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Legendary hockey reporter and analyst Stan Fischler writes a weekly scrapbook for NHL.com. Fischler, known as “The Hockey Maven,” will share his knowledge, humor and insight with readers each Wednesday.

This week’s edition features a 1968 interview with Hockey Hall of Famer Cyclone Taylor, one of the game’s greatest stars from the pre-NHL era. Taylor, then in his mid-80s and living in Vancouver, was the oldest living member of the Hall when he sat down with Stan to share stories from his hockey life.

Here are some highlights of that conversation from more than a half-century ago.

What were your earliest hockey memories?

We played on outdoor rinks all over Listowel, Ontario, and I came into my own in 1902 when I was 19. We played against teams from nearby towns — Palmerston, Harrison, Mount Forest and Mitchell. People started to notice my style and my speed. In 1904 I was invited to Portage La Prairie to play in the Manitoba Senior Amateur League. That was a big thing for me at the time.

What were your biggest challenges at first?

The Manitoba league was one of the strongest on the continent. We played against the famous Rat Portage club and some tough teams from Winnipeg. At first, I played left wing, but I switched to a position they don’t have anymore called a “rover.” In those days, hockey was a seven-man game — a goalie, two defensemen, three forwards and the rover. You don’t hear about the seventh man anymore.

What was the role of the “rover”?

As the extra man, I was out there to either help the defense or move up and work with the forwards. I roved around the ice, going wherever I was needed most. For that reason alone, I had to be one of the best men on the ice. And I was so fast that after one game in Manitoba, a writer nicknamed me “Whirlwind.” It turned out to be the first of several nicknames I’d get because of my speed, but that one wasn’t the best nickname.

How did you get the nickname “Cyclone”?

When I turned pro in the International League (in 1905-06), a reporter decided to give me another nickname. This time it was “Whirlwind” and it stayed that way until I signed with Ottawa (in 1907), and in one particular game against the Montreal Wanderers my coach put me on defense; I never was sure why. Anyhow, we beat Montreal, 8-5, and I scored five goals on individual rushes. Malcolm Bryce, the sports editor of the Ottawa Free Press, was very impressed by my game. He wrote that, “Starting today, based on his performance last night, I’m rechristening him ‘Cyclone’ Taylor.”

What was it like being a hockey star in those days?

By 1910 I was receiving $5,260, the most ever paid to a hockey player up to that time. And if I’d been smart, I could just as easily have gotten $10,000 because I was in demand. I had built a reputation for myself and had the catchy nickname, “Cyclone,” which I liked best of all the nicknames. Funny thing; when we played an exhibition game in Manhattan at St. Nicholas Arena, somebody in the New York press called me “The Jim Jeffries of the Ice” after the famous boxer of that era. That made me feel great since I was young and very impressionable, but “Cyclone” sounded better than “Jim Jeffries of the Ice.”

What are some of the differences between hockey then and now (in 1968)?

A skater like me would play an entire 60 minutes without a substitute, and it didn’t seem a bit tiring. One reason was our motivation. We were terrifically dedicated and there was a tendency to magnify the importance of every game. Another difference was the way we shot the puck, as we didn’t have anything like today’s slap shot. Ours was a wrist shot, which could be pretty damaging and 10 times more accurate than the slap shot. Also, we’d hold onto the puck until we could give it to a teammate or until the puck was taken away from us.

Why were you so famous for your skating?

A lot was written about my speed and how I once even scored a goal skating backwards — but that never happened. My speed gave me an advantage since 90 percent of the game then was skating and two percent stickhandling. The rest was courage and condition. It was a rough game and I played 18 years of it — 60 minutes a game — with the pros and I never lost a tooth or got a scar. It was all because of my skating. Once I passed an opponent, I didn’t have to worry about him anymore.

Did you get any endorsements?

Most players supplemented their hockey income with side jobs or endorsements. The first offer I ever had to endorse anything was from an underwear company. Unfortunately, my wife — she was a hockey fan — didn’t want me parading around half-naked so I dropped the idea. That was the only offer I ever got.

What were some of the secrets to your hockey longevity?

I played for Vancouver from the opening season in 1911 until 1922. Our arena held about 10,500 fans, and we’d draw the biggest crowds in Canada. But as I reached my thirties, I became conscious of the time when I’d have to quit. I played until I was 36; that was pretty old for those days since we were still playing 60 minutes a game. The trick was taking care of the body and remembering that diet was most important. I figured that proper dieting was half of training.

Who are some of your favorite players today (in 1968)?

The most appealing NHL player for me is Bobby Hull, who could have played 60 minutes a game if they let him. I also like Gordie Howe, who’s a great player, and “Rocket” Richard, who had a style all his own. In my day, the favorites were Ernie Johnson, Frank Nighbor and Hughie Lehman. They’d have been stars in the NHL. But, by the same token, today’s greats would have been stars when I was out there!

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A legendary NHL player has passed away. He was 93.

Ted Lindsay, a nine-time NHL All-Star and a four-time Stanley Cup champion, died on Sunday. The Canada native played in the NHL for two decades.

He played for the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks.

The NHLPA announced the tragic news.

“The players and NHLPA staff are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Ted Lindsay – a player, a trailblazer, and a gentleman. ‘Terrible Ted’ was loved across the hockey world and beyond for his play, dedication to fellow players and charitable work.”

From 1944-45 to 1956-57, Ted was part of a Red Wings team that won four Stanley Cups (1949-50, 1951-52, 1953-54, 1954-55) and boasted the top line in the league, of which he was a key part of, along with Gordie Howe on the right wing and Sid Abel at centre. The “Production Line” as they were known, did just that, with “Terrible Ted” serving as a fiery contributor who could fill up the score-sheet with goals and assists, as well as play a tough, physical brand of hockey. For his play in the 1949-50 season, Ted was crowned the Art Ross Trophy winner as the league’s leading scorer with 78 points in 69 games. In typical Ted Lindsay fashion, the 141 penalty minutes he racked up that season revealed nearly as much about the type of player he was as the offensive output did.

Ted only stood 5’8” and weighed 168 pounds in his playing days, but despite being small in stature, he gave nothing away to any other player in the league. He fought for his space on the ice, as well as for his teammates, and his on-ice skirmishes are the stuff of hockey legend. He did whatever it took to win. During his first 13 seasons wearing the “Spoked Wheel”, Ted would score 321 goals and add 403 assists, while being named a first-team All-Star eight times. The final season of his first tour of duty with Detroit, 1956-57, saw him establish a new career-high in points (85), while leading the league in assists (55).

As a key member in leading the movement to establish the original Players’ Association in 1957, with the assistance of fellow players, Bill Gadsby, Doug Harvey, Fern Flaman, Gus Mortson, Jim Thomson and others, Ted paid a steep price for his efforts on behalf of his fellow players. He was first stripped of his Red Wings captaincy and then, following his best statistical season in the NHL, Ted was traded July 23, 1957 from a very strong Red Wings team to the Blackhawks, who at the time were struggling at the bottom of the standings. Ted played for three seasons in a Blackhawks uniform, helping lead them to the postseason in his final two years with the club.

Lindsay is one of the most-important players in the history of the league.

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The wild rollercoaster ride that is the 2019-20 Chicago Blackhawks season continued this past week. After ending the last stock watch cycle with an ugly 5-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, the Blackhawks began their next five-game stretch with two more major duds. There was a 5-2 loss to the Arizona Coyotes, followed by a crushing 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues that saw the Blues erase a 3-0 deficit with four straight goals within a 13-minute span in the third period.

They rebounded the next night with a 5-2 win against the Minnesota Wild before a 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, their third loss to Colorado on the season. They finished the week off with an impressive 4-1 win against a talented Winnipeg Jets team on the back end of a back-to-back, bringing their record to 6-1 in second games of back-to-backs.
Chicago Blackhawks Stock Watch

As has been the case all season, the good has been really good, and the bad has been really bad, without much in between. They hold a 14-16-6 record and sit in seventh place in the Central Division, four points behind the Nashville Predators. Some stocks are sky high, while others have taken quite the hit. Let’s take a look at who’s hot and who’s not.
Trending Up
Jonathan Toews

