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Blackhawks Week That Was and Will Be, 2/20: Holding On

After a week off .. we’re back!

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Chicago Blackhawks Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

(Author’s note: Apologies for last week’s omission of this series but we’re back! And on a Monday, too!)

Sometimes, it feels like Patrick Kane — and perhaps Jonathan Toews, too — is holding on to the same hope that probably exists somewhere in the minds of most Blackhawks fans: that The Era® isn’t over yet and that there’s one final act awaiting both Kane and/or Toews in Chicago.

That seems like the best way to explain why it’s taken Kane so long to arrive at his decision on whether or not to waive his no-movement clause and accept a trade away from the only hockey franchise he’s ever known. As recently as Sunday, Kyle Davidson used the word “soon” to describe when said decision is coming, although it feels like that word is useless now because it’s been used for several weeks and the trade deadline is now less than two weeks away.

But maybe Kane’s still thinking about what next season could look like. Maybe he’s envisioning another Blackhawks resurgence fueled by the arrival of Connor Bedard or Adam Fantilli in next year’s draft, the addition of some other prospects who’ve been waiting in the wings for a while now — hey there, Lukas Reichel — and this recent downward spiral suddenly trends back up starting next season. Not that they’re going to win the Stanley Cup in 2024, but maybe a few steps are taken in that direction, a reason to believe that the team could inch closer to being a contender again come 2025 or 2026 or whatever. Maybe Kane’s looked at the 2012-13 season of Martin St. Louis, who was 37 years old when he won the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s scoring leader with 60 points in the abbreviated 48-game season, then followed it up with a nice 69-point season in 81 games in 2013-14 at the age of 38. Kane would turn 38 in November of the 2026-27 season, by the way.

Sure, all that may feel impossible from an outside perspective, but so does the idea of being a No. 1 overall pick and then winning three Stanley Cups and accomplishing everything else on the ice that Kane’s done in his career. Toews’ career accolades can be Exhibit B in this case, Your Honor. The very nature of their existence as professional athletes means they’ve already defied microscopic odds, likely having to silence doubts in their own minds and ignore naysayers on the periphery along the way. So why would this time be any different? Why would Kane (or Toews, or both!) start listening to those detractors now who are telling him that he needs to get out of Chicago, that he’s never going to win there again, that he’s never going to enjoy hockey success if he doesn’t leave town? Hell, there’s probably a part of them accumulating enough spite to power a rocket to Mars, and they’ll channel that into offseason workouts or more performances like the one we saw from Kane on Sunday night against the Maple Leafs.

None of this may seem to make sense to a “normal” person. But nothing else has been “normal” about Kane’s career. Why would he start being “normal” now?

The Week That Was

Tuesday, Feb. 14: Canadiens 4, Blackhawks 0

Remain unconvinced that Kirby Dach is going to pan out in Montreal. Fight me.

Wednesday, Feb. 15: Maple Leafs 5, Blackhawks 2

Yeah, cool, fine, whatever.

Friday, Feb. 17: Blackhawks 4, Senators 3

Thought the ending to this game was going to be the craziest part of the week ...

Sunday, Feb. 19: Blackhawks 5, Maple Leafs 3

And then this happened.

For Miles

As first reported at Second City Hockey, Cole Guttman scored his first NHL goal against the Maple Leafs on Sunday. It was his first NHL point as well, coming in his third game with his career average ice time currently sitting at 12:11.

Guttman’s an interesting story already, signing with the Blackhawks last August after being drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the sixth round (180th overall) in the 2017 NHL Draft but never signing with that team. Guttman captained the University of Denver to the NCAA Championship last season, landing him back on NHL radars.

Now, the Blackhawks’ prior regime did take some swings on NCAA standouts who stayed in college through their senior seasons but they didn’t turn out all that great — feel free to check Google for updates on Kyle Baun and Drew LeBlanc, if interested. Guttman’s already ahead of those two players because he has scored an NHL goal but Guttman was also playing well down in Rockford with 30 points (16 G, 14 A) in 39 games. We’re not anywhere near “the Blackhawks may have something here” levels, but Guttman’s at least raised a few eyebrows — which is enough for now.

One common flaw for younger NHLers in the early stages of their career is deferring to their more veteran teammates too often. This is similar to the Patrick Kane Linemate Effect, when teammates feel obligated to pass the puck to No. 88 on every freaking occasion just because of Kane’s reputation — even when a pass to Kane is the absolute worst option in that moment.

Guttman’s goal came during a 2-on-1 with Tyler Johnson skating on the opposite side: not quite a player of Kane’s caliber, but someone who has 384 more points tallied in 641 more games played than Guttman. Yet, Guttman didn’t immediately defer to Johnson on that odd-man rush: he recognized that the defender was giving him a wide-open lane for a shot on goal and Guttman took said opportunity while also having the ability to turn that opportunity into a goal.

It’s something coach Luke Richardson mentioned during Monday’s media session, too:

That’s one test passed for Guttman, and roughly 234,850,485,938 remaining at the NHL level. But a good start nonetheless.

If nothing else, the look on Guttman’s face in the photo below — taken just after his first NHL goal — expresses a level of joy that mere words cannot accurately describe:

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Chicago Blackhawks Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

The Week That Will Be

Tuesday, Feb. 21 vs. Golden Knights

Seems like the Golden Knights’ honeymoon stage in the NHL has come to an abrupt halt in the last year or so, hasn’t it?

Wednesday, Feb. 22 at Dallas Stars

The schedule-makers do the Blackhawks no favors here. Expecting the worst.

Saturday, Feb. 25 at San Jose Sharks

At this rate, Timo Meier and Patrick Kane will both be healthy scratches for this game.