Yes, the Blackhawks lost in the shootout but it is important to remember that the Carolina Hurricanes are among the favorites to win the Stanley Cup this year. This was probably their biggest test thus far and though there were some flaws, they played an incredible game.
The Carolina Hurricanes scored the first two goals of the game, strictly from bad defensive plays. The first goal was scored by Andrei Svechnikov when Jordan Staal beat Nikita Zadorov to the net, throwing a cross-ice pass with one hand. David Kampf failed to raise Svechnikov’s stick on the play as well.
This goal was on Kampf, BUT Zadorov was too slow to get between Staal and the net on the backcheck. He should be benched in favor of Lucas Carlsson or give Wyatt Kalynuk a chance. The playstyle now is too fast for Zadorov to keep up with, and he can be a defensive liability with turnovers and giveaways.
Svechnikov scored another goal from missed assignments by the ‘Hawks, having a half-open net to shoot on. But, the Blackhawks improved as the game went on, starting from the powerplay.
The Blackhawks went down by two goals in this game but came back to earn yet another point in seven of eight games.
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The powerplay scored again, but it was the second PP group this time. Dominik Kubalik started an amazing passing play to Pius Suter, who passed it to Philipp Kurashev for a tap-in goal. Suter forced a turnover on an aggressive forecheck, opening up the ice for the passing play.
With this being a rebuilding year to figure out what they want from this team, you can expect the powerplay system to remain the same for the most part next season. And with Kirby Dach and, hopefully, Jonathan Toews coming back next season, this could get even better.
The second goal came from Patrick Kane, who was somehow let loose in the slot. Sebastian Aho went off to the races but instead left the defense with a three on two against the first line of the ‘Hawks. Give Kane any open ice and the puck there is a high chance it is ending in the back of the net.
The fact that the Carolina Hurricanes never lost a game after leading in the first period for the last couple of seasons was daunting, but the ‘Hawks managed to bring the game back. It was an impressive effort. Faceoffs need to be addressed in every game as the lost faceoff in the defensive zone led to a long possession for the Hurricanes, which led to multiple shots and chances against. That was the only drawback in what was a great game.
The third Hurricanes goal was strict puck luck with a blocked shot from Connor Murphy bouncing right to Vincent Trocheck. They played the situation as they should, but got an unlucky bounce.
Dylan Strome would score the third ‘Hawks goal coming from another passing play. Kubalik forced a turnover and Alex Debrincat made his way around the net, receiving the puck. He found Strome in front of the net with a great pass while he was skating backwards to tie the game. The ‘Hawks are moving the puck a lot better and put forth consistent relentless efforts every game. But the reason why they can do this is because of the play of Kevin Lankinen.
Kevin Lankinen opens up the offense
Because they now have a stud to back them up, the ‘Hawks have become noticeably aggressive on the rush, with the defense taking chances to jump in. This didn’t happen in the first four games due to the poor goaltending by the other two.
The Blackhawks had to play defensively despite their strength being fast, back and forth hockey. Kevin Lankinen opened the offense wide open, making this ‘Hawks team much better. He is now 3-1-3, with yet another game with 35+ saves and an over 0.920 save percentage. He kept his team in every game he’s played in, and the Blackhawks showed that they can play with the best as long as Lankinen is on his game.
In all, this game was the most entertaining game I have seen in a long time. The chances went back and forth in this track-meet, and both goalies had to be at the top of their game. There were multiple missed calls that could have led to a couple of PP goals for the ‘Hawks, but the referees let them play (Reimer interference on Debrincat, Staal hooking on Strome in the third, etc.).
This game should bring a lot of confidence towards this team as, though this is considered a “rebuild” year, every member of this team is improving, getting used to the league. The ‘Hawks are now a consistently fast, relentless team who doesn’t stop playing, picking up yet another point via shootout or OT loss.
I would like to see Reese Johnson back in the lineup, or Mackenzie Entwhistle, to provide more physicality and force the opponents to rush breakout plays. These two would excel in this system on an energy line.
Remember that the Blackhawks are still missing multiple key members of their team, making this outcome even better. Let’s hope they can keep this unofficial point streak up with a win in regulation on Thursday night as the series vs. the Hurricanes continues.