It has been a rough, inconsistent season for Jonathan Toews, including shooting a career-low 7.5% and sporting a 50.9 Corsi for %, his lowest since his rookie year. Despite his struggles, the captain has been doing everything he can to help keep his team competitive.
Chicago Blackhawks Jonathan Toews St. Louis Blues Jake Allen
Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews scores on St. Louis Blues goaltender Jake Allen (AP Photo/David Banks)

After a one-goal, five-assist stretch in the last five games, including a two-assist game against the Blues and a three-assist game against the Wild, Toews finds himself tied for third on the team in points. He was also an impressive 66 of 98 at the faceoff dot, a 67% rate. If you take away his minus-two outing against the Avalanche, a game in which everyone struggled, Toews had a really strong week across the board to keep his positive momentum rolling.
Connor Murphy

Since the injury to Calvin de Haan, Connor Murphy has shouldered a lot of the defensive load, even with the return of Duncan Keith. The 26-year-old had two assists against the Wild, but his contributions have come more on the defensive end, an area where Chicago just can’t seem to find any consistency.
Connor Murphy Chicago Blackhawks
Connor Murphy, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Murphy has averaged roughly 22:30 of ice time in the last five games and added 12 hits and 19 blocked shots in that span. He also hasn’t taken a penalty since October 20 against the Washington Capitals. The defense has lacked the grit they were searching for in the preseason, so Murphy’s increased efforts of late have been very welcomed.
Patrick Kane

It feels like one of these weekly spots is reserved for Patrick Kane. He had five goals and three assists in the last five games and has served as a source of energy, even when the rest of the offense is flat. He had a hat-trick against the Wild and willed his team to a win with a goal and three assists against the Jets, a game in which he double-shifted after Brandon Saad’s injury.

The winger passed Doug Wilson and moved into seventh place in team history for games played with 939 and also tied Wilson for the all-time franchise lead in shots with 3,064. While the Blackhawks seem to be fading, Kane’s star continues to shine bright. Goaltender Robin Lehner provided some great insight as to what makes Kane so special.

“He’s such a well-rounded player,” Lehner said. “I think as a goalie, going in practice every day against him, he has such patience with the puck and he’s so accurate with his shot. He doesn’t shoot in the conventional – just go high or try to go bar and in. He goes between the arms, between the legs, over the pads. It’s very hard as a goalie to get a read. He waits you out and then it’s in.”

Trending Down
Brent Seabrook

Due to his $6.875 million cap hit, Brent Seabrook’s lack of production catches him a lot of flack, and rightfully so. He has provided little-to-no offensive production and is on pace for career lows in most statistical categories if you remove the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
Chicago Blackhawks Corey Crawford Brent Seabrook
Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford and defenseman Brent Seabrook (Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)

He went minus-three in three games last week, was a healthy scratch for Wednesday’s game against Colorado, a move that was made in order to give head coach Jeremy Colliton a better look at the team’s youth, and then was withheld from traveling with the team to Winnipeg to be evaluated for injuries. He did contribute two hits and six blocks in those three games, but it’s clear that his value is at an all-time low in terms of his production and in the eyes of his coach.
Playing With An Edge

Whether it’s falling prey to an early scoring onslaught, or the inability to protect a lead, it’s clear that the Blackhawks are playing without an edge. The talent of the roster isn’t really translating into consistent production on the ice, and veteran defenseman Duncan Keith believes it goes beyond the Xs and Os and starts with their intensity.

“We have to get a little more emotion,” Keith said, “It’s not going to just turn around, it’s not going to just happen. We need to make it happen. We need to get a little pissed off. We can go over the Xs and Os and everything and all the stuff, but I think everybody, myself included, has to play with a little more energy, a little more grit, being a little mean out there.”

Colliton echoed those sentiments, believing that they’re handing their opponents opportunities as opposed to capitalizing on their own.

“We’d love to be able to … just have that urgency,” Colliton said. “There were a couple times we had it in the offensive zone and it’s 40 seconds so you’d love to see someone change so we can keep the energy level up. Instead of changing, you extend your shift and you wait until the very last second and it goes the other way and you take a penalty or you give up a chance or it turns into their zone time and they’re able to flip the game.”

