The Chicago Blackhawks entered the game against Penguins Tuesday night in second to last place with a record of 2-9-2. The game marked interim coach Derek King’s second game with the team after winning his debut. So, how did the Blackhawks fare?
Chicago jumped out to a 2-0 lead through two periods but gave up two goals in the third period to force overtime. There was no score through the overtime period forcing the shootout. The Blackhawks win the game 3-2 on shootout goals from Jonathan Toews and Alex DeBrincat. This win marks the first winning streak of the season for the Blackhawks.
Starting lineup for the Hawks:
*Noticeable absences: Brandon Hagel (time out undetermined) and MacKenzie Entwistle (out four to six weeks)
Jhujar Khaira and Seth Jones find the net for first goals as Blackhawks
After six games under then-coach Jeremy Colliton, Hawks fans were done with Khaira. He was nearly invisible on the ice. He averaged .67 shots per game and 2.8 hits. For a guy who doesn’t score much, he must find ways to make a difference on defense or on the boards, and those numbers weren’t getting it done.
In his first game under new coach, Derek King, Khaira had seven hits and three shots on goal. He also continued his above 50% faceoff win percentage. With that performance, he earned a spot on the second line with Jonathan Toews.
He made the most of it, breaking the 0-0 tie with a redirect goal on a beautiful pass from Toews. Perhaps with new management and a solid line, Khaira can become a difference-maker for the Blackhawks.
Seth Jones has been active on the scoreboard for the Hawks. Through eleven games, Jones had 11 points, all assists. He averages about four shots per game but has been unable to find the back of the net.
Tonight, in the second period, Jones blasted the puck past the goalie for his first goal. Jones has been a positive part of the Blackhawks’ offense, quarterbacking the powerplay; it was nice to see him light the lamp for himself.
Kirby Dach’s struggles continue
Coming into tonight’s game, Dach had just five points in 13 games. Worse still, he has just one assist in his last six games. To make matters worse, he won just one faceoff out ten tries against Nashville.
Coach King placed Dach between Kane and DeBrincat against the Penguins. Playing between the best goal scorers on the Hawks is certainly a recipe for breaking out of a slump. The move failed to achieve the desired results as Dach completed another game without a point. His linemates both tallied a point in the contest.
It’s clear that Chicago fans will have to be patient with Kirby. He’s only 20 years old and he is coming off an abbreviated season due to an injury. It is logical to assume that Coach King hopes playing with Kane and DeBrincat will elevate his game. Time will tell, but Dach may need to take a turn on the third or fourth line if doesn’t start producing soon.
Blackhawks defense rallies around Fleury
Since King took over as the coach, the Blackhawks have become stingy defensively giving up just four goals in two games. There were times during the game when the ice seem tilted in the Penguins’ favor, yet the Hawks kept the puck out of the net. Sometimes, a goalie makes up for poor defense, standing on his head to keep the net empty. Tonight, while Chicago did give up a lot of chances, there was a difference.
The defense was in a good position. They didn’t give up a lot of grade-A chances. They laid their bodies on the line to protect their own goal. On the night, the Blackhawks blocked 18 shots in front of Fleury. There were also numerous times that the Blackhawks’ D-men maintained position in front of the goal rather than dropping below the goal line getting caught with too many players out of position playing behind the net.
This net-front presence also eliminated dangerous rebounds and put backs. Whatever King has done or said to this group has them much more defensive-minded and accountable- still not perfect, but more competitive. Now he needs to work on our forward lines- they were unable to sustain much pressure.
The Blackhawks look to extend their streak on Friday when they face the Arizona Coyotes.