Winners of 4 straight, feisty Blackhawks are on a roll

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Blackhawks defenseman Seth Jones (4) greets teammates after he scored a goal against the Kraken during the win over Seattle on Wednesday night. Jones, after a pretty blah start to the season, has really picked it up over the last couple of weeks.

    Blackhawks defenseman Seth Jones (4) greets teammates after he scored a goal against the Kraken during the win over Seattle on Wednesday night. Jones, after a pretty blah start to the season, has really picked it up over the last couple of weeks. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 11/18/2021 6:17 PM

It's official: The Chicago Blackhawks are on fire.

After dropping 11 of their first 12 games -- often in unsightly fashion -- the Hawks won their fourth straight with a 4-2 victory at Seattle on Wednesday.

 

It was by no means a perfect 60 minutes as the Kraken forced the action in the final two periods and nearly erased a 3-0 deficit.

Still, a win's a win -- and that's exactly what this team needs after a brutal start.

With the Hawks looking to make it five straight with a win at Edmonton, this is the perfect time to unveil the first "Five Things" column of the season ...

He won't back down:

Anyone who thinks he'll have an easy time in a fight with Alex DeBrincat is in for a big surprise because the 5-foot-7 forward can definitely sling 'em.

Seattle's Yanni Gourde found that out the hard way early in the third period Wednesday after DeBrincat took exception to some rough play. Seconds later, the gloves were off and DeBrincat was landing haymaker after haymaker.

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"He punched me in the head behind the net and then he went after (Patrick Kane) and cross-checked him," said DeBrincat, who scored his ninth goal in the second period. "You go after our best player (and) I think we can't let that happen. So just decided to go. I don't really like to fight, but I will when I need to."

DeBrincat showed that while playing with Erie in the OHL and he's now proven it three times in his NHL career. Weighing all of 165 pounds, the Michigan native also fought Nashville's Matt Irwin in 2018 and Colorado's Samuel Girard in 2019. Irwin, by the way, is listed at 6-2, 189 pounds.

"When one of your best players on your team is getting emotional like that and revved up ... because he's angry, I mean the bench reacts," said interim coach Derek King. "It's a great lift for us."

And it sends a great message -- mess with us and we are going to stand up for ourselves and our teammates. That mentality was sorely missing for the last 3-4 years. It seems like it's returned, which is a good sign for the surging Hawks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Mr. Jones:

Seth Jones, after a pretty blah start to the season, has really picked it up over the last couple of weeks. The smooth-skating defenseman looks much more comfortable at both ends of the ice.

Defensively, he's shutting down scoring opportunities with his long reach, skating ability and awareness. Offensively, he's asserting himself more often by jumping up in the play and also continuing to fire shots on net from the point. Jones has 51 shots on goal through 16 games, a 261-shot pace that would be a career high.

He's also third in the league among defensemen with 14 points and tied for the lead with 12 assists.

These are all great signs for the Hawks after they inked Jones to an eight-year deal in the off-season.

Mr. Jones II:

The first shift of Caleb Jones' Blackhawks career came with brother Seth on the ice during the Hawks' win at Seattle.

Jones, activated off long-term injured reserve beforehand, finally saw game action after suffering an injury during training camp. He took 1 shot on goal and blocked 1 shot in nearly 10 minutes of ice time.

Wanting to ease Caleb back in, the Hawks went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen against Seattle.

"Caleb was ready to go," said interim coach Derek King, "but we didn't want (say), 'Here you go; your first game in Edmonton,' and throw him ... to the wolves.'"

Erik Gustafsson, who has 4 assists in 15 games, figures to be the odd man out if the Hawks go back to six D-men against the Oilers on Saturday.

Scream and shout:

Getting a big boost from their lively, raucous crowd, Seattle nearly stormed back to tie the game in the waning moments Wednesday. With an extra attacker on for the Kraken, Marc-Andre Fleury made 6 big saves in a 60-second span, but also allowed a goal with 1:49 remaining. That trimmed the Hawks' lead to 3-2 and it was nail-biting time after that.

Afterward, Fleury said he loved the energy, something the players are relishing once again after a season in which very few fans were allowed into most arenas.

"It makes the game a lot more fun to play -- (whether you're) at home or on the road," Fleury said. "(I'm getting) booed. People are giving me fingers sometimes. I love it. ...

"It was rough, tough sometimes and boring (in empty arenas). You realize how much you miss the fans and feed off the atmosphere."

On their heels:

In the big picture, the Hawks have definitely turned things around after their dismal start. Still, there's a lot of room for improvement, especially when protecting a lead.

There's nothing unusual about opponents pressing when they are trailing, but the Hawks seem overwhelmed at times when the momentum shifts.

Patrick Kane would like to see this change quickly.

"Gotta find a way to play better with the lead," Kane said after the Hawks' 4-2 win at Seattle. "Just seemed like it was a lot of chasing the puck, get it out of the zone and the next line comes out and does the same thing. It's not really the recipe for success.

"And that should be the fun time to play hockey, you know, when you have the lead and the other team's taking chances."

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