Analysis

Blackhawks Fall To The Tampa Bay Lightning In A Not So Shocking Way

Chicago Blackhawks, Patrick Kane #88 Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Blackhawks, Patrick Kane #88 Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Chicago Blackhawks lose the game 5-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the season opener.

So… To no one’s surprise, the Chicago Blackhawks were utterly dominated by the Tampa Bay Lightning in every aspect of the game. Malcolm Subban was horrible early in the game, letting in two bad goals due to his lack of rebound control, positioning, and awareness (which was magnified when he let in an own goal moving side to side).

He did better later in the game, including the desperation save with the edge of the paddle of his stick that is a candidate for Save of the Year to make up for it. Two of those five goals were impossible-to-stop one-timed shots by Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos. The rookies were, well, rookies this game and that led to chances against. Adam Boqvist missed his defensive assignment (Brayden Point) which led to the fifth goal.

Back at the beginning of the season, Jeremy Colliton said that he wants his team to be “relentless”. I saw no relentlessness in this team tonight, just the same soft team from last season. They lost the game and I would have been fine with it if I saw them still playing with urgency and passion.

There was none of that and I was miffed from the lack of effort later in the game. Yes, it’s 5-0 late in the third but I would have felt much better about the state of the team if they didn’t give up and played as if the score was 0-0 with the “relentless” style they wanted to play. Nothing changed from last season and they got a pity goal from a lucky powerplay goal where they didn’t even shoot the puck into the net, it bounced off a defender’s skate.

I honestly wish that I could say that I wasn’t expecting this, but the Tampa Bay Lightning are an elite-level team and the Chicago Blackhawks are an okay-level team at best. The skill discrepancy was obvious tonight, and the Blackhawks would only stay in this game by out-working the Lightning (and using a ZONE DEFENSE).

The man defense left Anthony Cirelli wide open for the third goal and caused multiple chances due to defensive breakdowns. I cannot stress enough how badly this team needs a zone defense (I covered this in a separate article. You can read it here).

If they used this zone defense, Cirelli would not have found open ice. Duncan Keith would be where he needed to be (left faceoff circle) to cover Cirelli and Lucas Wallmark wouldn’t be skating through the slot without a matchup, rotating with the defense to cover potential plays with the puck carrier skating to the faceoff circle. Colliton has to understand that his man defense system is solved (and has been solved since he was hired in 2018) and this will not get his team anywhere.

They did manage to stay even with the Lightning with an even 50-50 split in faceoff percentage, so that’s a minor plus from this game. Mattias Janmark played more minutes than Dominik Kubalik and Pius Suter this game as well which raises quite a few eyebrows at the coaching staff’s decision making.

The players in post-game interviews said that they couldn’t capitalize on chances while the Lightning did which I agree with. But the goaltender digging them into a two-goal deficit, then a defensive breakdown for the third goal was the bigger problem.

What this game displayed is that the Chicago Blackhawks are just worse than the Tampa Bay Lightning, as are many other teams in the league. The man defense system is lacking and the goaltending is a huge problem. The ‘Hawks have to focus on this if they plan on going anywhere soon.

The ‘Hawks play the Lightning one more time on Friday.

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