After getting skated out of the building in Denver on Wednesday night, the Blackhawks headed to Vegas to face a Golden Knights team that beat the Kings in LA in their first game of the season. Two nights, two turns being the visitor for a home opener. And both teams they were facing had plenty of skill.
Caleb Jones was activated off IR before the game and took Alec Regula‘s spot on the blue line. And Reese Johnson took Buddy Robinson‘s spot on the fourth line. Head coach Luke Richardson was looking for those two to get their feet wet in the new year, but also wanted to see some important changes on the ice — specifically his team staying out of the penalty box.
The Blackhawks couldn’t solve Logan Thompson and lost a hard-fought game 1-0. Again, this was a good effort from the Hawks against a team with more fire power. We’re asking for them to work hard and that’s what we got tonight.
Star 1: Alex Stalock
Look, I don’t expect the Blackhawks goaltending to be a source of strength this year; I predicted Arvid Söderblom would lead the team in wins this season and he’s in Rockford right now. But Petr Mrazek wasn’t bad on Wednesday night in Denver and Stalock was surprisingly phenomenal tonight. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say he kept an underwhelming group of skaters in the game for 50 minutes — including allowing just one goal against 18 shots in the second period alone.
Stalock stopped 36 of 37 in the game and was really the only reason the Blackhawks stayed within one as long as they did.
Star 2: Patrick Sharp
Sharpie started his night appearing to get legitimately pissed that the crew back in Chicago was hitting the Goose Island – Blackhawks beer collaboration during the pregame show while he was “stuck in Vegas” with Chris Vosters. Then he told us he has no Chicago Bears on his fantasy football team, proving he knows how to win at that, too.
But in all seriousness, Sharpie did a nice job in the booth for his first regular season assignment. He threw a few jokes in (one specifically about Kaner’s hairline) and reminisced about the good ol’ days when the Blackhawks were sending Detroit to the Eastern Conference with an L.
Star 3: Seth Jones
After skating heavy minutes on Wednesday night, Seth came back and did it again in Vegas. He was on the ice for 26:24 — almost six minutes more than any other defenseman on the Blackhawks’ roster. Jones was credited with three blocked shots, two shots on net, one hit and two takeaways. There were times that Jones was the only skater on the ice driving any offense whatsoever. So he gets the ol’ sticktap as our third star of the night.
- What killed the Blackhawks on Wednesday night? Taking six penalties. Did they adjust overnight? Yes! It took more than 37 minutes for the Blackhawks to take a penalty on Thursday night, and when they did the PK handled its business.
- What else did the Blackhawks need to improve on after their first game? Getting the puck on net. Did they adjust overnight? Yes! Chicago out-shot Vegas 10-9 in the first period, which was a solid start. And the Blackhawks had more shots in two periods on Thursday (18) than they did in 60 minutes in Denver on Wednesday (17).
- Unfortunately, the Blackhawks allowed 18 shots on net… in just the second period. And one of them beat Stalock to give the Golden Knights a 1-0 lead. Paul Cotter ripped home the first goal of the night. As we pointed out in our pre-gamin’ post, Vegas put 51 shots on net against the Kings in their first game so 27 shots on Stalock through 40 minutes might have been a little behind their previous pace.
- Max Domi was back over 50 percent at the dot (he won 12 of 21) but Sam Lafferty had a rough night. He won six of 15 at the dot, and took more as many faceoffs than Jonathan Toews (who won six of 11) in the game.
- Filip Roos had another really good night. He’s played physical in both games, willing to use his body to separate an opponent from the puck or block a shot. And he’s passed well out of trouble. He’s still a rookie and playing his first year in North America, but he’s been impressive thus far.
- I’m not a fan of Vegas’ gold jerseys. Sorry.