The Chicago Blackhawks looked to come out of the last game of their homestand with a victory when they faced the San Jose Sharks during a Sunday night matchup.
Sadly, this was not to be, as the ‘Hawks were unable to find the back of the net at all, and San Jose cruised to a somewhat easy 2-0 win. While the team looked dominant throughout the first period, the Sharks shut down all of Chicago’s offense, and the ‘Hawks look discombobulated throughout the second half of the game.
While the Blackhawks were able to put a number of shots on goal, sustained offensive pressure was few and far between. The story of this game is definitely the opportunities missed for Chicago, and it’s because of that that Sharks goalie James Reimer was able to get his first shutout of the season.
I was lucky enough to snag a pair of tickets and return to the United Center for the first time in what felt like forever, so having seen the game live, here are three takeaways from the Blackhawks’ loss against San Jose.
1. Thank Fleury It Wasn’t a Rout
If there was a single bright spot for the ‘Hawks in this game, it was Marc-Andre Fleury. The Flower was absolutely outstanding throughout the entire 60 minutes of play. While he did let in the lone difference-making tally, it came from off of a shot directly in the slot, allowing for San Jose forward Timo Meier to easily deflect the puck into the net.
I had an unobstructed view of this goal, and it was hardly Fleury’s fault. Beyond being slightly screened on the original shot, the defense allowed the Sharks forwards (as they did all night) to park themselves in the blue paint and get opportunities in key scoring areas.
Despite this, though, Fleury’s play tonight was just more evidence that he is one of the all-time great goaltenders of the past decade. A cross-crease save on Alexander Barabanov was the highlight of the game and will probably be in contention for his best stop of the season so far. Overall, the Flower is the only reason a 2-0 loss didn’t turn into what could’ve been a 3 or 4-0 rout.
2. Lackluster defense
I’m not saying that it was all the defense’s fault, because at the end of the day, the defense has to lead to offense, and there were no goals to be had. However, getting a chance to see the D play live reinforced the fact that the defense needs significant work.
We’ve talked about Jake McCabe a lot on Blackhawk Up, so I’m not going to beat a dead horse. To be honest, he actually had a fairly decent game, and has been looking a bit better in his last few matchups.
Truthfully, from my seats, the defenseman that seemed to struggle was Seth Jones. Not to beat another dead horse, but Jones just did not have a great game. He seemed to have a lot of trouble getting the breakout started, especially in the latter half of the game.
Additionally, Jones made a no-look spinning pass in his own zone more than once, which ended up careening off a stick and getting turned over to the Sharks. I’m okay with no-look passes from Patrick Kane in the offensive zone, but I’m less of a fan when defensemen try them on their side of the blue line.
However, while the defense clearly had issues in this game, that wasn’t the deciding factor in the Blackhawks’ loss. That came at the other end of the ice.
3. Rue missed offensive opportunities
If there was one thing that made me pull my hair out watching this game, it was the lack of coordinated offense, which obviously led to a grand total of zero goals.
The Blackhawks’ O-zone work was just not clicking. The first period actually looked good, with some sustained offensive pressure and a SOG total that far outweighed San Jose’s. However, beyond that, nobody was able to generate significant threats when it counted.
There was some zone play in the Sharks’ end, sure. However, the majority of the best ‘Hawks’ chances either went wide of the net or never found their target. The Blackhawks drew two powerplays, both of which were abysmal. They had good zone time on the man advantage but spent way too much time looking for the pretty play and not enough time getting the puck to the net.
The best chance of the game came on two separate odd-man rushes. However, the first one saw the puck whiff to the sideboards, and Dominik Kubalik shot the biscuit wide on the other. If just one of these pucks had gotten to the net, perhaps we would be talking about a different outcome.
Chicago will now head onto their charter plane and head to D.C. for a Thursday matchup against the Washington Capitals, where they will try to get back to the win column.
On an unrelated note – as I stated, this was the first Blackhawks game I’ve been to in nearly two years due to COVID-19. Despite the performance on the ice, it was a truly awesome experience to be back at the United Center. Some of my best memories as a child were made cheering at countless Blackhawks games, and getting to be among a crowd of ‘Hawks fans again was great.
Despite everything that has happened with the club these past few seasons, it was wonderful to see the team that means so much to me in person once again. I would urge everyone who is able to safely attend a game and follow the COVID guidelines to do so. It seems like this team needs the support of the fans now more than ever!