The Chicago Blackhawks have finally won their first preseason game in their third attempt after beating the Ottawa Senators 5-2 on Friday night. Here’s our five thoughts following the game.
No. 5: Collin Delia is turning up the heat on Anton Forsberg.
After the Chicago Blackhawks signed Cam Ward in the offseason it was assumed that Ward would start in net until Corey Crawford returned. As a result, Forsberg would predictably be the backup goaltender in the meantime.
However, Collin Delia’s play is making that decision tough. It was once thought that Forsberg’s future hinged solely on the health of Crawford, however Delia is adding another interesting variable to the mix.
Delia played incredibly well during the Ottawa matchup stopping 17 of 19 shots. According to Pat Foley, and cross-checked by my eyes, roughly 13 or 14 of these shots were good scoring chances for the Senators.
For example, watch Delia absolutely rob one here.
He does a full split to make a spectacular save. Additionally, Delia made a huge glove save to keep the game close on one of the Senator’s best forwards, Matt Duchene. Later, Duchene came into the Blackhawks zone and made a good play finding a teammate open for a chance, however Delia read the play well and made a routine blocker save.
Delia continues to improve and play better with each game however more time in the AHL could be better for his development long-term.
Regardless, Forsberg should feel some pressure to play well during the remainder of this preseason as Delia continues to impress.
Da Windy City
No. 4: Do we really have to say that Henri Jokiharju will make the team again?
I might be sounding like a bit of a broken record, but Henri Jokiharju looks like every bit of the real deal. In the Ottawa game he closed gaps well, stayed up on plays and held the blue line well.
For a defenseman who’s known for his offensive ability, Jokiharju uses his body well and doesn’t allow any easy entrances into the zone.
If this game wasn’t enough of an indication for you, check out our article on why Jokiharju is ready for the NHL.
No. 3: Dominik Kahun Looks Good
Kahun previously put up an assist when he helped Alexandre Fortin score the Blackhawks only goal in a preseason matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Against Ottawa, with the Blackhawks playing without the regular offensive threats who typically occupy the top-six, Kahun stepped up big time and made a lot plays for Chicago.
He dished a beautiful pass to John Hayden for a goal late in the third period. I was impressed by his performance, but it appears I wasn’t the only one, either.
The Chicago Blackhawks liked it enough to move him up to the first line in practice. Now, they’re trying DeBrincat-Toews-Kahun. While he wasn’t seen this in action yet, I am a big fan of this potential line. Time will tell whether or not it sticks.
On the topic of his future with Chicago, Kahun had this to say to the Chicago Sun-Times:
"‘‘I feel like I always have to start from zero because I have to fight for a spot here,’’ said Kahun on Thursday. ‘‘It doesn’t matter if I’m good today; I have to wake up tomorrow and be even better. . . . You never can be really happy with yourself because you have to come the next day and be better.”"
No. 2: John Hayden is the man
I’ve always been high on Hayden. Because of the players the Blackhawks put out against the Senators he played more time in offensive situations and even earned himself some shifts on the power play.
On one Blackhawks power play he worked hard to get himself in position for a very good luck, however he couldn’t beat the Senators’ goaltender. Hayden has the potential to be a very good bottom-six player should he earn himself a spot.
Hayden, viewed as a fourth line role player, made more than a couple of plays that looked almost out of place coming from him. At one point, he threw the puck off the boards in a 1-on-2 situation, used his size to out muscle the defense and generated a good scoring chance from in close.
Here’s another example where Hayden simply outworks the defense and ultimately gets awarded.
No. 1: The bottom six will impress this season
There’s a lot of question marks regarding the top-six currently. The combinations of DeBrincat-Toews-Kunitz and Saad-Schmaltz-Kane have been abandoned and remade to try and change their production.
Regardless of how things shape up for our top-six, one thing is for sure: the bottom-six is nothing to worry about.
We’ve already talked about how Kahun and Hayden have both impressed, but they aren’t alone. After the Detroit Red Wings game Luke Johnson was someone who caught our attention. He didn’t make any extraordinarily special plays however he did make a lot of smart plays with the puck.
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His name came up a lot during that game and it didn’t change during the contest against the Senators. Johnson looked good again and generated a couple of scoring chances for the Chicago Blackhawks. One, for example, came off of a solid solo effort where he weaved through defenders in the neutral zone and got a nice shot off.
Johnson joins the crowded competition for a bottom-six role. It should be fun to see how the spots shake out.