Was the convincing win against the Jets a sign of good things to come? Only time will tell. The Blackhawks finish out 2019 with a shot at revenge in Colorado on Saturday, followed by a home game against the New Jersey Devils on Monday. After a short break, they take on the New York Islanders on Friday before traveling to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets two days later. They’ll close out the year with a New Year’s Eve game in Calgary against the Flames.

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Another month in the books, and while November had a promising start (6-1-2 in first 9 games), the Blackhawks finished a somewhat less inspiring 7-5-3, which wasn’t terrible and certainly better than their 3-6-2 October.

That being said, the story of the month was Patrick Kane, who celebrated another birthday (On November 19 – his 31st), but showed no signs at all of slowing down. With 11 goals and 13 assists, his 24 points in November were twice as many as any other Blackhawks player (Toews & DeBrincat tied for second-most with 12). Kane scored or assisted on nearly half of all Blackhawks goals this month – 24 of 49.

Most impressively, Kane’s 24 points set a new high for any month in his NHL career. In addition to being a personal best, Kane’s two dozen points were the most by any Blackhawk in a single month since Jeremy Roenick posted 24 points of his own in March 1994.

Kane was held pointless in his last game of October (Oct 29 at Nashville). That’s the last time he played a game and was held without a tally. He played 15 games this past month and had a point in all of them (he was also perfect in November 2015 – a point in all 13 games in the middle of his career-long 26 game streak). It’s his third career point streak of at least 15+ games; his sixth of at least 10+ games. Kane is the ONLY active player with at least three career point streaks of 15+ games (Sidney Crosby & Evgeni Malkin are the only others with at least two), and Kane joins only Denis Savard (who had four) among Blackhawks with at least three career point streaks of 15+ games.

Kane’s six career double-digit point streaks total 98 games – that’s over ten percent (10.55%) of his 929-game NHL career!

Also this month, Kane went from 103rd (947 points) to 95th (971 points) on the NHL career points list passing seven players, including three Hall of Famers – Chris Chelios (948)*, Vincent Lecavalier (949), Rick Tocchet (952), Larry Robinson (958)*, Kirk Muller (959), Henrik Zetterberg (960) & Maurice “Rocket” Richard (966)*. The spotlight will remain on Kane, as he will pass Shane Doan (972) & Andy Bathgate (973)* within his next few games as he skates towards 1,000 points. Plus while the month has ended, the point streak continues. There should be plenty of Showtime to come in the final month of the year.

*- Hall of Famer

(Thanks to the folks at the NHL for research assistance)

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Three Stars

1. Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights

It’s felt like the Golden Knights haven’t had the greatest luck at times so far this season, and Marchessault fits into that argument, carrying what would be a career-high 5.3 shooting percentage into Wednesday’s game. It’s now at 7.7 percent after Tuesday.

That’s the least dramatic way of saying that Marchessault generated the third hat trick of his career. He turned that game on its head, spoiling the Devils’ first game after firing John Hynes with a natural hat trick.

Alex Tuck presents an alternate option, collecting three assists during this win. Marchessault now has five points in his past three games, while Tuck is at six.

2. John Carlson, Washington Capitals

While Marchessault crept into Tuesday a little cold, Carlson has been ghost pepper-hot for basically all of 2019-20. Carlson scored one goal and two assists during Washington’s win against San Jose, pushing the defenseman to a whopping 40 points in just 29 games. No other defenseman has reached 30 points yet (Dougie Hamilton is second with 28).

Carlson isn’t quite hanging with the absolute top scorers in the NHL any longer, but he’s still holding up pretty well, standing at sixth right now.

For more context on just how special Carlson’s start has been, check the factoids. To help his cause for a strong Tuesday, both of Carlson’s assists were primary assists, and his goal was the game-winner.

3. Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets

Connor Hellebuyck has easily been the most important part of the Jets surviving (and thriving) despite massive talent losses on defense. Key forwards are coming through too, though.

Patrik Laine has been dicing up Dallas for some time, but Connor was a standout on Tuesday, collecting a goal and two assists as the Jets beat the Stars.

Connor now has 24 points in 28 games this season. He’s been heating up lately, in particular, with three goals and three assists for six points during his last four games.

