Not much went right for the Chicago Blackhawks last week. They finished 1-2-0 through what was their most pivotal series of 2020-21 to date. Yet, one performance definitely stood out for all the right reasons.
Chicago’s three-game set against the Nashville Predators would likely determine their chances of making any type of late-season push up the Discover Central Division standings. Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, they ended up heading in the wrong direction. Chicago earned only two of a possible six points against a Nashville team who happens to be one of the clubs in their way of a potential playoff berth.
So, with such lacklustre results, how would one player find a way to stand out among the rest with a performance worthy of recognition? It’s quite simple, actually. Just score the game-winner, during a three-point effort, en route to the Blackhawks’ first (and only) victory against the Predators throughout the entirety of the 2020-21 campaign.
With that, I present to you my pick for Blackhawks Star of the Week: Brandon Hagel.
Last Week’s Stats
Hagel accumulated three points in a week that the Blackhawks played three games. While that would otherwise appear like a point-per-game pace, he actually did it all in one contest. He wasn’t even in Chicago’s lineup on Monday.
April 19 @ Nashville Predators: 5-2 (L)
April 21 vs. Nashville Predators: 5-4 (W)
April 23 vs. Nashville Predators: 3-1 (L)
April 19: Out (COVID-19 Protocol)
April 21: 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points
April 23: 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points
It could be argued that production isolated to one game shouldn’t merit an honour that reflects an entire week’s efforts. However, Hagel’s impressive performance that night is what gave the Blackhawks any glimmer of hope whatsoever in this recent series.
Not having spread out his production doesn’t negate Hagel’s impact throughout that one matchup. If anything, it highlights it.
Making It a Game
As anyone who has followed the Blackhawks this season knows, finding ways to win against the Predators has seemed impossible. Up until Wednesday night, Chicago’s record against their division rival was 0-4-2. Nashville has simply bettered them all season long.
The scouting report outlines that the Predators seem to start with more energy, typically getting on the board first and then not letting up. Or, if Nashville had fallen behind early, it didn’t take them long to catch up and run away with things.
Chicago actually kicked things off on Wednesday, with an early goal that Hagel assisted on. However, it only took 10 minutes for Nashville to neutralize that lead. The Predators then scored three more, for good measure. Or so they thought.
Hagel clearly wasn’t content with it being a one-point kind of night, nor was he ready to let Nashville walk away with their seventh straight against Chicago. The Blackhawks scored three late goals to tie things up at 4-4 and force overtime. Hagel notched another assist, too.
While it could have concluded as a quiet two-point night for the 22-year-old, he amplified his presence in the extra frame.
It wasn’t just a highlight-reel goal, either. This play secured Chicago’s first win against Nashville all season, which was not only good for a morale boost but necessary if they expected to tighten up the division’s standings.
Closing the Gap
At the start of the week, the Blackhawks had 47 points (to Nashville’s 49) with 10 games remaining in their season. If they were going to make any headway in the battle for the fourth and final playoff spot coming out of the Discover Central Division, now was the time to do it.
Chicago losing on Monday meant they were stuck at 47, forced to witness Nashville take a step forward to 53. The gap was widening, for the wrong side. It wouldn’t have been hyperbole to claim every game would see Chicago’s season on the line from that point forward. Wins could keep hope alive, while losses simply wouldn’t.
Wednesday’s results would either see the Blackhawks climb closer to the Predators or slip that much further away. Good thing for Chicago, Hagel wasn’t interested in the latter.
The rookie was already enjoying an impressive campaign, having accumulated 16 points through 42 games played. He even earned his first multi-point effort back in late March and his first game-winner a couple of weeks back. Reaching new heights on Wednesday was necessary for this team, but also an important showcase of how much higher Hagel can elevate in the years to come.
Hagel Made History Twice
As if checking off firsts throughout one’s rookie campaign wasn’t exciting enough, adding their name to the history books is a surefire way to elicit joy. Believe it or not, despite Chicago’s storied past, there had only been one rookie to net multiple overtime goals in their first season with the club. Well, Brent Seabrook now has company in that category, as Hagel became the second to join the list.
Hagel’s influence through Chicago’s 5-4 comeback victory actually dug even deeper and right into their franchise record books, as well.
“That’s a comeback,” Chicago coach Jeremy Colliton said. “We put ourselves in a pretty big hole, stuck with it, never gave up.”
Indeed, scoring three goals in the span of 2:51 signals quite a comeback. In fact, it’s only the second time in Blackhawks’ history that they successfully rallied from such depths within the last 10 minutes of a game, to come out with a win by the end of it.
Although a complete team effort was on full display throughout that impressive victory, Hagel is the clear choice as the star who shone the brightest. So much so that his individual effort in that single game was more than enough to justify choosing him as my Blackhawks Star of the Week.
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