The Chicago Blackhawks dominated the possession game and the shot total, but couldn’t find a way to beat Duck netminder Jonathan Bernier. This loss prevents the ’Hawks from overtaking the Wild, who also lost Thursday, in the division standings, and snaps a seven-game win streak.
All the stars were seemingly aligning for an eighth straight Chicago Blackhawks win. The whole team was healthy barring backup goalie Scott Darling (upper body), and prize deadline acquisition Johnny Oduya made his second debut with the ’Hawks.
But the Blackhawks couldn’t find the back of the net in a 1-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday. Here are five observations from Thursday night’s game.
1. Johnny Oduya makes successful return
I’m a big Oduya fan, mostly because of the plethora of puns his last name provides, but even I was skeptical about his return.
Coming off an ankle injury at age 35 isn’t the easiest thing in the world. With that being said, he had a good game that should make Blackhawks fans optimistic for the stretch run.
He showed the same old willingness to get in front of shots that made him a favorite of mine in his first stint with the ’Hawks, especially with a key block in the first period against Sami Vatanen in the high slot.
His return also allows coach Joel Quenneville to put Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook together on the top pair. Not many teams have two pairings as good as those two and Niklas Hjalmarsson with Oduya. Oduya like the sound of that?
2. Nick Schmaltz’ return to ice a bit slippery
The former Fighting Sioux had missed the last two games due to illness and made an interesting return to the ice Thursday.
After a nine=game span that saw him score three goals and add nine assists, Schmaltz seemingly couldn’t stay on his feet, especially during a pretty humorous moment when his skate blade broke as far away from the bench as possible.
Regardless, this game resembled more of the pre-AHL send-down Schmaltz than the one who was so exciting to watch this past month. Hopefully it’s just a bit of rust from a long break for him.
3. ’Hawks fail to capitalize as Wild fall to Lightning
What makes this game especially frustrating is that the Minnesota Wild, who sit one point above the Blackhawks (with one game in hand), also lost Thursday, and this would have allowed the Blackhawks to jump the Wild in the standings and really put the pressure on them.
Thankfully their losing also takes a bit of the pain away from this loss as well, as the standings are pretty much the same as they were before the night’s games. Hopefully the boys can capture a juicy pair of points in tonight’s tilt with the lowly Detroit Red Wings before Sunday morning’s massive contest with the Wild.
4. Things get chippy early
After Richard Panik and Duck blueliner Josh Manson were sent to the box in the first period for coincidental minors, Ducks veteran forward Ryan Getzlaf took it upon himself to discipline Panik even more by instigating a somewhat dirty fight with him that earned him a hat trick of penalties — from a two-minute minor to a 10-minute game misconduct for his only marks on Thursday’s scoresheet.
The fight was Panik’s first and the Blackhawks’ 10th on the year, second-lowest total in the NHL. Seemingly everyone had it out for the soft-handed Slav.
5. Jonathan Bernier earned his paycheck
In a game that saw the Blackhawks outshoot the Ducks 19-2 in the first period and 43-26 overall, Bernier absolutely stood on his head by soaking up every last shot.
I can’t remember a game in which one team was so visibly and statistically dominant in the possession game and wound up losing like in Thursday’s. Corey Crawford played an excellent game, and it’s hard not to feel bad for a guy who only allows one goal and still loses in regulation.
What makes it more frustrating is that the ’Hawks had scored 30 goals in their previous seven games, but it unfortunately all dried up Thursday. Part of me feels like I saw too much of the Marcus Kruger line in the last 10 minutes of the game, but I’ll always defer to Q’s three Cups worth of judgement.