Highlights of the Night

Two examples of serious burst stand out tonight. First, there’s Jason Zucker for the Wild:

Then, Miro Heiskanen finds another gear for the Stars:

Factoids

NHL PR has some impressive John Carlson stats. Carlson is the first defenseman to reach 40 points in 29 games or less since Al MacInnis did so in 1990-91. Also, only three other defensemen beyond Carlson and MacInnis managed to generate at least 40 points in 29 games or less: Bobby Orr (who absurdly did so six times), Denis Potvin (twice), and Paul Coffey once. Yeah, pretty solid, Carlson.
The Montreal Canadiens beat the New York Islanders on Tuesday, ending an eight-game winless streak. The Boston Bruins were the last team to beat the Habs, and after blanking the Hurricanes, the Bruins are now on an eight-game winning streak. The Flyers are on a smaller-but-still-impressive five-game winning streak, which is notable also because of how sore the Maple Leafs were about it.
Wild goalie Kaapo Kahkonen almost earned a three stars nod with 44 saves on Tuesday, the most saves in a game for any rookie goalie in the franchise’s history.
The Canucks inducted Alexandre Burrows into their Ring of Hono(u)r on Tuesday.

Burrows is now officially the seventh member of the #Canucks Ring of Honour! ? pic.twitter.com/Si7DAdpCk6

— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) December 4, 2019

Scores

BOS 2 – CAR 0
MTL 4 – NYI 2
MIN 4 – FLA 2
VGK 4 – NJD 3
PHI 6 – TOR 1
ARI 4 – CBJ 2
TBL 3 – NSH 2 (OT)
WPG 5 – DAL 1
VAN 5 – OTT 2
WSH 5 – SJS 2

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.
Tags: Al MacInnis, Alex Burrows, Alexandre Burrows, Arizona Coyotes, Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers, John Carlson, Jonathan Marchessault, Kyle Connor, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning, The Buzzer, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Vegas Golden Knights, Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets, Connor Hellebuyck, Dougie Hamilton, Jason Zucker, John Carlson, Jonathan Marchessault, Kyle Connor, Miro Heiskanen, Patrik Laine

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Legendary hockey reporter and analyst Stan Fischler will write a weekly scrapbook for NHL.com this season. Fischler, known as “The Hockey Maven,” will share his knowledge, humor and insight with readers each Wednesday.

Today, he remembers the first NHL All-Star game. (Photos courtesy Hockey Hall of Fame)

Those of us who were around for the first NHL All-Star Game, in Toronto on Oct. 13, 1947, treated it as if this was the seventh game of a Stanley Cup Final.

Since it was the first of its kind and pitted the defending champion Toronto Maple Leafs against the All-Stars, there was an extra-special aura about the event, plus it was being played on Thanksgiving Day in Canada.

[RELATED: Full NHL All-Star Game coverage]

“HOCKEY’S GREATEST SHOW,” blared a huge ad in the Globe and Mail newspaper.

There were storylines galore, starting with the fact that no player from the Cup champion Maple Leafs had been voted to the First All-Star team.

“Coach Hap Day will attempt to prove that his fellow strategists made a colossal error in passing up his boys on the all-star selects last Spring,” wrote Jim Vipond in the Globe and Mail.

Globe and Mail columnist Jim Coleman wrote: “The Maple Leafs will be skating against a team which probably is the best aggregation of players ever assembled on one ice surface.”

Who could argue with that assessment?

Dick Irvin, who was coaching the All-Stars, had two Hall of Fame goaltenders in the Montreal Canadiens’ Bill Durnan and the Boston Bruins’ Frank Brimsek.

Irvin, coach of the Canadiens, had four defensemen, Butch Bouchard and Ken Reardon from Montreal, and Jack Stewart and Bill Quackenbush of the Detroit Red Wings.

The forwards were the Canadiens’ Maurice Richard, the Red Wings’ Ted Lindsay, all three members of the Boston Bruins’ Kraut Line, Milt Schmidt, Bobby Bauer and Woody Dumart, and all three players from the Chicago Blackhawks’ Pony Line, Max Bentley, Doug Bentley and Bill Mosienko. Also on the roster were the New York Rangers’ Edgar Laprade, Grant Warwick and Tony Leswick.

There was much debate over who would win, with Bruins general manager Art Ross saying, “Sorry for (Maple Leafs GM Conn) Smythe. The All-Star team is unbeatable.”

Smythe replied, “Ross had better bring a supply of aspirins with him. We’ll shove the whole Leaf team down his throat.”

Rangers GM Frank Boucher was more objective: “If an all-star team played several games together I have not the slightest doubt they could beat all comers easily. But since this is not so I shouldn’t be surprised if Toronto defeated the All-Stars.”

The pregame ceremonies had an aura of pomp and circumstance with Ontario Premier George Drew handling the honorary face-off, and referee King Clancy and linesmen Jim Primeau and Eddie Mepham wearing midnight blue uniforms specially ordered for the game. But once the puck was dropped no player was standing on any ceremonies.

“The clash was ‘exhibition’ in name only as the opposing players ripped into each other with Stanley Cup gusto to the noisy delight of 14,318 fans,” Vipond wrote in the Globe and Mail.

The Maple Leafs took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Harry Watson at 12:29 of the first period, and then Bill Ezinicki scored 1:03 into the second to make it 2-0.

Slowly the All-Stars began to gel, and Max Bentley scored at 4:39 of the second to make it 2-1.

Syl Apps scored for the Maple Leafs to make it 3-1 at 5:01 of the second, but Warwick got the All-Stars back within a goal at 3-2 at 9:25 of the second.

Richard tied it 3-3 28 seconds into the third period, and then set up Doug Bentley’s go-ahead goal at 1:27.

When the clock ran out, the All-Stars skated away with a 4-3 victory.

The event had a gross gate of $25,842, of which $17,228 was earmarked for the new players’ pension fund and $8,614 to the Toronto Community Chest.

The only blemish was the broken left ankle sustained by Mosienko during the second period, an injury that sidelined him for a month.

“He was one of our key men,” Blackhawks forward Johnny Gottselig said. “And a potential 60-point man.”

To replace Mosienko, the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs engineered what at the time was the biggest trade in hockey history. On Nov. 2, 1947, Toronto acquired Max Bentley and forward Cy Thomas, while Chicago received forwards Gus Bodnar, Gaye Stewart and Bud Poile, plus defensemen Bob Goldham and Ernie Dickens.

With Bentley leading them, the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cups three times (1948, 1949, 1951) in the next four seasons.

Despite the injury to Mosienko, the all-star game became an annual affair, with Chicago chosen to host the second game. Blackhawks officials wanted it cancelled because of the Mosienko injury but NHL President Clarence Campbell insisted that it be played, and it was.

Once again the All-Stars beat the Cup champion Maple Leafs, this time 3-1 at Chicago Stadium, on Nov. 3, 1948.

While the game has gone through several changes, when the players skate out for the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game at SAP Center in San Jose on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS), it will be the renewal of a wonderful staple of the hockey season.

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Robin Lehner has been a nothing but gift to the Chicago Blackhawks and their fans.
There is just so much negativity surrounding the Chicago Blackhawks right now. Of course, that is understandable when you find yourself toward the bottom of the standings even though a year ago the team was deemed a “retooling” team on the fly.

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You can really understand why fans are angry about the retooling nonsense that was spewed when the Chicago Blackhawks fired Joel Quenneville over a year ago. A retooling on the fly symbolized a month or so of bad hockey, not two wasted seasons for a team deemed “playoff caliber”.

The Blackhawks’ first two forward call-ups this season — Matthew Highmore and Anton Wedin — are reliable bottom-six grinders, but their potential caps out at that.

The Hawks’ third forward call-up — Dylan Sikura, promoted Sunday from the AHL — brings more skill and a much higher ceiling.

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But Sikura, a 166-pound featherweight, doesn’t have the right body or playing style to ever stick in the NHL as a third-line defensive specialist or fourth-line scrapper.

For him to carve out and maintain a full-time roster spot with the Hawks, he’ll have to prove he can produce offense at a solid rate.

“This time around, [I want to] just prove that I can play, I can stay, be an every-day kind of guy up here,” Sikura said. “There’s times last year — toward the end of the year — where I was proving myself a little bit, and I’m excited to get a fresh start and another chance.”

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Sikura played 33 games in 2018-19 for the Hawks and infamously failed to score, despite stellar performance in virtually every other regard.

