Despite playing ahead with a 4-2 lead going into the third vs Columbus, the Blackhawks lost 6-5.
On Thursday night, the Chicago Blackhawks played a horrible game for the first time since their Florida trip. They were outshot 35 to 17 in the last forty minutes, Nikita Zadorov and Matthew Highmore took boneheaded penalties in the third to allow the Blue Jackets to come back in the game, and they were outscored 4-2 in the third period.
They, again, played seven defensemen and eleven forwards which, from what I can tell, completely ruins their system. They deployed a 1-2-2 forecheck this game for the second time, which I think was used to preserve the energy of the eleven forwards, and they didn’t generate much. See, the first game was understandable as they were maybe trying things out. But a second game?
This was a horrible game to lose as the Columbus Blue Jackets could be the only team the Blackhawks may have to jump to make it to the playoffs. Instead of securing their two points with a complete effort, they looked like they reverted back to their ways of early January: Dominated by shots on goal, pressure, and taking stupid penalties didn’t help as they couldn’t solve the Blue Jackets’ powerplay, either.
Kevin Lankinen is mortal, as we could see with the 0.860 save percentage he earned in the loss. He was peppered with shots in the Blue Jackets onslaught that the Blackhawks responded woefully to. What fans should look for is his response to this performance tonight, if he gets the start.
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By no means was this Lankinen’s fault, he was hung out to dry by his teammates who couldn’t keep momentum and allowed it to go the other way.
The momentum killed the Blackhawks and hopefully, this reminds them to play a full sixty-minute game, and play TWELVE forwards next time to execute their high-energy play style. Madison Bowey had 11:49 of ice time this game.
Why is he in the lineup when he has as much playing time as a fourth-line forward? If he’s going to play, he should be in the six-man rotation. The Blackhawks are not void of forwards as the taxi squad has many ready to go. Reese Johnson was very good in his lone game and should be given the shot if no other forward is ready to go tonight.
The bright side of this game is that Patrick Kane and Alex Debrincat both registered three-point nights, and that Ian Mitchell and Nicolas Beaudin scored their first NHL goals. They also generated most of their offense on even strength.
The negatives are that they looked to have reverted back to their old tendencies of playing passive and not forcing the defense on the opposition to play on their toes, never comfortable with the puck. In this game, the defense didn’t look bothered at all, easily making passes out of their zone to start chances against. There were no forced turnovers because no Blackhawk player was in the offensive zone.
They are not running their aggressive 2-1-2 forecheck that got them so much success anymore, and the results show that this playstyle and system they are attempting does not work. They were sloppy with the puck as well with 17 giveaways, and when you give the puck away that many times any team in the NHL could punish you.
In this game against the Blue Jackets, the Blackhawks should run their twelve forward, six defense lineup and deploy the same systems that got them their 6-1-3 record. The saying “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” should be told to the coaching staff as they looked to have changed everything this game, and the team lost because of it. Kevin Lankinen should get the start tonight as well as the loss was not his fault.
This game had two very important points up for grabs, and the Blackhawks had it in their grasp, but let up and didn’t leave the game with a single point. This will hurt them now, and it could hurt their playoff chances based on how close five of these teams are to each other.
The Blackhawks took massive steps back and have a chance to redeem themselves on Saturday night.