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The Blackhawks Week That Was and Will Be, 10/24: Sample Size!

This is called a winning streak. Remember those?

Seattle Kraken v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

One of the biggest downsides of the Chicago Blackhawks approach to this season is that observers can rip the joy out of every positive result by pointing out how bad it is for the team’s long-term fortunes.

Which is a shame because, if viewed without any of these external factors, the Hawks have been legitimately entertaining in the first few weeks of the season.

Yeah, they were casually swatted aside by the Colorado Avalanche in the season opener. Since then, they gave the Vegas Golden Knights a valiant battle in that 1-0 defeat. Then they scored five straight times to rally for a win over the Sharks. Then they scored two straight goals — including a Connor Murphy(!) shorthanded(!!) goal to force (and win in) overtime against the Red Wings. Then there was that roller-coaster ride of a game on Sunday.

It’s also a shame because this is the exact kind of team that’s real easy to throw support behind. A bunch of roster cast-offs and aging veterans and perceived has-beens have quickly assembled into a collective middle finger raised in the direction of every single pundit and projection that had the Hawks slated to be one of the league’s worst teams.

Everyone loves a good underdog story — and few dogs have been quite as under as this collection of hockey players. But here they are: sitting above .500, winners of three in a row and appearing to genuinely enjoy hockey for the first time in a while.

Just ask Tyler Johnson:

Feels like a bit of a shot at the last head coach, doesn’t it?

It’s worth noting that Chicago’s three wins are against:

  • a team that appears destined for the lottery
  • a team that still hasn’t proven its done rebuilding
  • a team in its second year of existence.

Not exactly a Murderer’s Row of opponents. But since this space is in a never-ending pursuit for the joyous side of what can be the soulless entity that is professional sports, we’re going to take those three wins, wrap it around ourselves like a warm blanket on a cool fall night and drift off to a comfortable sleep until the next game arrives.

The Week That Was

Friday, Oct. 21: Blackhawks 3, Red Wings 2

Detroit sucks, etc.

Sunday, Oct. 23: Blackhawks 5, Kraken 4

The most brutally honest observation of this game came on the NBC Sports Chicago postgame when Pat Boden said something to the effect of, “Chicago sports fans aren’t used to this many points being scored on a Sunday afternoon.”

The Melting Point of Wax

And now, it’s time for everyone’s favorite game show:
IS!
IT!
SUSTAINABLE?

/cue music

Hello everyone, and welcome to this edition of IS! IT! SUSTAINABLE?! The place where we take an unfairly small sample of Blackhawks games from the 2022-23 regular season and decide whether or not the things that happened in those games will maintain over an 82-game schedule!

Up first:

  • The Blackhawks have scored four shorthanded goals through the first five games after scoring just two last season. Toronto led the league with 12 last season.

IS!
IT!
SUSTAINABLE?

Not an ideal start, but still two strikes left to be used. Up next:

  • The Blackhawks have won three of five despite being outscored 10-7 at 5-on-5, the portion of the game that accounts for roughly 75-80 percent of each NHL game.

IS!
IT!
SUSTAINABLE?

Uh oh ... that’s 0-for-2. Let’s try one more:

  • The Blackhawks are currently led in scoring by Tyler Johnson (2 G, 3 A), Sam Lafferty (2 G, 3 A) and Jason Dickinson (2 G, 2 A). All three players are at or above a point-per-game pace. Johnson’s highest PPG mark was 0.94 but that was eight seasons ago. Dickinson’s best PPG mark is 0.33, Lafferty’s is 0.26.

IS!
IT!
SUSTAINABLE?

Ooh, tough break, a third and final mistake. Better luck next time on ...

IS!
IT!
SUSTAINABLE?

All joking aside, the Blackhawks are winning games because their depth players all seem to be having career-best performances on a damn near nightly basis, which has made up for an early scoring slump from Patrick Kane and a top line (Kane, Max Domi and Andreas Athanasiou) that hasn’t done much of anything at 5-on-5. The contributions from the special teams — especially the shorthanded goals — seem the most unlikely to continue in the long term. But it’s made for an entertaining trio of games in the last week.

The Week That Will Be

Busy week ahead, with the strength of schedule ramping up a bit — at least on paper.

Tuesday, Oct. 25 vs. Florida Panthers

Aaron Ekblad is hurt again?! Jeez.

Thursday, Oct. 27 vs. Edmonton Oilers

Edmonton goalie Jack Campbell has a .874 save percentage and a 5.08 goals-against average. He also has both Oilers’ wins this season. What?

Saturday, Oct. 29 at Buffalo Sabres

One extremely early development from this season: the Sabres’ young core may have finally arrived.

Sunday, Oct. 30 vs. Minnesota Wild

Hockey is weird, part 2,387,870: anyone have Minnesota starting the season at 1-3-1?