The Blackhawks won their first two games on home ice to start the new season, but the schedule got distinctly harder starting Tuesday night when the Florida Panthers rolled into Chicago. This should have been a loss. They told us the Blackhawks were a nice story but they weren’t going to hang with the elite teams in the NHL — like the Panthers.
Then the puck dropped and the Blackhawks went to work. Instead of trailing (which they have in all three of their wins), the Blackhawks got the lead early with a Taylor Raddysh power play goal.
But then Kane sat… and sat… and sat. Because the Blackhawks spent almost 10 of the first 12 minutes of the second period on the penalty kill, Kane took only two shifts in the first 12:05 of the middle frame. The Blackhawks were whistled for six penalties in the second period (one was off-set by a Panthers penalty) and killed all five penalties… and out-shot the Panthers in the second period.
The Blackhawks were more defensive in the third period and eventually it caught up with them. Florida’s Eetu Luostarinen scored 11:32 into the third to erase the shutout. Matthew Tkachuk cut the lead to one 75 seconds later. And then Max Domi went to the box for illegally playing the puck with his hand off a faceoff and things got a little anxious inside the United Center. The third period got a little crazy but… the Blackhawks held on. Another wild night at the United Center.
Let’s get into our three stars.
Star 1: The Penalty Kill
I already noted it above, but it’s worth saying this again. The Blackhawks killed five penalties in the second period and still out-shot the Panthers 9-8 in the period. One of the highest powered offenses in the NHL was held to four shots on net in five power plays and the Blackhawks extended their lead to three despite being short-handed almost the entire first half of the period.
Then the Blackhawks had to kill another penalty right after the Panthers scored twice in a 75-second span to cut the lead to one — and they did that, too. It was a ridiculous effort that the Blackhawks made look easy.
Star 2: Alex Stalock
After his performance on Tuesday night, Stalock may have adopted a middle name generally used for Bucky Dent or Aaron Boone or Bill Buckner (IYKYK). The guy stood on his head a handful of times, with probably his biggest save coming about seven minutes into the third period. He got some help from the Panthers’ awful aim (they had a few wide open cages and whiffed — including Alexsander Barkov), but he made some huge saves.
He didn’t get a shutout, but Stalock remains undefeated on home ice to start the season.
Star 3: 88
A couple quick historical nuggets for Kaner on Tuesday night:
- Kane became the third player in Blackhawks history to record 800 career even-strength points, following Stan Mikita (987) and Bobby Hull (806).
- Only two other active players have reached 800 even-strength points: Sidney Crosby (896) and Alex Ovechkin (879).
- Kane’s two points tied him with his first coach in the NHL, Denis Savard, with 623 career points on home ice, good for third in Blackhawks’ franchise history behind Mikita (823) and Bobby Hull (635).
- Have I mentioned how amazing the Blackhawks’ penalty kill was in the second period? Because I’m going to say it again. Tremendous.
- The Blackhawks were credited with 19 hits and 12 blocked shots through 40 minutes. They were putting in work all over the ice, battling for every inch. And competing. This Blackhawks team is supposed to be bad, defensively poor and offensively challenged. And they spent half of a period short-handed and had a three-goal lead after two periods. It’s just…
- Tyler Johnson went down hard early in the third period. He scooted off the ice on one leg and needed assistance getting to the dressing room.
- I’ve been impressed with how much the Blackhawks are spreading out the offense so far this season, and Tuesday night was no exception. Ten different skaters had a point — only Kane had more than one. It’s coming from all over the roster, which makes this team dangerous. It also takes pressure off Kane and Jonathan Toews to feel like they have to carry the offense.
- All six of the Blackhawks’ defensemen had both a hit and a blocked shot. It as really a complete effort on the back end.