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Baby Steps … Baby Steps – Lightning 5, Blackhawks 2

Chicago Blackhawks

Friday night was more fun than Wednesday night. But that was a very low bar to overcome. The Chicago Blackhawks started this wonky 2021 season against the defending Stanley Cup Champions and they get outscored 10-3 in six periods of play.

The 5-2 loss on Friday night felt different than the 5-1 loss on Wednesday, but it still wasn’t good.

Listen, this season is going to be mostly bad. I’m prepared for that reality. But Wednesday night was a gut-punch effort and result from the Blackhawks against the Lightning. Friday night’s contest was a different story.

The Blackhawks started the game with a couple of welcomed changes. First, Collin Delia took the net in place of Malcolm Subban. It was an adventure to say the least. Delia finished with 32 saves on 37 shots, but this will have to be talked about a little bit more:

This game could have turned a different direction if Delia doesn’t have this mistake. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.

I still think Delia will end up with the most starts in net for Chicago this season.

The second change to the lineup was adding Philipp Kurashev to the lineup in place of Brandon Pirri. Kurashev making his NHL debut, put in a solid effort and had a handful of decent chances offensively in his first taste of NHL action. I think he’ll see much more ice time as the year goes on.

The Blackhawks had a GREAT first period, the best they had played through four periods of the season. They followed up that great start with the aforementioned missteps of Delia and getting pinned in their own zone for just under nine minutes, leading to the Lightning scoring three unanswered goals.

We all thought it: Here we go again.

Alex DeBrincat, Patrick Kane, and Dylan Strome were reunited as a line in the second period and turned the tides with back-to-back goals just under two minutes apart to cut the Tampa lead to 3-2 heading into the third period.

And just like that, the Blackhawks season had life once again.

Side note: Patrick Kane is still freakin’ NASTY!

The third period presented plenty of optimism to start. Blackhawks even had a couple of good penalty kills and a few powerplay chances. But ultimately, the Lightning are so freaking stacked that it really didn’t matter. Collin Delia got hung out to dry on a pair of third period tallies by the Lightning, leading me to remind you all that the Blackhawks team defense needs to improve from the past two seasons. The roster is constructed to do so, now they have to actually go out and do it.

Thank god the Blackhawks don’t have to face the Lightning again until March 4. Hopefully this is a changed for the better Blackhawks team by then.

Final Thoughts

•   Ian Mitchell’s second NHL game was better than his first NHL game. Never mind being a minus-3. He finished with the fewest minutes of the six defensemen with 13:28 TOI, but he finished with the best Corsi numbers (16-5 shots for) on the team. Progress.

•   Adam Boqvist is starting to give me Erik Gustafsson vibes defensively. I don’t like that. But he has assists in both games so far this season, so that is good for him.

•   Dominik Kubalík is still not getting powerplay time and I don’t know why. He scored 30 goals last season. Am I missing something here? He finished with 16:08 TOI, a whole lot more than he saw on Wednesday, so at least that’s good.

•   Pius Suter led all forwards with 18:49 TOI in just his second NHL game. Although it’s been a rough go for most Blackhawks to start the season, Suter looks like he belongs in the league and will be a factor for Chicago this season.



Author: Mario Tirabassi

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.