Avalanche 5 -- Blackhawks 2: Three Stars, Key Takeaways

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Avalanche 5 — Blackhawks 2: Three Stars, Key Takeaways

Chicago Blackhawks

We knew going into Wednesday night that the Blackhawks weren’t likely to win the game. Patrick and I have urged fans throughout the summer and training camp to look at the effort more than the end result, because this team is going to lack the skill to compete with really good teams — and they opened the season against the defending champs.

The final score wasn’t great, though it might not have been as bad as many thought it could have been. Staying out of the penalty box against an elite team is going to be critical if the Blackhawks want to stay in games. But hey, at least the Hawks only gave up one even-strength goal.

Star 1: Jonathan Toews

Everybody has loved taking their shots at Chicago’s captain over the past couple years. After taking a year away from the game to get himself right, he struggled early last year — especially on the offensive end of the rink. This year, plenty of folks had their say about his performances in preseason games. And he’s said he looks forward to checking those receipts this season on the ice.

Well, Toews scored the Blackhawks’ first goal of the 2022-23 season on the power play in the first period — the first time in his career he’s scored Chicago’s first of the year. He didn’t get on the board until the 26th game last year (Dec. 9).

Toews finished the night with a team-leading three shots on net and won 10 of 14 faceoffs. He looked as strong and fast as he did at any point last year and had it the whole night. If Toews wanted to quiet his doubters, his performance on Wednesday night should at least give them pause. I’m going to give you the home radio call of the goal as well because we got Edzo on the television call.

Star 2: Max Domi

Domi was asked to center Patrick Kane‘s line, which is no small task. When we talked to him about it during training camp he admitted Kane plays the game at such a high level it’s hard to keep up at times. And, for 40 minutes, their line (with Andreas Athanasiou) struggled to do anything. But Kane found Domi on the power play early in the third period and Domi scored his first with the Blackhawks to cut Colorado’s lead back to two.

Domi also won 11 of 19 faceoffs in the game, which is terrific.

Star 3: Luke Richardson

There were some other really good performances from young guys. Philipp Kurashev skated his butt off, MacKenzie Entwistle was praised by Edzo during the broadcast and had a very good night, and Alec Regula had a few really good shifts in the third period. But I’m going to make the head coach my third star of the night. He went into a hostile barn celebrating a championship and we got a performance we should hope to see more of this year (except the penalties). The Blackhawks competed the entire night, and that’s a reflection of their respect for Richardson. On his first night as a permanent head coach in the NHL, hats off to Richardson for getting a solid effort from an overwhelmed roster.

Takeaways

  • In the first period, Tyler Johnson went to the box and the Blackhawks — who had been under seige up to that point — had their new, more aggressive penalty kill approach tested by one of the best in the business. And Chicago escaped the short-handed situation, allowing just one shot on net during the Colorado advantage. Entwistle did a noticeably strong job on the Hawks’ first PK of the night, which isn’t a surprise. He’s consistently impressed with his high hockey IQ and motor. And, maybe most importantly, he understands that playing a role is his ticket to the show. He did a nice job early in the opener.
  • Jujhar Khaira never made sense to me as an addition on a multi-year deal last year when the Blackhawks were going for it. He had some brutal health struggles last year that cost him most of the season, but coming back on a team that wants to play fast made him a harder fit, even if losing is the end goal. Maybe he’s tank insurance? Because his turnover in the first period was as bad as it gets, and let to Colorado’s first goal.
  • So the good news is the goal above was the only goal the Blackhawks allowed at even strength in the first two periods. The bad news is, after the initial PK looked strong, the Avs went back to the drawing board and their passing was absolutely elite. On more than a few Mrazek barely had a chance. The Hawks weren’t taking away passing lanes but the Avs had it on a string and moving incredibly quickly. It felt like the Blackhawks were short-handed during 5-on-5, so giving Colorado six power plays in the first two periods was a recipe for disaster. The Avs scored on four of their six power plays in the game.
  • The Blackhawks struggled to get shots on net once again, an issue that plagued them during the preseason. They were out-shot 12-4 in the first period and 10-6 in the second period, at which point they had handed the defending champs five power plays, three of which turned into goals.
  • Seth Jones got stuck on the ice for a three-minute shift during the second period. And, in the first game of the season at altitude in Denver, it would make sense if his legs were tired. But he got thrown back on the ice at the end of the second period for a power play and could barely move. You could hear Kane shout “what the #%&$ are you doing?” at him at one point when he hadn’t even entered the offensive zone, and he didn’t even try to play the puck along the boards in the defensive zone later in the shift. If you can’t skate, tap out. Jones was at almost 19 minutes of ice time at the end of the second period so I get that he might be tired, but speak up. Don’t waste a power play because you have nothing to contribute.


Author: Tab Bamford

Tab is the Lead Blackhawks voice for BN. He is the author of two books about the Blackhawks, most recently "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter at @The1Tab