Blackhawks defenseman Slater Koekkoek

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Zawaski: Observations From Hawks' Win Over Kings

Alex Nylander and Slater Koekkoek have continued to impress.

Jay Zawaski
October 28, 2019 - 11:00 am
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(670 The Score) The Blackhawks stopped the bleeding of their four-game losing streak with a 5-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday evening. While the Kings aren’t exactly the 1980s Oilers, it was a much-needed win, regardless of the opponent.

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So what did we learn? Let's break it down.

Reunited 

Besties Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat were reunited as linemates -- with Ryan Carpenter as their right wing -- and the duo made the best of the reunion. They combined for six points, a plus-6 rating and their best game of the season. It was a great development for the Blackhawks, as Strome had struggled early in the season and seemed lost without DeBrincat on his line. The pair has uncanny and undeniable chemistry. They’re better together and should remain together for the sake of the team.

I still can’t help but be concerned that Strome only seems to thrive when he’s with DeBrincat. He’s due a new contract this summer, likely in the $5.5 million-$6 million range annually. Do the Hawks want to commit that kind of money if they’re uncertain of Strome’s ability to generate offense on his own?

Nylander doing it all

Winger Alex Nylander was one of the Blackhawks' most noticeable and effective players Sunday. In 13:20 of ice time, he had an assist, four shots on goal, three hits and two takeaways. In one of his best moments of the game, he chased down Kings forward Dustin Brown, who was streaking to a prime scoring chance. Nylander lifted his stick from behind, preventing even a shot on goal. His play and commitment in the neutral and defensive zones were the big questions about Nylander when he was acquired. He’s gotten better every game. 

He actually did it

The biggest question I had about Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton entering the season has been answered. Would he be willing to bench a core member of the team if his play dictated? 

Sunday night showed that he's willing to do so, as he healthy scratched Brent Seabrook. Hawks fans only get to see Seabrook about three times a week for three hours at a time, but those close to the team know he’s the Blackhawks’ vocal leader. This move is more than just "he’s not playing well." It’s a message to the veteran players on this team that anyone can be benched, so everyone needs to be better. 

That’s important because for the most part, it’s been the Blackhawks veterans that have let the team down this season. 

Coo-coo for Koekkoek

I’m so sorry for the title of this graph, but defenseman Slater Koekkoek has been really good since Connor Murphy went down with an injury. Koekkoek was a plus-4 with two assists and four hits Sunday. He was also the Blackhawks' best defenseman in their humiliating loss to the Flyers on Thursday, when he had a 75 percent 5v5 Corsi rating. 

There's no argument that he’s not one of the Hawks' best six defensemen. He might be one of their three or four best. Wherever you rank him, it’d be coo-coo to not keep Koekkoek in the lineup. (I’m so sorry.)

Jay Zawaski is the executive producer of the Bernstein & McKnight Show on 670 middays from 9 a.m. to noon, a columnist for 670 The Score and the co-host of the Madhouse Chicago Hockey Podcast, which is available on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify or your preferred podcast app. He's also the host of Locked on Blackhawks and the I'm Fat Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @JayZawaski670.​​​