Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks: Playing With a Purpose

By Mike Murdock
MONTREAL, QC - MARCH 16:Look on Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (20) during the Chicago Blackhawks versus the Montreal Canadiens game on March 16, 2019, at Bell Centre in Montreal, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - MARCH 16:Look on Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (20) during the Chicago Blackhawks versus the Montreal Canadiens game on March 16, 2019, at Bell Centre in Montreal, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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This is what a full 60 minutes of Chicago Blackhawks hockey looks like.

Entertaining, exhilarating, aggressive, chippy and even a bit nerve-wracking. All adjectives that describe the action that took place on the United Center ice Monday night between the Hawks and the Edmonton Oilers.

While the end result had Chicago handing Edmonton their first loss of the year, the most important thing is how they accomplished the feat. It makes you regain faith in the squad.

Physicality Returns

One of the stats that catches the eye is hits. The Chicago Blackhawks out-hit the Oilers 36-31. While there were quite a few examples throughout the contest, the hit Andrew Shaw laid on Joel Persson stands out as exhibit A as to why GM Stan Bowman, who has a penchant for reacquiring players, traded for Shaw this offseason:

While Shaw certainly won’t overtake Blackhawks all-time penalty minute leader Keith Magnuson, he didn’t earn the nickname “The Mutt” by running away from confrontation. Even as overall fighting in the NHL continues to fade, the scrappy, physical approach that Andrew Shaw brings to the team is an absolute necessity if the ‘Hawks are to return to postseason play come spring of 2020.

Strong Goaltending

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Corey Crawford looked sharp as he stopped 27 of 28 shots from the Oilers. Crawford allowed only 1 goal to a previously undefeated Oilers team. This was easily his best performance of the young season.

While shaky in his first 2 showings, Crawford did not allow any soft goals nor was he rattled at any time during the contest. While having Robin Lehner as your #2 netminder is a tremendous luxury, the more Crawford can duplicate efforts like the one displayed against Edmonton on Monday, the better off the team will be.

The Bottom-6

Fair or not, because he was traded for highly skilled blue-liner Henri Jokiharju, Alex Nylander is likely going to be under a microscope this season. On this night, however, a great forecheck by Nylander led to his second goal of the young campaign; a 5-hole beauty:

Brandon Saad who had plenty of bad “puck luck” last season is starting to play like the guy Stan Bowman was hoping to get in return, when he moved him for Artemi Panarin. Saad was rewarded for his efforts against the Oilers with an empty netter in the waning seconds of the game:

Saad has been one of the most consistent Blackhawks’ players through 4 games. He has earned the right to see his ice time increase to 17-20 minutes per game with a potential promotion to the top 6 coming, if his strong play continues. If the Chicago Blackhawks continue to play like this on a consistent basis, we won’t have much to worry about.

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