The Chicago Blackhawks entered Wednesday night’s game against the Nashville Predators riding a four-game point streak- two wins and two ties. The good news is that the Blackhawks extending their point streak to five games; the bad news is that Chicago fall 2-1 in a shootout.
This mini-streak is somewhat surprising considering the Blackhawks are playing without Captain Jonathan Toews, rising star Kirby Dach, veteran defenseman Brent Seabrook, and a proven, veteran goalie.
Compound that with the loss of Alex DeBrincat and Adam Boqvist who missed the first game with the Predators and will miss a few weeks on Covid protocol makes the two-game tilt with Nashville even more impressive. The inability to finish games is troubling, but ‘Hawks fans should not be completely crestfallen. Here’s why…
First Takeaway for the Chicago Blackhawks: Kevin Lankinen
Coming into the season, the Blackhawks’ goalie situation was one of the big question marks. Eight games in and that question is beginning to be answered in the form of Kevin Lankinen.
In regulation tonight, Lankinen gave up one goal on 42 shots. And that goal was a giveaway at the Blackhawks blueline that turned into a two on one. Lankinen improved on a clear weakness which was rebounds. He smothered them quickly and limited second-chance opportunities. When there were second chances, he maintained a good position and made seemingly easy plays.
Despite giving up one goal in the shootout and taking the loss, Kevin Lankinen is clearly in the driver’s seat for the ‘Hawks top spot.
Second Takeaway: Playing with Passion
Without a doubt, this team has some fight. Missing from the lineup tonight are 60 goals and 106 assists from last season. (that includes Wallmark’s points from Carolina and Florida) Teams simply don’t bounce back from that and compete on a level that the Blackhawks are doing.
Sure, a team can pull one game out, but to put five straight together with parts missing is impressive. Part of that success is the emergence of winger Brandon Hagel. He plays much like Brandon Saad- he’s aggressive and plays a very strong two-way game. He came into tonight’s game with a gaudy Corsi of +61.8.
What makes that more impressive is that he starts in the D-Zone 82.4% of the time. He is a pain for the opposing team and tonight was no different. His hard work earned him his first point of the season and some time on the Kane line. And, in a game where the Blackhawks gave up 42 shots on goal, Hagel still managed to have a 52% Corsi.
Final Takeaway: Despite competing, the Blackhawks definitely lack offense.
While it’s true that the ‘Hawks are competing, the loss of Toews, Dach, and DeBrincat is painfully evident. The Blackhawks had a measly 25 shots on goal in regulation and many were routine shots that required little of the Predators’ netminder.
There were stretches where the Blackhawks possessed the puck for a fair stretch, yet they lacked the ability to get to the net. On four powerplays, the Blackhawks did little more than pass around the perimeter.
It was evident on the Kane line, and powerplay, all night that he desperately missed Alex DeBrincat; the two have been building chemistry leading up to the Cat’s quarantine. Sadly, there isn’t any help coming over the next few games, so another youngster will have to step up.
The Chicago Blackhawks are back in action on Friday night vs the Columbus Blue Jackets.