The winger spent a lot of time with Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad on his second call-up and finished with the highest Corsi rating (55.4 percent) and scoring-chance ratio (53.2 percent) on the team. Yet he tallied only eight assists.

He’s hoping to get the first-goal subject out of the way quickly this month.

“That’s something that’s important for me — down there [in Rockford], I get a chance … to score goals,” he said. “Obviously that’s something I’d like to do at this level, so hopefully we can put this to rest soon.”

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Sikura has scored goals aplenty with the IceHogs. He leads the team with nine goals and 16 points in 22 games, and he scored 17 goals and 35 points in 46 games last season.

When the Blackhawks signed Robin Lehner this offseason, many fans were rather confused. Now, here we are two months into the season and all I have to say is Robin Lehner is a gift from the hockey gods.

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Lehner is a player who is not afraid to speak his mind, or try and spark something from his teammates. Media and fans alike read into his “wake up” comments to his teammates when he was pulled against the Avalanche, yet no one understands what Lehner was saying.

Lehner was not trying to blame the players or trying to say he is better than them. Instead, he is just saying they can play better as a team, something the Blackhawks have struggled with so far this season.

Chicago has relied heavily on Robin Lehner to steal games for the Blackhawks. He stole a point from the Arizona Coyotes a few nights ago, and even submitted his application for save of the year during that game. Just watch the incredible save Lehner made during the game on Sunday night.

Save of the Year candidate from Robin Lehner. Wow. #Blackhawks pic.twitter.com/AlJpdjrPAN

— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) December 9, 2019

Sure, I know that was just one game and one great save. However, when you look at the numbers, the play of Robin Lehner is actually very remarkable.

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In games that Robin Lehner has won, or lost in OT, he has faced 38 or more shots in 8 out of the 10 games. This includes an incredible 53-save effort against the Toronto Maple Leafs and a 44-save effort against the Coyotes en route to a shootout loss.

Yes, Robin Lehner might not have the best shootout numbers, but rather than scrutinize those numbers, how about we scrutinize the Blackhawks for failing to end the game earlier? Robin Lehner has been forced to stand on his head all season, and things will not change.

The Blackhawks racked up a season-high 27 penalty minutes in Sunday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Arizona Coyotes, 17 of which came from Dennis Gilbert alone. And it all came on one sequence.

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After watching Coyotes defenseman Jason Demers deliver a hit from behind on Alex DeBrincat that went unpenalized, Gilbert skated half the length of the ice to confront Demers and initiated a fight with the 11-year NHL veteran. The scrap didn’t last long, but Gilbert was assessed a two-minute penalty for instigating, five for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct.

DeBrincat said after the game he appreciated Gilbert sticking up for him and so did the Blackhawks bench, most of whom gave Gilbert fist bumps and head taps as he was escorted out. But it came at a time when the Blackhawks were leading 3-2 near the midway mark of the second period and, unfortunately for Gilbert and the team, the Coyotes capitalized on the power play to even things up at 3-3 and it turned out to be the last goal scored in regulation.

“I thought it was a dirty hit,” Gilbert said. “His numbers were showing and he decided to follow through and make the hit still. So it’s tough, having to get an extra penalty for it. It’s no fun and watching them score on the power play, they tie the game up and we end up not getting the win, which is unfortunate. But if you let that stuff happen to players on your team, especially your best players, it’s going to keep happening.

“I’m not a fighter by any means; it kind of happens that coincidentally it’s two games in a row. But I’m going to stand up for myself and for my teammates. … I’m not going to sit back and let somebody get taken advantage of, whether it’s on the ice or walking down the streets in Chicago.”

Generated 12/10/2019.
We owe Corey Crawford a lot, but at the end of the day, I want to see Robin Lehner in the net every night. He is a great teammate who is not afraid to speak his mind about tough topics around in the league.

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Lehner is guaranteed to be in Chicago until the end of the season. I believe it is time to re-sign him before he realizes he might have an easier time winning with a team like San Jose.

I hope Robin Lehner continues to shine in the NHL for a long time. At only 28 years of age, he still has some great years of hockey ahead of him. Hopefully, all in a Chicago Blackhawks’ sweater, of course.