The Chicago Blackhawks continue to take their fans on a roller coaster ride this season, with the “good” version of the Blackhawks showing up in a win over the Winnipeg Jets
The Winnipeg Jets were on a roll coming into Friday’s game at the United Center against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Central Division leaders had won three straight games. The team’s high-powered offense had potted 15 goals in those games, despite the absence of Mark Scheifele from the lineup.
The Blackhawks would likely need to play a solid 60 minutes in this one to pull out a victory. And indeed they did, as they posted a 2-1 triumph behind goals from David Kampf and Jan Rutta, as well as solid goaltending from Jeff Glass.
The following are my five thoughts on the game.
The Jeff Glass story continues
I think many Chicago Blackhawks fans felt the Glass story, while an intriguing one, was pretty much over. Anton Forsberg had taken the reigns recently and was looking solid between the pipes. Forsberg would be the workhorse goaltender, they thought, as long as Corey Crawford remained on the sidelines.
But no one told that to the 32-year-old Glass, it seems. I think he had his best game in a Chicago uniform last evening. His game was efficient and his demeanor was calm. His rebound control was excellent and he showed no signs of overplaying the puck, which the purists had criticized him for.
Only one shot of the 32 that were fired his way eluded him, and it was a wicked snipe by budding Jet’s star Patrick Laine. Of course, the two hit goal posts in the final frame helped the rookie goaltender, but any netminder will tell you that goal posts and crossbars are part of the equipment.
After last night’s performance, Coach Q will be thinking hard about who he starts in Sunday’s matinee affair against Detroit Red Wings. I’m betting he will give Glass the nod once again.
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The speed game
General manager Stan Bowman has obviously made a conscious effort to make his team younger and faster. The speed game was on full display. Funny enough, it is most noticeable on the defensive side of the puck.
Time and time again, the opposing offense was thwarted by that quickness. It was, in essence, a replay of Dec. 14, when Chicago dismantled the Jets 5-1 in Winnipeg — though this game was closer.
Anthony Duclair debuts on third line
One of the big question marks entering this game was how newly-acquired Anthony Duclair would fit in the lineup. As expected, Coach Q had him inserted on the third line with Kampf and rookie sensation Alex DeBrincat.
I thought Duclair looked solid in his debut, though his first goal as a Blackhawk was precariously close to being scored into his own net when his clearing pass on a delayed penalty went awry. It was only the hustle from teammate Gustav Forsling that prevented that embarrassment from occurring.
Duclair did earn his first assist on the game-winning goal by Rutta and saw some powerplay time as well. His skating speed was noticeable. I like that third line, but knowing Quenneville, there will be experimenting. I won’t be surprised if Duclair has stints in the top six, and sooner rather than later.
Questionable defensive deployment
OK, I know I can sound like a broken record about this, but here goes. I fail to understand why Chicago keeps marching out Forsling on the first penalty-killing unit. He’s a kid with tremendous potential, but he also needs to be somewhat sheltered in his development. The ‘Hawks’ PK did not allow a goal last night, but, in my opinion, it’s only a matter of time before that backfires.
I also question the deployment of Rutta, Forsling and Connor Murphy. I’d like to see the tandem of Forsling and Rutta with more sheltered minutes or split up. As well, the ice time of Rutta should be reduced. Playing in excess of 20 minutes is too much at this stage in his career. I also think Murphy is underutilized and should be playing more minutes. Rant over.
Kampf settling in
Kampf has settled in nicely as Blackhawks’ third-line center. Last night he scored his first goal in his ninth NHL game and also had an assist on the game-winner. There will be some difficult decisions to make when center Artem Anisimov returns from injury.
Next up, Chicago hosts the Detroit Red Wings in an late morning/early afternoon affair at the United Center. Actually, the game starts in the morning for those who like to sleep in.
Chicago is clinging to the last wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Let’s hope this roller coaster of a season is behind them and they can go on a winning streak to break free from the logjam of teams on the bubble.