Riding a 3-game win streak into Carolina, the Hawks looked to take a single game from the Canes before a long weekend off, with matchups shifting in every direction with Covid and the Dallas power outages wreaking havoc on the schedule. The Hawks entered play looking to match their season-best win streak at four games, against a Carolina squad sporting an easy Top 10 Reverse Retro jersey in the NHL.
Again between the pipes was Kevin Lankinen, hot on the heels of his first career shutout against Detroit earlier this week, looking to hang onto his top spots among rookie netminders in both GAA and SV%. The Hawks ever-so-reliable powerplay found themselves with an opportunity early, but the Canes D and James Reimer both held strong against a fairly active Hawks extra-man unit. The Hawks and Canes found themselves locked in fairly tight into a defensive battle before Nino Niederreiter made no mistakes on a low-glove rocket that froze Lankinen to give the Canes a 1-0 lead heading into the first break, despite the Hawks with a few more strong chances to close out the frame.
To start the second, more misfortune struck the Hawks when Mattias Janmark lost his footing defending a fairly innocuous pass across the zone, giving Bean the chance to find an open Trochek in the slot, who buried the Hurricanes second of the night. But the Hawks were not done, coming back with a handful of dangerous scoring chances, testing James Reimer on both the powerplay and even strength, while Lankinen remained composed, turning away shot after shot to keep the Hawks within reach. The Hawks also adopted a very “D-first” mindset, at least for this photo.
As can always be expected with the Blackhawks on the ice, Patrick Kane once again did something special to get the Hawks back into it. After losing his footing pursuing a stretch pass, I gave up on all hope that I was going to see a spectacular Patrick Kane breakaway goal. That lack of hope lasted precisely 4 seconds before Kane collected the loose puck, pulled out the ol’ spin-o-rama and buried one low-stick that no one really expected but somehow we all should have absolutely expected from Kaner. Kane was not even looking at the net when he let a backhand rip go from the face-off circle like it was nothing. The guy is nuts.
In the final moments of the 2nd, the Hawks leaned on a solid Lankinen and collected a puck with a delayed penalty against Carolina as the seconds ticked towards zero. After Duncan Keith dropped a less-than-stellar pass out of the zone for Kane, Kane circled back, found Kampf on the zone-entry to feed rookie defenseman Ian Mitchell who fired one through traffic and into the back of the net, and just like the day after a bad chili cookoff, we were knotted up at deuces.
Sadly this is where the wheels would fall off for the Hawks as throughout the 3rd period, they would surrender two powerplay goals to the Canes, followed by a long empty-netter by Jaccob Slavin to put the game out of reach, even with Soderberg’s late PPG, on Kane’s 3rd point of the night on the assist. Kane’s 3-point performance moved him into the Top 5 in NHL scoring being (obviously) McDavid and Drasaitl sitting firmly up top, and sandwiched between a red-hot Leafs pairing in Marner and Matthews. Given that the Hawks front office sent a letter to the fans essentially giving up before the season even started, and we’ve been without our Captain all year, the Hawks are 7-2-1 in their last 10 with a Top 5 Scorer, both Top 2 rookie scorers and a Top 10 goalie in the NHL. We good.
The Hawks will take a long weekend while the rest of the league catches up in games played and the NHL hosts not one, but two outdoor games on the easy winner for “Best NHL ODR Ever” this Saturday/Sunday. The Hawks are back in action Tuesday night against the Flavortown Blue Jackets.