We have a little bit to talk about following the Chicago Blackhawks’ lackluster showing at Sunday’s Stadium Series game, as they fell to the host Minnesota Wild 6-1. The Blackhawks were on a two-game win streak but hadn’t played in three days, while the Wild were on a three-game run of success under new coach John Torchetti. The latter run continued, conceivably fueled by the Wild’s first taste of the outdoor atmosphere and the Blackhawks’ lack of ability to care too much about such things.
Despite the game being a unique one and on a national stage, it still counts as just one regular-season game. Still not a good showing, but far from the end of the world. However, there is some news to mop up after the result, before the Blackhawks play again Thursday, hosting Nashville.
— Forward Vincent Hinostroza was reassigned to the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs this morning. That would lead one to assume Marian Hossa is nearing a return from his leg injury, but Hinostroza also had a rough go of things in his second stint with the big club. In three games, Hinostroza recorded no points, a minus-1 rating, two shots on goal and four penalty minutes while playing less than 10 minutes in two of his three outings.
His wayward penalties nearly cost the Blackhawks a game against the New York Rangers on Wednesday, but the team’s powerplay unit later bailed him out. Hinostroza tried to play with speed and a constant fire under him, but it didn’t do a whole lot offensively or defensively. His grouping with Dennis Rasmussen and Brandon Mashinter got a few chances across Hinostroza’s three games, but it’s just not a viable fourth line for anything other than existing.
The Blackhawks currently have two roster spots open with Hossa still on injured reserve. Since the Blackhawks have another lengthy break before their next game, it’s conceivable he could return against the Predators. If not, Jiri Sekac would draw back in. If the Blackhawks don’t call up someone before the Predators hit town, though, that could also mean there’s a trade in the works. Stan Bowman has a week to make any moves that could alter the course of the Blackhawks’ season.
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— Michal Rozsival was saddled with a silly penalty in Sunday’s game after he put a firm, hard, clean hit on Jason Zucker in the second period. In real time, you could potentially see how this hit might look dirty, which was what one of the game’s referees obviously saw. Of course, replays showed Rozsival not leaving his feet and making contact shoulder to chest. Zucker left the game and did not return after taking the hit and then hitting the back of his head on the ice, so hopefully he’s OK.
However, the penalty was still silly. It only got sillier when Rozsival was given a game misconduct and tossed from the event for “interference.” When’s the last time you saw a guy thrown out of a game for interference? Also, the puck was right next to Zucker, as he was trying to settle it down, so I’m not sure how that qualifies as regular interference.
Thankfully, it doesn’t appear Rozsival will earn supplemental discipline for the hit. The league office clearly sees what many NHL fans see: Referees will award penalties based on injuries. It happened when Andrew Shaw hit Mike Smith in the 2012 postseason, and it happened again yesterday. Yet somehow, when Raffi Torres decapitated Hossa on a hit in that same 2012 playoff series, the referees swallowed their whistles. In a game as fast as the NHL’s brand of hockey is, mistakes will certainly happen in this regard. But some of the mistakes wind up looking really stupid in hindsight. At least this will give Wild fans something to actually base a “rivalry” on with the Blackhawks, because they probably think Rozsival should be carved up like a Jack-o-lantern for the hit.
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— When I have to say “thankfully” about the idea of Rozsival not getting suspended, you know we’ve reached a crisis point. I really can’t stop talking enough about how much the Blackhawks need a defenseman, and fast. No, they don’t need a call-up. They don’t need to try out minor leaguers for the 20 games prior to the playoffs and see which one was “the least bad.” They need to acquire someone who knows the ropes and doesn’t need a crash course in how to actually play defense. And the Blackhawks need that right now.
On multiple occasions Sunday, Brent Seabrook, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Rozsival and Viktor Svedberg were pantsed by Minnesota players en route to Corey Crawford getting the kitchen sink tossed at him. Seabrook and van Riemsdyk in particular were terrible, as the two just forgot what they were supposed to be doing on the Wild’s first goal. Seabrook followed that up by trying to make a play on Erik Haula, one of the league’s faster players, by stopping at center ice and just pawing at him. And van Riemsdyk later decided to take a nice front-row seat watching one of Minnesota’s other goals.
Really, when Joel Quenneville feels Erik Gustafsson needs to be benched for Svedberg, we’ve hit a trouble point. Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson, who certainly aren’t immune to mistakes, can’t be playing 35 minutes a night down the stretch. I know three-fourths of the fan base wants a flashy, familiar name on the top-line left wing that we can rub in opposing fans’ faces, but that is not the primary need. Defense and goaltending win championships. The Blackhawks have the goaltending, but the defense is sorely lacking. And the more the defense lacks, the more the goaltending will suffer, just by the sheer number of high-quality chances opponents are allowed to compile against said goaltender.