The Chicago Blackhawks Show Improvement in Loss to Panthers

Chicago Blackhawks, Dominik Kubalik #8 Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Blackhawks, Dominik Kubalik #8 Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

Yes, the Chicago Blackhawks lost to the Florida Panthers in a 5-4 OT loss, but there is a LOT to like about this game. Even though it was one point, there is a lot to like about this game, starting with the fact Kevin Lankinen was solid in his first start. He made key saves to keep them in the game and did all he could in the net.

Three of the Panthers’ five goals were not on him, but on defensive coverage. Ian Mitchell missed Carter Verhaeghe on his breakaway goal, but he is a young defenseman who has done a lot of good things in the last three games. Lankinen deserves another start after his impressive debut.

The work ethic the team showed was extremely encouraging. Their aggressiveness on the forecheck opened up chances from the Panthers’ turnovers as well. When I talked about getting 25-30 hits in a game for this team, I’m aware that they are among the smallest teams in the NHL, but an aggressive playstyle kept them in the game mentally.

I would like to see them play the man more than the puck, though. There were multiple penalties against the ‘Hawks from attempts to play the puck with a poke check when they could have hit the opponent with a body check instead that would cause a turnover instead of a penalty.

Even though the Chicago Blackhawks lost their fourth game, there is a lot to like about the effort last night.

More good news is that Andrew Shaw is back to being a “pest” and the depth forwards were gritty and hard to play against this game, which was not the case in their past three. Nikita Zadorov threw his body around this game with 8 hits as well, which is what he was brought in to do, but didn’t do until now. That’s a positive.

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The powerplay is on fire, scoring goals on both of their attempts this game. They have also scored a powerplay goal in every game so far, though I would like to see Dominik Kubalik on that right face-off circle across of Alex Debrincat to give the first powerplay group more options for a one-timer.

Kubalik has a rocket of a slap shot, and I hope he gets more ice time to show it. He got quite a bit this game, and hopefully, it stays that way. Patrick Kane has been doing Patrick Kane things for a while now, but a top-shelf backhand snipe while fighting off a defender will always be on the highlight reel. Only a few players in the league can pull something like that off, and we’re lucky that one of them plays for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Defensive coverage is still a huge issue for this team, costing them either with a even strength goal against (Verhaeghe’s break away) or penalty kill (3/4, a 25% kill rate this game). The ‘Hawks also have to be more disciplined in the coming games, it costs them way too much on the scoreboard.

There were a few times where a trip could have been a simple body check to take away the puck, but they opted to use the stick instead. The defensemen (minus Calvin de Haan), especially Duncan Keith and Connor Murphy, didn’t do a good job this game, making multiple mistakes in coverage and on the rush but improved as the game went on. Half of the ‘Hawks’ D-corps did a good job this game while those who are seen as the “top defensemen” of the team are scrambling to get into position.

Stats wise, the Blackhawks did quite well: out-shooting, out-hitting, and winning the face-off battle (stats wise, 55.4% to the Panthers’ 44.6%). Hopefully this game will show them that, if they want to win, they will have to out-work the opposition with grit.

The reason why I was frustrated with the last three was because there was no grit or “relentlessness”, and that they lost by three or four goals. This game did show a relentless team, and this should carry into the game against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday.