Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks Begin 2021 Preseason With Shootout Loss

The Chicago Blackhawks played a hockey game at the United Center on Wednesday night. And there were fans in the seats. And the “other team” wasn’t their teammates. It was the Detroit Red Wings.

Well… the roster the Red Wings sent to Chicago to start the preseason.

Let’s keep this on point: it’s hard to make any grand statements about who’s awesome/incredible/a superstar and who sucks against what looked mostly like an AHL roster from Detroit. So instead of digging into who did what, instead we’ll focus on a few wider themes.

The Good

Jonathan Toews is back, and that’s a beautiful thing. And he looked good, too. After the first period he talked to Eddie Olczyk and made a joke about needing to watch film of the defensive zone, but for a guy who was off the grid for a full calendar year he looked strong. There will be some rough spots as he gets to know a roster that’s almost completely new from the last time he dressed for a game in the bubble, but damn if it didn’t make the heart jump a little to see 19 in red again.

Toews on a line with Philip Kurashev and Dominik Kubalik was intriguing. They combined for a goal to get Chicago on the board. Toews won seven of his first 10 faceoffs over the first two periods and skated 13:03 of the first 40 minutes. In total for the night, Toews won 15 of 21 faceoffs and skated 22:48. He then scored to open the shootout just like old times.

Lukas Reichel looks like he’s the goods. In his first NHL period, Reichel showed really good instincts and good speed. We’ll see how Jeremy Colliton slots him into situations as the preseason continues and which teammates he joins on the ice, but there was a lot to like from his debut. He scored a pretty goal in the shootout as well.

Adam Gaudette was impressive, too. He led the Blackhawks with six shots on net in the first two periods and showed pretty good jump.

Henrik Borgstrom had a strong debut. He was good at the dot early (which already gives him a step ahead of Dylan Strome in the battle for a center job). Borgstrom missed a backcheck early but also showed off some of the skill that made him dominant in college at the University of Denver. He finished 8-for-17 at the dot.


I’m still not sure what to make of Jujhar Khaira. If the Blackhawks want to be harder to play against, he’s willing to throw his weight around. And he scored a goal on Wednesday night on a nice redirect of a Connor Murphy shot. But if the Hawks want to be faster up and down the ice, and want the 12 best forwards in the organization to be dressed for the majority of the team’s games… I can’t see a scenario where he’s one of the top 12. Or even the top 15.

The blue line is far from settled. Wyatt Kalynuk was one of the really nice surprises last year, and on Wednesday he was handed the heaviest ice time among the Hawks’ defensemen. He got hammered behind the net early in the game and looked more tentative than he was at the end of last year. Caleb Jones looked pretty good. Riley Stillman was the same physical presence he was after the Blackhawks acquired him last year. There are just so many bodies for Colliton to choose from right now and nobody in this game really stood out.

Kevin Lankinen’s numbers were terrific. And last year he proved he can compete at the NHL level. He should be the Hawks’ backup netminder behind Marc-Andre Fleury this year. But we haven’t seen anything from the rest of the group, including Malcolm Subban. If I had a vote (shockingly, I don’t)… I would have Lankinen locked into the No. 2 spot on the depth chart now and would be working to find Subban a new home before the end of camp.

The Not-So-Good

Alex Nylander continues to do very little for anyone. He reacts; he doesn’t drive the action. There are flashes of skill but they’re way too few and far between for him to be on the NHL roster this season. Yes, with all the caveats about who the Hawks were playing and when this is in the preseason… Reichel and Borgstrom and Gaudette are better options for the NHL roster right now.

Kirby Dach had a tough night. He fell a few times early and got his butt kicked at the dot all night. He had a few good moments and showed good speed and his passing was on point but he needs to get stronger in the faceoff circle – still. Dach won six of 21 faceoffs in the game.

Jeremy Colliton. Per usual. I get it… he wanted to see what the guys had in the first preseason game. But riding Toews for almost 23 minutes? For what? A meaningless win? Get the captain some run and some situational work and keep him in the middle of the pack. Toews handled it because he’s a pro’s pro, but I was surprised Colliton put him out there as much as he did.

27 thoughts on “Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks Begin 2021 Preseason With Shootout Loss

  • September 29, 2021 at 10:48 pm

    I assume Toews’ useage was in consult with the captain

    Despite being pre-season there were too many bad habits from last year still present – not holding 3rd period leads for one

    Lankinen was not that good – one softy and schooled in the shootout

    The Hawks backed right off the DET point man allowing him to get the puck through for a scramble that turned into the game tying goal with the extra attacker on

    Reichel looks like he should be on the team and Gaudette and Kurashev as well

    I didn’t watch the whole game but Nylander was invisible – not sure about Borgstrom but he’s intriguing

    C Jones was good – Kalynuk Stillman just ok – Beaudin Phillips RKF bound

    This version of Hawks still seemed pretty easy to play against – see how they look by opening night

  • September 29, 2021 at 11:21 pm

    There’s plenty to breakdown but the main takeaway was Toews looked good. If that is the level of play he can play all season long – then everything else matters.

    Yeah Detroit wasn’t playing most of their top players but you could still see some pretty positive things from a few of the Hawks players – most notably Kurashev and Gaudette who were in the play all over the ice. Reichel, Hagel and Dach were pretty good too.

    Hallelujah! Hockey is back.

  • September 30, 2021 at 7:09 am

    Thanks Tab and guys for the review of the game. Just under 2 weeks and 5 more preseason games to regular season. First week and first game the positives seem to me to far outweigh the negatives, a very good sign. Strome and Nylander not looking good but is there enough top 6 depth without them both when injuries play a role has to be asked too. Goalies seem set and blueline to start year at least except for a spot or2 are set. Mostly top 9 set with exception of a couple of spots, Reichel presents a good problem not a bad one on keeping him around. Toews looking so ready is a real plus and surprise this early, hopefully no setbacks or only minor ones if there are any for him.

  • September 30, 2021 at 8:12 am

    Nylander in the words of Bob Seager is “Still the same”. Stan needs to find him a new home.

  • September 30, 2021 at 8:52 am

    Nylander played his first game in over a year. He may be a lost cause but it’s premature to make a final decision on him. That said, there was one play that comes to mind that doesn’t bode well for him – he was trying to get the puck along the boards and was checked out of the way like he was a 98lbs weakling.

  • September 30, 2021 at 8:52 am

    Nice write up Tab. The only thing I might not agree with is that I didn’t see much too like in C Jones. Kurashev as much as I like him wants me wanting more, he seems to be pacing himself at times.

    Borg, Gaudette, Reichel should be locks but that all depends on moves Stan might or might nit

    Considering everything JC playing Toews 22 minutes is crazy in a preseason nothing game.

  • September 30, 2021 at 10:23 am

    Toews needs game reps for his timing and conditioning – if he couldn’t handle the minutes he would have said so but afterwards he said he felt good

    I’m taking the positive view that he played that much and felt good and still made a strong shootout move after playing those minutes – that’s a positive not a negative

  • September 30, 2021 at 11:36 am

    The good news is that Toews was back and seems OK. The rest we’ve seen last year. Borgstrom looks to be this years Kampf. Nylander is still Nylander, lost. The defense is still the defense we’ve seen last year, coached by Captain Clueless. Sure were a lot empty seats last night. Sure were a lot of ads trying to sell tickets plus some encouragement to buy tickets from Foley and Enzo. I wonder how the “investigation” is going???

  • September 30, 2021 at 11:58 am

    Colliton said these are the players/lines for the game tomorrow. Toews is playing again which bodes well after playing 22 minutes last night.

    DeBrincat-Tyler Johnson-Kane
    Hardman-Reese Johnson-Pour

    McCabe-Seth Jones
    Caleb Jones-De Haan


  • September 30, 2021 at 12:17 pm

    I’ve seen better beer league games, granted it’s the 1st pre season game.
    Borgstrom looks like Victor Ejdsell 2.0…skinny and weak, Nylander, same, weak, see what the next game looks like, Hawks are still a soft play against, they will be man handled all season again.

  • September 30, 2021 at 12:48 pm

    It’s game 1 and it’s very early ! You won’t know until Christmas who is showing up and who is not ! Gone are 2,4 and 7 so what do you expect ! No more seasoned goalie and at least give 19 some credit ! A lot of the comments I see are from people that never laced up a pair of skates and stepped foot on the rink ! There are a lot of fans that are very critical ! TheHawks still wish they had #28 LARMS in the lineup ! You roll the dice with every horse you’ve got today ! We will see who the real horses are ! POPS 4

  • September 30, 2021 at 1:05 pm

    bowman keeps getting size but with players who don’t want to use it. Obviously defense and positioning is more important, but if they could do that while applying some hits, there’d be so much more energy and momentum on the ice. of the 5 hits or so in the game, I only remember the one by stillman.

    still excited to keep watching this team, especially the top line, top d pair, and top goalie next game!

  • September 30, 2021 at 1:50 pm

    Playing Toews over 23 minutes in a pre-season game is stupid and irresponsible period.. Let’s package Nylander and Strome in a deal for a bag of pucks and finally be done with both of those soft floaters. Great to see Gaudette,Kurashev,and Borgstrom have solid games. All 3 should be in the opening night lineup.

  • September 30, 2021 at 2:01 pm

    Good to see the board in mid-season form.

    Welcome back Walldogs. I missed you the past month.

