The Chicago Blackhawks returned to the United Center post-Thanksgiving day against the long time rival St. Louis Blues.
The Blackhawks returned fresh from their 5-2 loss against the Calgary Flames. Both teams took the ice with tons of energy and the Blues had all the momentum in the first period when they took a 2-0 lead and going into the second period.
Both teams brought some noise to the United Center crowd in the second period after a scrap between Jake McCabe and Blues forward Brayden Schenn. Wyatt Kalynuk returned to the lineup after spending two weeks with the Rockford IceHogs. Khaira, Hagel and DeBrincat scored the three goals for the Hawks.
Lankinen was strong in net, allowing 2 goals on 25 shots in a 3-2 comeback win against the Blues. In return, the Blackhawks also get their first win against starting Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington.
The Blackhawks scored on 5 on 5 play, did not capitalize on any of their power play opportunities, gave away several chances in the neutral zone, played a moderate defensive game and bailed out Lankinen several times in an OT win.
Here are my three takeaways from the win
1. 5 on 5
With Jeremy Colliton, the Blackhawks were not getting many offensive opportunities in their own zone during 5 on 5 play. Turning pucks over in the neutral zone, giving away opportunities and trouble entering the offensive zone. Since Derek King took over, he has allowed his team to go on the ice and create chemistry amongst line combinations and trusts his players to make their own plays.
The Blackhawks have spent more time in the offensive zone during 5 on 5 play, getting shots on goal, getting physical with opposing players and putting traffic in front of the net, despite averaging a lower goals for amount. As the great Eddie Olczyk always says, shoot the puck towards the net and good things happen. Khaira went to the net, and scored a goal and Hagel went to the net and deflected in a goal, both on 5 on 5 play.
2. Power Play Struggles Continue
Since King took over, the Blackhawks are a dismal 1 for 28 on the power play. During today’s game, the Hawks were 0 for 3 on the power play. Currently, the Blackhawks are 22nd in the NHL in Power Play Percentage (16.7% – 11 for 66). The Hawks are having trouble creating plays, passing, getting shots on net and entering their own zone. Even with Derek King allowing players to create their own chemistry, there needs to be routine chemistry every time on the power play. Whether its having players on the same side of the ice, constantly passing, creating scoring lanes, getting shots on net and creating chemistry amongst the same 5 players on the same unit will be beneficial in order to make the man advantage top 10 in the league. Now, we are only 8 games in under the helm of Derek King and things can change over time. It’s safe to say that the 5 on 5 play has drastically improved in the goal scoring department, but there needs to be balance when scoring goals on both 5 on 5 and the power play.
3. Scoring Troubles, Lineup Changes Needed, Potential Callups?
Even with today’s 3-2 win, the Blackhawks are still averaging about 2.16 per game and need help scoring wise. The Blackhawks have had a rough start to the season, after previously going 1-9-2 under Colliton and going 6-2-0 under King, they have played a better defensive game and have improved on 5 on 5 play.
The scoring troubles have continued even with forwards Alex DeBrincat, Patrick Kane and Brandon Hagel combining for 25 of the 44 goals scored by the Hawks. Jonathan Toews, who has returned after spending a year away from the team with a personal health issue and Dominik Kubalik have struggled to put pucks in the back of the net. Even with Toews being the face of the franchise since 2007 and Kubalik with his outstanding 30 goal rookie season, some minor changes need to be made.
Today, the Blackhawks placed forward Adam Gaudette on waivers and Dylan Strome was scratched again. Henrik Borgstrom has not turned what former disgraced General Manager Stan Bowman stated when he acquired his signing rights from the Florida Panthers before this season. Mike Hardman has been barely noticable on the ice, Gustafsson has not provided the same amount of offense since the 2018-2019 season and there is not enough physicality, especially from forwards Reese Johnson and Jujhar Khaira, who were brought in for that specific role, to get the team more energized during games.
It’s safe to say that it’s time to move on from some forwards and look to the future. Lukas Reichel is thriving in Rockford and I believe the Blackhawks will let him develop in the AHL for a few more weeks and can maybe provide some young energy and scoring help to a lineup that desperately needs it.
Could Alex Nylander benefit from a promotion?
Could the Hawks benefit from a trade for an offensive defenseman?
Kalynuk scored 4 goals and 5 assists in 21 games during the 2021 season and was fantastic during his brief stint with the IceHogs.
Could giving someone like Wyatt Kalynuk more overall ice time and time on the power play be beneficial?
Who knows, many changes could come if Interim GM Kyle Davidson and Interim Head Coach Derek King decide some changes need to be made should the Hawks become a playoff contender before the Trade Deadline.
The Blackhawks pulled it off in a comeback 3-2 OT win with scoring help from Khaira, Hagel and DeBrincat and Lankinen strong in goal. The Blackhawks are still trying to form chemistry on 5 on 5 and the power play. One goal is better than no goals and some changes will be coming eventually. We are only 8 games in with Interim Head Coach Derek King and things are bound to change in order to get the Blackhawks out of their low scoring funk.