Blackhakws notebook: Kubalik taking off, Toews an overtime machine, Lehner and Crawford's future, and more

By Thomas Gibbons

Over .500…again

It’s been a rollercoaster ride these past few weeks for the Blackhawks. Its two steps forward and one step back. Beating Colorado and Winnipeg on the road was impressive yet you do not show up against the Devils at home? One of the weirdest games to date. Since that embarrassment though, the Blackhawks are 6-3 including Tuesday night’s overtime winner off the stick of Jonathan Toews. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Blackhawks are just five points out of the second wild card spot in the West with five games to go before the All-Star break.

Dominik Kubalik has seven goals in the Blackhawks last five games

The youngsters are taking over and its a good thing! Kubalik is the latest of the Blackhawks rookies to make a significant impact. His seven goals in his last five put him in first place among rookies in goals this season and a strong candidate for the Calder Trophy.

A big reason for Kubalik’s recent success is playing alongside Toews and Patrick Kane. The Blackhawks do not start games with this line combo and rightfully so. With Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw still out of the lineup, playing these three together all the time would leave an imbalance down the rest of the lineup. However, head coach Jeremy Colliton is going to play them together at certain points in the game.

Kubalik was a bit of an unknown coming into camp. He was acquired from the Los Angeles Kings in 2019 for a fifth-round pick in the 2019 NHL draft. He signed a one-year deal last summer with a chance to be a long-term member of the Blackhawks young core.

With his play of late, there is no question he should be back next season. The conversation has now shifted to how much his deal will be. The Blackhawks will be in somewhat of a salary cap crunch with having to still pay Dylan Strome, Robin Lehner, and Alex DeBrincat’s new deal going on the books. It will be another interesting summer to see how Stan Bowman handles the roster.

With his game-winner last night, Jonathan Toews continues to succeed in 3-on-3 overtime.

Captain Clutch is 100% correct. Toews continued to dominate the 3-on-3 Tuesday night in Ottawa for his eighth point in five games.

While missing the All-Star game after not being voted in as part of the NHL Last Man In, Toews is an All-Star for the Blackhawks through the good and bad times. He’s one of the biggest voices in the locker room and a leader through his play.

I really liked when the NHL adjusted their overtime format. I had seen it in the AHL and it was highly entertaining. It has led to many highlight reel plays and a different strategical approach for teams.

Both Robin Lehner and Corey Crawford have recently talked about their future with the Blackhawks.

One of the biggest decisions for the Blackhawks come summertime will be the goalie position as their coveted goaltenders will be free agents.

It is hard to say where the Blackhawks would be without the stellar play of Lehner. He’s been phenomenal and has become a fan favorite due to his play along with his honest postgame conversations with the media. As for Crawford, he’s the two-time Stanley Cup winner who’s dealt with injury in recent years. He’s still capable of being a starting goaltender in the NHL. But can the Blackhawks afford to bring both back? It’s highly unlikely.

Lehner has stressed that he is not going to take a discount and rightfully so. He loves Chicago but it is time to get paid his worth.

As for Crawford, he expects to keep playing next season whether it is the Blackhawks or not.

You cannot blame Crawford for not wanting a backup role. He’s been the starter since 2010 and the backbone of two Stanley Cup championships and all the playoff runs.

Given the cap space, as discussed earlier, it is unlikely both return. Lehner is younger and is playing at a higher level. Also, the Blackhawks have young goalies in Colin Delia and Kevin Lankinen who would both be solid options as the backup netminder next season in an effort to save some money. Plus the Blackhawks need to evaluate those beyond the AHL. Delia has had a taste of the NHL while Lankinen has yet to appear in a game.

Prospect Ian Mitchell scored a ridiculous goal last week and it is a must-see!

Arguably one of the best in college hockey this season, Mitchell looks to be a solid player and will be another young defensemen to add to the mix next season.

Mark Lazerus did a cool piece in the Athletic Chicago with Patrick Kane

The Athletic is great and Lazerus and Scott Powers do a great job with their Blackhawks coverage. If you have not checked out this story yet it is a great piece.

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