in 20 contests.
Erik Haula chipped in a goal for Nashville. It was his first goal and fifth point in 18 games.
WINNIPEG 6 MONTREAL 3
Carey Price stopped 24 of 29 Jets shots. Montreal had taken a 2-0 lead through 20 minutes, but Price surrendered three goals in the second and another two in the third. The Jets’ final goal was an empty netter.
Joel Armia scored a pair of goals for Montreal. That gives him four goals and seven points in 12 contests.
Winnipeg got two goals from Kyle Connor. He’s up to 10 goals and 18 points in 19 games.
Blake Wheeler netted a goal and registered two assists. He has six goals and 20 points in 19 contests.
Connor Hellebuyck saved 18 of 21 shots on Thursday. He allowed two goals on eight shots in the first frame.
EDMONTON 3 VANCOUVER 0
Mike Smith posted a 32-save shutout over the Canucks. He’s off to an incredible start with a 6-0-0 record, 1.73 GAA, and .944 save percentage in seven starts.
Nils Hoglander fired a team-high five shots on Smith. The rookie forward has three goals on 56 shots.
Connor McDavid scored a goal and an assist for Edmonton. He already has 14 goals and 40 points in 22 contests.
Alex Chiasson netted the first and therefore game-winning goal. He’s up to four goals and seven points in 15 games.
Thatcher Demko kicked out 31 of 33 Oilers shots. He’s 4-9-1 with a 3.28 GAA and .901 save percentage in 14 starts.