The last two losses were what I would consider the perfect tank losses. The Blackhawks played well, played hard, and played clean (for the most part), but they got just one point out of it.
Leon Draisaitl’s game-winning goal in the final minute of regulation a few nights ago and an overtime loss to Buffalo last night were just the right mixes of the team playing to the vision of Kyle Davidson and Luke Richardson while not costing themselves ground in the reverse standings, the ones that matter this season in Chicago.
Tonight was another well-played game for the Blackhawks, who were in it to the end despite the Wild taking an early 2-1 lead halfway through the first.
Jake McCabe gave the Blackhawks an early lead with a 58-foot wrister that got by a screened Marc-André Fleury. Sam Lafferty set McCabe up and delivered the pass, and logged his fourth assist of the season on the goal.
But, the Wild would even things up seconds later — an unfortunate theme tonight. Matt Boldy scored after a breakdown in the Blackhawks’ defensive zone. Minnesota would take the lead at 2-1 minutes later on a net-front goal by Mason Shaw, who got the feed from Sam Steel — who absolutely took Alex Stalock’s lunch money on that sequence.
Jonathan Toews’ team-leading fifth goal tied the game up in the second period, and Andreas Athanasiou made it 3-2 Blackhawks midway through the third.
The Blackhawks guaranteed themselves at least one point in the overtime, with the game tied at three-all at the end of regulation.
Again, this team is playing well enough to entertain the fans and look like a team that can meet the vision laid out for them down the road, yet still taking some hard-fought losses that will help them out in the reverse standings.
I’m sure the players aren’t thrilled about the recent results, but I can almost guarantee that the front office is.
Star 1: Jonathan Toews
The Captain didn’t get to the 500 assists mark tonight, — which he’s very close to — but he still had another strong game that included a game-tying goal midway through the second period. Toews’ five goals put him on pace to match his 12 from last season (in 71 games) at about the 25-game mark this year. What a pleasant 180 for Toews this season.
Star 2: Luke Richardson
As Tab wrote in the wake of the Seth Jones injury news this afternoon, the health of some essential pieces on this Blackhawks roster is taking some serious hits of late. With Mrazek and Tyler Johnson on IR for the immediate future and Seth Jones set to miss up to a month with a broken thumb, each position group has lost a veteran player.
Still, Luke Richardson keeps getting the guys there ready to play a strong game, tonight included. Next man up was the plan for filling Jones’ many roles in tonight’s game with the Wild, and the Blackhawks were ready. Hats off to the bench boss for continuing to extract the most out of his guys and pressing the right buttons.
Star 3: Sam Lafferty
Even with Philipp Kurashev moving up to the second line to replace Tyler Johnson, Sam Lafferty continues to anchor an uber-productive third line for the Blackhawks, with tonight no exception. Lafferty quarterbacked the play that resulted in Jake McCabe’s first-period goal and was visible in action all night. Lafferty is up to seven points on the season, with a primary assist recorded tonight.
- Boris Katchouk continued to impress me with his physicality on the Blackhawks’ fourth line, getting credit for a shot, a blocked shot, and a team-high five hits through just the first two periods alone. Katchouk’s hit on Wild forward Frederick Gaudreau in the second period was massive.
- Kurashev logged a primary assist on the Toews goal in the second period and has looked the part of a top-six forward the last two nights. Kurashev’s third line with him, Jason Dickinson, and Sam Lafferty was something that Luke Richardson wanted to keep together for continuity, but Tyler Johnson’s injury created a need for the Blackhawks and an opportunity for Kurashev. So far, so good there.
- Alex Stalock continues to log good games. He also continues to scare me for 60 minutes of hockey. He’s performing, but he just doesn’t provide me with much confidence, especially if he’s getting the lion share of starts between the pipes with Mrazek sidelined.
- The Blackhawks played a disciplined game tonight, only getting called for two penalties, both of which they killed with relative ease, and had a solid look at a short-handed goal on the first one. Again, hats off to Luke Richardson and his staff for their part in these efforts. The Blackhawks wanted to play a certain brand of hockey, and we’re seeing it even in the infancy of the rebuild.