What if the Blackhawks are actually good?

The Blackhawks stripped down their roster over the offseason and essentially constructed the team to be one of the worst in the NHL so they can be in the hunt for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. Heck, even a Top 3 pick in general.

What I don’t think anyone expected is for the Blackhawks to actually be respectably competitive.

After Tuesday’s 4-2 victory over Florida, the Blackhawks have now rattled off four consecutive wins, three of which have been multi-goal comebacks. They also have the fourth-best points percentage in the Western Conference, just like we all predicted.

Which begs the question: What if the Blackhawks are actually good? I mean, are they?

I think the answer is a little complicated.

Typically when teams get hot, it’s because of an abnormal shooting percentage and/or save percentage, but that’s not what’s happening with the Blackhawks. They have a 5-on-5 on-ice shooting percentage of 7.41 and a team save percentage of .915 for a PDO of .990, per Natural Stat Trick, which combines the two percentages. For context, the mean is 100.

The biggest reason for the Blackhawks’ early-season success has been special teams, specifically the penalty kill, which went 6-for-6 against Florida. They have killed off 20 of their last 21 penalties and have scored four shorthanded goals, which is already double their amount from last season. That’ll work.

Are the Blackhawks more competitive? Sure they are. Are they buying into Luke Richardson as their head coach and running through walls for him? Absolutely. Does it also maybe have something to do with the fact the Blackhawks changed the makeup of their roster by adding more speed and competitive-edge-type players? You betcha.

But the jury is still out on just how good these Blackhawks really are. After all, the Blackhawks’ first three wins came against San Jose, Detroit and Seattle, three teams that weren’t expected to be playoff contenders going into the season. They’ve also trailed 2-0 in all three of those games, although give them credit for the comebacks.

Despite the Panthers’ late push in the latter stages of the third period, Tuesday’s win felt like the most comfortable of the season from start to finish because the Blackhawks led for 57:03 of the 60 minutes. But even so, the Panthers out-chanced the Blackhawks 34-10 at even strength, so it’s not like the Blackhawks dominated the game.

I think the more important question is, are the Blackhawks not bad enough to be in the conversation for a lottery pick? And what happens if they aren’t?

The next few weeks will probably give us a better idea of ​​what this Blackhawks team is or isn’t, and then we can draw some better conclusions. Right now, the Blackhawks are probably enjoying defying outside expectations.

“I’m not sure if we really have too many expectations in here,” Patrick Kane said. “We just want to play hard and give ourselves a chance every night. I think the confidence is pretty high in here. We have a feeling that we can win every night if we play the right way.

“It’s a good group in here. Good guys, good feeling. But as far as having that underdog mentality, there’s really nothing to lose in here and hopefully we can start filling up the building again, everyone can get excited about this team and where we can go.”

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