  • September 30, 2021 at 2:38 pm

    Silent Spot lol. Strome and Nylander aren’t going to earn a regular roster spot on the 4th line. Unlikely Strome gets a top 9 spot at this point, Nylander as pressbox guy on a minimum caphit who can play top 6 if needed could still be an asset for this year probably without blocking somebody in that role, even if unlikely to be a long term answer. The 4 middle 6 winger spots look like Kubalik, Kurashev, Hagel and Reichel if he is ready. Borgstrom and Gaudette in running if not and a be looked at as possible 4th liners too along with a few others. Wouldn’t rule out if T. Johnson starts year between Cat and Kane, that Dach doesn’t end up with Toews and Kubalik either, if their C depth proves strong enough to handle 3-4 C roles then should be a consideration for a number of possible reasons.

  • September 30, 2021 at 2:44 pm

    Pops4 if we’re going to the way back machine lets get Hull, Mikita and Savard too. Unfortunately that ship has sailed so we go with what we have, let’s give them a chance. Except Nylander!

  • September 30, 2021 at 2:51 pm

    How about Strome Connelly Nylander and a pick for either one of the Tkachuk boys.

  • September 30, 2021 at 5:07 pm

    JR – in your dreams. ; )

  • September 30, 2021 at 5:11 pm

    Borgstrom has some good puck skills and some speed and he’s only just getting used to the smaller ice – I’m not sold on him but willing to give him some time to adjust

    Ian – I wonder if it’s Nylander who ends up getting moved – probably not difficult but a low end pick – it may be harder to get proper value for Strome at this point maybe better to wait for TDL

    We’ll see but I think one of those two is gone by opening night

  • September 30, 2021 at 7:15 pm

    I’m not sure if DCat-Johnson-Kane is going to work but the three of them are somewhere in the top-9. Toews, Hagel, Kubalik and Dach are too. That leaves 2 spots in the top-9. My votes go to Kurashev and Gaudette. Reichel in Rockford. Borgstrom in the mix somewhere. The rest – ???

  • September 30, 2021 at 9:29 pm

    Wrap, Strome was given a nice contract and a golden opportunity, where he was disappointment, seems like they don’t want him anymore. Gotta believe he is moved, makes cap work better for opening day as well. Think Nylander was signed to low risk, low caphit show me type deal they can carry easier, so maybe they want to see a little more before giving up on him. I don’t believe either is likely to be a long term piece but one thing that people have been complaing about last few years is the lack of depth available, now they have some, trading it all away before you can take advantage of it, defeats the purpose of accumulating it as well. Nylander can be high skilled role player, while player development continues, then move him during the season when teams want a cheap top 6 guy to bolster their roster.

  • September 30, 2021 at 10:53 pm

    EB tend to agree Johnson between Cat and Kane may not likely be together long. In fact wouldn’t be at all surprised if Toews shows he can continue to handle a regular load that he centers that line. Then build a couple of scoring support lines around Dach and T. Johnson behind them. A little competition with who fits where with them and what the 4th line looks like ongoing into season.

  • September 30, 2021 at 10:53 pm

    Ian – all good points and ones I’ve thought of as well but you can’t simply give Strome away which although it may be tempting isn’t smart

    If he does get traded by opening night and Stan gets back anything of real value I’ll be impressed – it feels like it’s going to end up a player dump

  • September 30, 2021 at 11:43 pm

    Can’t believe Hawks played Toews for 20 some minutes in a preseason game at $11million/year after paying him all last year as he sat out.
    JUST MAYBE they need to see if he can “play” still.
    GO HAWKS !!!!!!!!!

  • October 1, 2021 at 7:55 am

    Hagel,19, Reichel- will be great line
    I wished for it weeks ago. 2 young aggressive smart players… will help 19 look 5 years younger.

    Reichel is top 9 forward on this team
    Only hold back will b duds, w non waiver exempt status… that SB is looking to flip.
    How long will he have to wait depends on other team’s injuries, etc.

    Gaudette deserves a spot too

    Looking forward to Galvas. I think he looked great, poised in prospect games.
    Skinny as hell… but a very poised player w great understanding of game and time and space.

    Kinda reminds me of TvR with less size. But really good instincts for D.

  • October 1, 2021 at 9:04 am

    hard to say when to trade strome or nylander. it just goes to show how tough this league is. they both obviously have skill but they just refuse to give more than 80% (and that’s generous), while players like hinostroza or hagel probably have less natural talent but make up for it with playing like their life is on the line. like others were saying there’s likely not much of a return on either of these players, might as well just keep them as depth players. if they have even a few good games it could help their return…at least can’t hurt it, right?

  • October 1, 2021 at 1:23 pm

    If Reichel starts in RKF (not the worst thing for him) and Connolly is waived then there’s no imperative to trade anyone right away – just sit on Nylander and Strome and wait for a team to become desperate

    The 14 FWs could line up like this

    Kub Toews Kurashev
    DCat Johnson Kane
    Gaudette Dach Hagel
    Khaira Borgstrom/Strome Carp


    the 7 D are set – it’s just what are the pairings and who is #7, Stillman or C Jones (based on 1 exhibition game I’d say Jones has the upper hand at the moment but that could change)

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