The Blackhawks returned to Chicago for a much-needed change of scenery, hoping for an even more essential change of pace. They met the Detroit Red Wings at the United Center, looking to turn around some bad fortune in the Sunshine State, dropping four of four, allowing 20 total goals.
The Hawks came out of the gates hot, keeping Greiss busy and generating a handful of decent scoring chances, while rookie goaltender Kevin Lankinen looked solid at the other end of the ice, searching for his first NHL win. As anyone with a pulse could expect, Patrick Kane found the back of the net, knocking a bouncing puck out of the air and tucking in behind the post to give the Hawks their first on home ice this season.
Kane’s goal extended the Hawks streak of consecutive games with a powerplay goal to five. Special teams is an area that the Blackhawks are going to have to continue to rely on, using their extra man opportunities to create goals, something that they’ve done well so far this year. The penalty-kill also went perfect for the night, going 5-for-5 on the man down. Being smart and efficient while up and down skaters has been a solid area which is going to be important early on in the season until their goaltenders can start to get their sea legs under them (something Kevin Lankinen took a huge step towards last night).
Another thing that really stood out last night was the Hawks ability to move the puck around when once they got settled in the zone. Strome was absolutely dealing, collecting a pair of assists, one of which came on a Calvin DeHaan ROCKET that he zipped from the right post to the left point, because degree of difficulty means nothing to this kid.
Strome missed out on a third assist because on Andrew Shaw’s 3rd period tally, in a matter of about 8 seconds, 4 of the 5 Hawks skaters touched the puck that ended up in the back of the net. I am being dead serious when I say it was everything you imagine when you think of puck movement. A moving puck is a dangerous puck. Shaw didn’t even have to work for this one.
Even though the Hawks seemed to have remedied some of their previous struggles, with Lankinen looking poised and solid, stopping 30 of 31 shots en route to his first NHL win (and 1st Star) and Zadorov looking like a rock-solid Top 4 D-man, blocking 5 shots and delivering 6 hits, there are still some glitches in the system that need to be addressed. This is where young defenseman Ian Mitchell comes in. After collecting his first NHL point as the second assist on DeHaan’s goal, he spoke to the media afterwards about Detroit’s only goal, where Mitchell gave Dylan Larkin too much space, Larkin skated around him, across the front of the blue paint and buried without breaking too much of a sweat. Mitchell addressed his error and a proper way to prevent it from happening again, and it’s a mentality that I’m stoked to have on the back-end, especially if he can continue to help produce scoring chances on limited minutes.
One big issue I see the Hawks still fighting with is turning the puck over in dangerous places in transition, most notably from Friday’s game, Dominik Kubalik throwing a blind backhand pass from the corner through the slot, stopped and controlled calmly by Dylan Larkin who was wide open in space (promptly shut down by Lankinen). I know we all understand that D3 is not the best Mighty Ducks film, but Coach O’Ryan hammered into those kids that you don’t clear the puck up the middle of the ice. It got Charlie’s ‘C’ yanked off his chest. To go from talking about elite puck movement in the zone to boneheaded turnovers in transition is such a weird issue that I’m facing. I’m going to continue to completely ignore it because Chicago won.
Another shoutout to Mattias Janmark who scored his first goal (a shorthanded empty-netter) in a Blackhawks jersey on a shot that travelled approximately half the speed of smell. Secondary shoutout to the Blackhawks media person for addressing that in the tweet.
Chicago is back at it Sunday night, hoping to double down on the Wings and head to Music City on a heater.