NHL Rink Wrap: Blackhawks get first win, league loses off the ice

NHL Rink Wrap: Blackhawks get first win, league loses off the ice
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Top player from Monday in the NHL

Patrick Kane, Blackhawks

The past week or so hasn’t just been rough on the Blackhawks as a franchise. Faces of the franchise Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have given, uh, less-than-ideal statements in the wake of the Blackhawks’ internal investigation, and Kyle Beach’s emotional interview.

(Kane rubbed people the wrong way by calling Stan Bowman a “great man.” Toews went as far as to claim Bowman and Al McIsaac weren’t “directly complicit in the activities that happened.” Not great.)

But, for whatever it’s worth, Patrick Kane did enough to earn player of the night for Monday in the NHL. He generated a hat trick plus an assist, while Toews produced three assists.

Highlights from Monday in the NHL (Blackhawks – Senators, Oilers – Kraken, Lightning – Capitals)

With a fairly light three-game slate in the NHL on Monday, why not enjoy highlights from each contest?

First, the Lightning cooled off the Capitals with a close win:

Here’s footage of Patrick Kane’s hat trick during the Blackhawks’ first win of the season:

Finally, Draisaitl took over as the Oilers leashed the Kraken:

Monday’s NHL takeaways

Few impressed by Bettman, NHL after press conference regarding Blackhawks sexual assault lawsuit

The NHL, Blackhawks, and others received a lot of criticism for how they handled sexual assault allegations toward Brad Aldrich following the release of an internal investigation, and Kyle Beach’s heartfelt interview with TSN’s Rick Westhead. Following those blunders, there have been additional blunders along the way. For every important-if-maybe-obvious decision gone right (Joel Quenneville and Stan Bowman resigning), there have been plenty head-scratchers. Even decisions that lean in the right direction (Aldrich’s name being removed from the Stanley Cup) come with caveats, like why Aldrich remained with the Blackhawks weeks after the allegations, and why there wasn’t an earlier discussion to remove his name.

After a while, it’s exhausting to sort through the many blunders.

On Monday, Gary Bettman and Bill Daly held a press conference regarding the Blackhawks, Beach, Quenneville, Kevin Cheveldayoff, and other matters.

Ultimately, that press conference echoed the process. It’s almost overwhelming to try to summarize every comment that came across as cold and/or tone deaf. You can watch the nearly hour-long session below:

 

At a wide variety of outlets, people criticized Bettman’s press conference. And rightfully so; the NHL deserves every ounce of criticism.

Broadly speaking, Bettman’s press conference far too often inserted legalese where feelings should be.

Reflecting upon the cartoonishly bad decision for Joel Quenneville to coach the Panthers last Wednesday — with plenty of time after the report, and shortly after Beach’s emotional interview — Bettman explained that he didn’t want to “prejudge” the coach. Well, following an often-dismal press conference, plenty of people are forming harsh judgments about the priorities of Bettman and the NHL.

Blackhawks get their first win of 2021-22

The Coyotes (0-8-1) now stand as the NHL’s lone winless team in 2021-22. In their 10th game, the Blackhawks won their first game of the season, decisively defeating a mediocre Senators team.

That first win breaks the Blackhawks’ slump, but they dug themselves a big hole. The 1-7-2 Blackhawks and those winless Coyotes join miserable Montreal (2-8-0) as the NHL’s three teams who haven’t reached three wins yet this season.

Would more wins attract fans again after the Blackhawks’ sellout streak ended? Tough to blame would-be fans if they decide to no longer cheer for a team with such an ugly past. (Particularly if you believe they should change their team name and/or logo, too.)

At least there’s some relief for Marc-Andre Fleury, right?

McDavid and Draisaitl: still unstoppable

After Tuesday’s win over the Kraken, the Oilers are one of the NHL’s hottest teams (7-1-0). That strong start leaves the Oilers atop the Western Conference standings.

People might be tempted to chalk it up to some key additions. Once he got vaccinated, Duncan Keith was able to lead. Zach Hyman does all that dirty work. And so on.

But, come on. It’s still all about Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. On Tuesday, Draisaitl made a bit for NHL player of the night, collecting two goals and two assists. That outburst pushes Draisaitl to 17 points in eight games. With a mere assist (*snickers* sheesh), McDavid also sits at 17 points in eight games.

When they can dominate like this, and occasionally carry their own lines, it borders on unfair.

Tuesday’s big story

Can the Maple Leafs beat a banged-up Golden Knights squad?

At 4-4-1, and with a two-game winning streak, the Maple Leafs seemed to have stabilized things. You know, at least until the next opportunity to create widespread panic.

What better way to get people (who said they wouldn’t care until the playoffs) to care about one of 82 games than to put a lot of weight into injuries? On Tuesday, the Golden Knights are expected to look a lot less like the Golden Knights opponents know and fear. Instead, William Karlsson is unavailable alongside Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, Nolan Patrick, and others.

So, people will say: the Maple Leafs just have to beat the Golden Knights on Tuesday. If they do, no big deal. If they don’t, very big deal.

Definitely a healthy way to enjoy hockey.

Monday’s NHL scores

Lightning 3, Capitals 2
Blackhawks 5, Senators 1
Oilers 5, Kraken 2

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.