4 things we learned in the NHL: Blackhawks in Central basement

Blake Comeau scored the winner and the Colorado Avalanche beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2.

The Chicago Blackhawks might miss the playoffs, Patrick Marleau got a monkey off his back, and Mikael Granlund keeps scoring in bunches.

Here are four things we learned in the NHL.

Patrick Marleau, welcome to 2018

It took a while, but Marleau finally scored his first goal of 2018.

And he couldn’t have shot the puck harder if he tried.

Before that goal, Marleau last scored on New Year’s Eve against Vegas. In fact in the eight games after that goal, he had no points of any kind.

Marleau, 38, signed a three-year, $18.75-million contract before the start of the season and the Maple Leafs were hoping he would add some secondary scoring.

While he now has 16 goals and 25 points, long stretches without points won’t do the team any good. The Leafs went 3-2-3 during Marleau’s slump, are (after Monday’s loss) 11-1 when he scores.

Blackhawks digging big hole in Central Division

The Chicago Blackhawks will have to turn things around quick if they hope to make the playoffs this season.

With a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning Monday, and a Minnesota Wild win, the Blackhawks now trail every other team in their division by at least seven points. They also are seven points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference and are now in real trouble to miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-08 season.

The Hawks’ nine-season playoff streak is second only to the Pittsburgh Penguins (11 years) for consecutive post-season appearances. In those nine years, they’ve won the Stanley Cup three times and reached the conference finals two other times.

Chicago is now 4-5-0 in 2018 and has lost three in a row. But while the Hawks stumble, the other teams in their division continue to play well.

Joe Hicketts joins world junior teammates in NHL

Joe Hicketts became the last skater from the 2015 Canadian world junior team that won gold in Toronto to skate in the NHL, when he debuted with the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.

Hicketts, a five-foot-eight defenceman who was never drafted, was a power-play specialist on the 2015 team, which included Connor McDavid, Max Domi, Brayden Point, Jake Virtanen and Shea Theodore, among others. Now that Hicketts has his first game under his belt, only goaltender Zach Fucale, a Montreal Canadiens prospect, has yet to play in the NHL.

Hicketts played junior with the WHL’s Victoria Royals where he had 32 goals and 173 points over four seasons. After being passed over in the 2014 draft, Hicketts was invited to camp with the Red Wings and by September had signed an entry-level deal with the team. He turned pro with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins last season where he had nine goals and 42 points in 116 games before being called up.

While he had a quiet NHL debut, Hicketts looked right at home on the Red Wings blue line. He finished the game with a hit, three blocked shots and a plus-1 rating.

A pretty good debut for an undrafted, under six-foot, defenceman.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

Good things come in bunches for Mikael Granlund

He may not be the biggest name on the Minnesota Wild, but Granlund is quietly sitting second on the team in scoring. And he added another two points on Monday, continuing his recent pattern of multi-point games.

Over his past 10 games, Granlund has multiple points in six of them. That adds up to seven goals and 15 points over that stretch.

What made Monday’s performance even more impressive was Granlund almost didn’t make the game. After a massive snowstorm hit the Twin Cities, Granlund’s drive to the rink took longer than planned. He arrived at 6:15 local time, basically as his teammates were taking the ice for warmups.

Clearly the abnormal routine didn’t faze him.

The Wild took Granlund with the ninth pick of the 2010 draft, but he didn’t breakout as an NHL star until last season when he had 26 goals and 69 points.

So far this season he has 14 goals and 38 points in 42 games. If he keeps this hot streak going, he could surpass last year’s stats by season’s end.

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