Luke Richardson made today’s morning skate optional, sticking with the trend of de-emphasizing the morning skates, especially on game days. There’s only so much mental and physical energy in the tank, so use it when it matters, right?
I’m all for trying something new to break out of a funk, but when you give the roster an option to skate in the morning or not, and it’s lightly attended, you would hope that they would use some of that saved energy for a performance more inspired than the one we witnessed tonight against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Even with Richardson’s different approach on the morning skate, heck, even on the power play, where he rolled out a five-forward look on PP1, it was the same old song and dance for this unit tonight.
The Blackhawks did exactly what Richardson told them not to do after the spanking that Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals put on them 48 hours prior, and spent much of the night watching the puck, getting stuck, and then watching Vegas get open looks while they tried to pick their pants up from around their ankles.
The Blackhawks were boo-ed off the ice at the second intermission, and it didn’t get any better from there as Vegas’ dominance in this one was never in doubt.
But hey, the Ducks beat the Habs 5-2 tonight, so we’ve got that going for us, right?
Star 1: Barry
Honestly, the Blackhawks could have won 13-0 tonight, and the first star was always going to Barry in my book. A mutual friend of Luke Richardson and Bruce Cassidy, Barry was in town on vacation before heading home to Ottawa — where he’s a firefighter — where he will soon donate a kidney to another childhood friend on the verge of full-time analysis.
Richardson wore an Ottawa Fire Department shirt today and shared the remarkable story after the morning skate. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I recommend you do:
Star 2: Katrina Vlasich
Look, it’s mid-December and the Blackhawks have been miserable for weeks — with tonight being no exception — so one of our favorite 300 level STH’s brining Christmas stocking goodie bags packed with treats to distract us from the game was the most clutch performance in the building tonight.
Star 3: Arvid Söderblom
Söderblom’s allowed a goal in each of the first two periods tonight, and neither of them were really on him. The first was the Vegas power play goal in the first period where Jack Johnson was caught puck-watching, leaving the back door wide open for Chandler Stephenson. The second was a shorthanded goal in the second period where — count ’em — three Blackhawks were caught doing the same thing, giving Reilly Smith a wide-open look at a one-timer blast. Other than that, the kid looked good against a pretty good Vegas offense tonight, a unit that entered the game ranked 7th in the NHL in scoring.
- Max Domi was the most active player on the ice tonight, getting a scoring look nine seconds into the game and finishing near the top of the box score in shots and has a CF% relative near 30 percent through two periods. Not much was cooking for the Blackhawks tonight, but Max Domi was noticeable most of the night.
- Taylor Raddysh also had a nice-looking game tonight and potted the only goal of the night for the Blackhawks in the third period.
- It’s almost like Luke Richardson is a good coach and knows what he’s talking about. Richardson has repeatedly said that the Blackhawks’ early deficits can often be directly attributed to skaters getting caught watching the puck too much. Two, sometimes three or four skaters end up, as Richardson said this week, pulled in by a “tractor beam” towards the puck, and then get caught with their pants down when the puck gets passed to an opposing skater that they were paying zero attention to, creating wide open space and looks at the net. Like clockwork, the first Vegas goal was a PPG where Jack Johnson was sleeping, setting up a slam dunk look for Chandler Stephenson behind him. Take a look:
- Richardson has been saying this and insists that he’s been telling and showing the players. But, at some point, it’s on the players, and as Ricardson noted this week, if they can’t do the job, the matter of fact is that someone else will.
- Luke Richardson talked about going to a five-forward look on the top power play line tonight, which he said would put the puck in the hands of guys who can and have been active shooting the puck. Richardson rolled out his quintuplet of forwards late in the first period after Max Domi drew a tripping call. Domi, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Andreas Athanasiou, and Tyler Johnson comprised the group. They got an excellent chance with Patrick Kane knuckling on towards the net from the point that Tyler Johnson almost stuffed home. Unfortunately, it also didn’t take long to see the disastrous potential of a line with no defenseman, as Vegas scored a shorthanded goal early in the second period.
- That goal was another example of the constant puck watching that has plagued the Blackhawks this season.