Compelling the Blackhawks to win for the sake of pride didn’t work for interim coach Derek King on Saturday against the Sharks.
So King instead spent Monday compelling the Hawks to win for the sake of the 18,642 fans in the United Center. This time, he got his wish: the Hawks held off the Flyers 3-1 in their penultimate home game of the season.
“We got a little risky at times, but the fans like it,” King said. “We talked about [trying to] finish right at home, get the fans out of their seats, give them something [so] that — when they walk out here and get in their cars –they’re talking about our team, about how they competed or how they won the game. That’s all we can ask for.”
The victory was just the Hawks’ 13th in 40 home games this season; only the league-worst Canadiens and Coyotes (10 each) have fewer home wins.
But at least this better-than-expected crowd was able to get excited –particularly early on, when Erik Gustafsson and Jonathan Toews (right out of the penalty box) both scored in the game’s first seven minutes.
Rock-solid goaltending from Kevin Lankinen, who absorbed rebounds well en route to stopping 33 of 34 shots, and a third-period insurance marker by Alex DeBrincat helped them maintain the lead.
Successfully doing so snapped the Hawks’ remarkable streak of blowing 14 straight leads over the past month.
“We were [saying], ‘We’ve got to get it deep,'” Gustafsson said. “We know they want to flip it out. Their forwards go in the zone right away if they get a chance. We just tried to play simple: get in, get out, and be a five-man unit out there. We did a pretty good job.”
Connor Murphy (concussion) and Kirby Dach (right shoulder sprain) both participated in non-contact jerseys in morning skate.
But King said he doesn’t expect any of the Hawks’ currently injured players –a group which also includes MacKenzie Entwistle (shoulder) –to return for the final two games.
Strome for Masterton
Dylan Strome is the Blackhawks’ nominee for the 2022 Bill Masterton Trophy, as chosen and announced Monday by the Chicago chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.
The Masterton trophy is awarded annually to the NHL player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.”
Permanently cast aside by ex-coach Jeremy Colliton, Strome was given a fresh start in November by King but was also challenged by King to improve his work ethic.
He earnestly followed through on that challenge. He has been one of the brightest spots of the second half, tallying 40 points in his last 45 games, while maintaining his reputation as one of the Hawks’ most well-liked guys.
“Early in the year, it was a tough time [for him], and he was still positive in the locker room, being a good teammate,” DeBrincat said Monday about Strome. “That goes a long way with your teammates. You don’t want a grumpy guy in the locker room and ‘poor me’ attitude. He was always ready to go to work and battle. And then he gets hot, he’s on fire, and he really helps our team a lot. It’s nice to see him get some recognition.”
Golden Knights forward Jack Eichel, whose artificial disc replacement surgery helped permanently open a new field of medicine to hockey players, and Canadiens goalie Carey Price, who spent October in a residential treatment facility for substance use and battled back to start four games this month, are two of the most compelling nominees around the league.