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Blackhawks face tough test with Kane's history out of the way

Blackhawks face tough test with Kane's history out of the way

Kevin Kaduk
Kevin Kaduk

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Good morning, frents!

OK, it's been a year: Let's try this March thing again.

Sunday's results
Hawks 7, Wings 2
Brewers 7, Sox 2
Bulls at Raptors, PPD

Today's schedule
Sox at Angels (2, no TV)
Cubs at Padres (2, MLB.TV)
Nuggets at Bulls (7, NBCSCH)

400 for the history books

The Hawks are about to embark on the season's toughest stretch, so maybe it's a good thing they got history out of the way.

Patrick Kane scored his 400th career goal in Sunday's 7-2 win over Detroit, a dragged and delayed laser that couldn't have been any more perfect. He's the 100th player in NHL history to reach that number and just the fourth Blackhawk joining Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Steve Larmer.

The goal came in an empty United Center with only Gene Honda's pronouncement lending any sense of normalcy to the achievement.

"It would be nice to have my parents here, and Amanda and my son," Kane told reporters. "But it's the way it is this world right now."

That present world includes a 56-game schedule in the NHL and the Hawks are already 23 games deep. Sunday's win moved their record to 12-7-4, good enough for third place in the Central. They're a point ahead of Carolina and seven points clear of fifth-place Columbus.

Can the Hawks stay comfortably above the playoff cut line for the second part of the season? The next stretch of games should tell us a lot.

It starts on Thursday when the defending Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning roll into town for a three games in four-day stretch that we might never see again after this season. The unique series kicks off an 11-game span in which the Hawks will only play the Lightning (five games), Panthers (four) and Stars (two).

We wanted a barometer of whether these Hawks are for real and, well, here it is. Though the Stars have been flagging after their Stanley Cup Final appearance last season — even the Red Wings have compiled more points — the Lightning and Panthers sit atop the Central Division.

You might remember the Hawks kicked off this season with four straight losses in Florida by a combined score of 20-9. We thought it'd be a lost season for the Hawks, a punted campaign for nothing more than a high spot in the draft order.

But things gelled pretty quickly for this team. Kevin Lankinen, who stopped 44 of Detroit's 46 shots on Sunday, emerged as a leader for the Calder Trophy. Several other rookies stepped up in a lineup hurt by the absence of Jonathan Toews, Kirby Dach and Alex Nylander.  Patrick Kane started assembling a play on what could be his second MVP season.

Now after a 9-3-1 February, the Hawks can silence a few more doubters with a solid start to March.

It won't be easy. They weren't great against the Wings this weekend — Sunday's result notwithstanding — and the Lightning and Panthers will punish the Hawks for mistakes more frequently than the Wings did. Go ahead and give the Lightning 46 shots on net and see what happens.

At the same time, what better test for the recipe the Hawks have been baking with? Get ready for a couple of interesting weeks.

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Spring training news

The Sox played their first game on Sunday and the Cubs are up today. But the weekend's biggest baseball news came with Kap reporting the city will allow some fans at both ballparks in time for Opening Day.

Yes! Feel free to join me in a celebratory Diamond Dave leg kick.

There aren't many more details, but I'm guessing that season ticket holders are going to get their rewards. The biggest question is how many ... and then how quickly that number will expand throughout the season.

Sox

The Sox fell 7-2 to the Brewers in their spring training opener, but we've got a box score to look at, people!

  • Adam Engel hit a two-run homer in the first, which meant we didn't have to wait long for Len Kasper's first White Sox home run call. I assume we'll get used to it at some point, but hearing Len call a Sox homer on the radio felt a little disorienting.
  • If a top prospect drawing walks is your thing, Andrew Vaughn did it against Brewers pitching twice.
  • Alex McRae will get today's start after Mike Wright, a fellow non-roster invitee, started Sunday's game. Lucas Giolito is set to start Tuesday after Texas while Lance Lynn is slated to start Thurday against the Giants.

Cubs

Kyle Hendricks will throw 2021's first pitch for the Cubs in today's game against the Padres. David Ross already released the lineup with Rizzo-Contreras-Pederson-Baez leading off the top of the order.

Bulls-Raps called off

It wasn't a banner weekend for the Bulls. After fading late against Phoenix on Friday, the team flew down to Florida to face the Raptors in Tampa. But Sunday's game was postponed with Toronto unable to produce eight players free of the COVID protocol. The Bulls are back in action against the Nuggets tonight at the UC; All-Star break starts Friday.

  1. Mark Potash on the fallback plan at QB that no Bears fan wants to talk about. Sun-Times
  2. Loren Tate asks the question: Is Ayo Dosunmu or Kofi Cockburn the MVP of Illinois hoops this season? News-Gazette
  3. RIP to Irv Cross, a Hammond native and Northwestern product who played in the NFL and blazed trails as an African-American broadcaster. Gary Post-Tribune
  4. Annie Costabile with a good explainer on the Red Stars getting six allocated players for the 2021 season. Sun-Times
  5. Why a downtown brewery pivoted from tacos to pizza in the middle of the pandemic. Eater Chicago