After suffering a humiliating defeat in New Jersey, the Chicago Blackhawks read from a different script in New York. But the result was the same, another loss. Here are my 5 thoughts on the loss.
1 – You have to finish what you start.
The Chicago Blackhawks came out strong in their first 4 shifts. They completely dominated the play with continued puck possession in the Rangers’ zone. This pressure culminated in a power play goal by Brandon Saad at 5:41. It appeared that the ‘Hawks would own the night. But the plot thickened as the Rangers slowed the ‘Hawks down with some physical play.
After Erik Gustafsson got taken down on a drive to the net, the play quickly turned the other way. And at 13:20 the Rangers’ Filip Chytil blew past a flat-footed Henri Jokiharju and flipped a shot over goalie Collin Delia. The wind got taken out of the Blackhawks’ sails, and they let the game slip out of control.
2 – The Rangers’ physical play overpowered the ‘Hawks.
The Rangers’ Cody McLeod delivered 4 big hits in only 4:37 of ice time. He may not have spent much time on the ice, but the effect of his hits lingered on. His big hits on David Kampf and Jonathan Toews were the alpha-male type that fires up teammates.
The Rangers looked like sharks smelling blood in the water. Unfortunately, the Chicago Blackhawks had no response for this aggressive play. The evening’s cast in white lacked a heavy hitter. So the lamb laid down on Broadway.
Not only did the ‘Hawks not respond to the physical play, they could not get past a strong forecheck from speedy Rangers forwards. The team was surprised by forwards who rushed the puck carrier behind the net, forcing errors and turnovers. The ‘Hawks could not exit their own zone cleanly and this resulted in a lackluster offensive game until late in the third period. And not surprisingly, the surge was led by point 3.
3 – The nuclear option of DeBrincat-Toews-Kane is…nuclear.
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Desperate times call for desperate measures. As the game was slipping away, coach Jeremy Colliton resorted to his nuclear option of Alex DeBrincat, Toews, and Patrick Kane. This triumvirate can absolutely dominate in the offensive zone. While they did not hit the scoresheet as a line, their zone time was thrilling. The unfortunate downside of combining these three on a regular basis is that there is a serious drop off in talent in the remaining three lines after this overload. The ‘Hawks have yet to recover from the sudden loss of Marian Hossa and the trade of Artemi Panarin. The forward depth situation will need to be addressed, but secondly to point 4.
4 – No defense for this defense.
Wait, what? Yep, the defense continues to underwhelm. Continual breakdowns in coverage lead to dangerous scoring opportunities and embarrassing goals against. The ‘Hawks sport a league-worst goal differential of minus-38. This defense is getting owned on a nightly basis and it’s tiresome. To continue with the Broadway theme, it’s like going nightly to see a poorly written, directed, and acted play and expecting that maybe a Tony-worthy performance will happen. Not much else to say about this.
5 – Kaner and the Cat are fun.
from Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat are reasons to smile this season. Their vision and keen anticipation have turned the league’s worst power play into a fearsome unit. The first unit ran the 1-3-1 perfectly, with Erik Gustafsson feeding the Cat for a one-timer. Let’s just revel in the moment by watching the replay:
Notice how DeBrincat and Kane adjust to stay in line through Toews as the pivot. This movement causes passing and shooting lanes to open up. Even though Kane delivers only the secondary assist, his movement draws defenders up high as he floats toward the blue line. DeBrincat down low is able to capitalize on a partial screen by Dylan Strome.
In this dismal season, the Chicago Blackhawks at least have this positive development in retooling their power play. Baby steps, Doctor Marvin.
And so, the team gets another two-day break before the reigning Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals come to town for a Sunday matinee game. Will Colliton give the boys another “fun” practice or go with a bag skate? I know which way I’d go. But that’s just me. Let’s go, ‘Hawks.