Chicago Blackhawks put up a good fight against the number two seed, Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center last night but came up short in a frustrating 2 – 0 loss.
My five thoughts on this game:
Questionable Line-up Decisions
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I must call out coach Joel Quenneville once again this game. A colleague at Blackhawk Up wrote an excellent article the other day describing the desperate Chicago Blackhawks latest line-up choices. Last night we saw the result of the rather bizarre combinations, the outcome of which came as no surprise.
In case anyone needs a refresher the following combinations started in last nights game:
The power(less) play
Chicago’s power play has been a sore spot all season long and last night was no exception. The team was 0 for 6 on the night with the man advantage and once again failed to score on a 5 on 3 opportunity late in the second period when the game was scoreless. In fact, shortly after that failure, it was a shorthanded goal by Lightning’s Chris Kunitz that turned out as the game-winner.
Blackhawks’ offensive prowess that many thought would be a strength going into this season has dried up lately. For the second time in three games, the team failed to hit the scoreboard. In my opinion, the team chemistry is a mess at this time. I understand that having Anthony Duclair on the first line could be good for Duclair’s confidence which was waning after he was beaten down in Arizona but the newly acquired winger hasn’t played much lately and it shows. His speed is apparent but his timing isn’t there yet. Vinnie Hinostroza had sparked the games of Toews and Saad – why Quenneville decided to split that trio up and move Hino to the fourth line is anyone’s guess.
As well, I must question the deployment of veteran Patrick Sharp playing with Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz, and why Q has not tried rookie Alex DeBrincat on the Kane line is a head-scratcher. Cat is a sniper, but to be effective he needs to play with top talent who can get him the puck in scoring position.
Joel Quenneville obviously likes the competitive nature of Jeff Glass who played well in last night’s game. Glass made several timely saves to keep Chicago in it but it was Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevskiy who stole the show and was the first star last night. I believe Glass played well enough in this game to keep the coaches confidence. Anton Forsberg will likely get another chance later this week as Chicago embarks on back-to-back games beginning Wednesday in Toronto.
A recurring theme
This game marked the 19th time this season that Blackhawks entered the third period behind on the scoreboard. The team seems to play a different, better game when leading but ‘Hawks just don’t get that first goal often enough. They are a fragile team when chasing the game.
Chicago lost last night but the effort was there. Patrick Kane said it best the other day when he said the team was not playing with confidence. I believe, with a few tweaks to the line-up, this team is a heck of a lot better than their record shows but time is running out. A winning streak is badly needed if there is any hope of Blackhawks being around in the postseason.