Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Blackhawks at Las Vegas
4-2 Loss Recap


by Gatekeeper

Blackhawks fans witnessed a chapter of history in the team's tenth game of the season, last night. This was the first time the Blackhawks would EVER play in Vegas, and EVER face the Golden Knights. If you told me, before the season, that the Golden Knights would have a better record than the Blackhawks coming into this contest, I would have laughed you out of Chicago. Yet, the golden Knights came in with a 6-1 record, without their top two goalies, no less. Former Columbus Blue Jackets first round draft pick and highly rated goalie prospect, Oscar Dansk, was playing in Chicago with the Wolves just a few days earlier. Now he was making his first NHL start against the Chicago Blackhawks in Las Vegas. Vegas also had several surprises on their roster. Pest James Neal was leading the team with 8 points , but this team was full of depth players that were playing above their heads. Most of us fully expected the Blackhawks to feast on the Coyotes and their second string goalie, the previous game, but that was not the case. Once again, they let everyone down.

I eluded to the fact that the Blackhawks might come into this game with a little bit of the "Vegas Flu", and it didn't seem that way for the first three minutes, at least. After Duncan Keith took a penalty on James Neal to keep him from getting a break-a-way, #BigJohnStudd Hayden stole the puck in the Knight's zone, deked a defender and beat Oscar Dansk for a shorthanded goal. That is where the Blackhawks good fortunes ended. Twenty six seconds after the Hayden goal, a long slap shot was redirected past Corey Crawford to tie the game. The misfortunes continued less than two minutes later, when a Derek Engelland shot from the half boards hit Corey Crawford and rolled up, over his shoulder, dropping in the crease. Crawford tried to reach back with his blocker to keep the puck from rolling over the goal line, but Tomas Nosek poked it into the net. The remainder of the period was sloppy and action was at both ends, but the Knights went into the intermission up 2-1, while out shooting the visiting team 14-10.

The play in the second period wasn't wasn't quite to the level of the first until the final 6 minutes, that is. A big clean hit by Brayden McNabb on Nick Schmaltz led to Ryan Hartman blowing a gasket and taking a double minor for slashing/roughing. Seconds after fully killing off the double minor, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare found himself in the slot wide open with the puck on his stick, which was plenty of room to beat a surprised Corey Crawford. This goal gave the Knights a 3-1 lead heading into the intermission. The shots were tied at 8 for the middle frame, but the important stat was the third Golden Knights goal. Once again, the Blackhawks were playing down to a team that should be inferior. Then again, maybe it is the Blackhawks who are inferior.

In the third period, the Blackhawks simply could not overcome their early deficit and finally succumbed to the brand new Golden Knights, 4-2. Down already 3-1, the Blackhawks had sufficient pressure to make an effort to cut the lead but Jonathan Marchessault took all of the wind out of their sails at the midway point of the final period, on the powerplay. Brent Seabrook was in the box for hooking and Marchessault was given all the time in the world to pick apart Corey Crawford. From then on, it was desperation mode for the Blackhawks. Patrick Kane cut the lead to two goals with a minute left, but the game was essentially over. For those doubting the Blackhawks would be suffering from the Vegas flu and thought they would come out sharp, think again.

The Good
  • #BigJohnStudd Hayden was an early bright spot, with his shorthanded goal. Just too bad the team around him was sweating out the booze from the previous two days in sin city. Hayden's play on the PK was textbook, simple and ultra effective. He hugged the boards to stop an attempt to clear the zone, picked up the loose puck and drove straight to the net, while dangling a defender. This is not 4th line talent. I will be shocked if he finishes the year that low in the lineup. His offensive zone starts are the complete opposite of what they had him doing last season. If he can do what he is doing with 30% offensive zone starts, imagine what he could do at 50%, like Hartman
  • Jonathan Toews very quietly had a nice night, which you'd expect from the well behaved, respected Captain. Toews was a plus 2, and was over 50% at the faceoff dot. It is just too bad that the rest of the team was dragging sandbags behind them all night.
  • Jordan Oesterle has been perfectly fine in the Hawks lineup. It will be hard to keep him in the lineup every day with Michal Kempny and Cody Franson available, but he is a useful and competent depth defender.

The Bad
  • Nick Schmaltz, who was just coming off a reported concussion, got his bell rung again in the second period. He better learn how to avoid defenders better, or his career is going to end with him having to spend a majority of his time in a dark, quiet room. Speaking of Schmaltz, he did not have his best game. He had a chance to score on a back door play that he missed and then was in la-la land on the Knights 3rd goal.
  • The Blackhawks are now 5-3-2 and, honestly, this is the team I expected to see. A team that struggles in many areas, but can win enough on talent alone to stay afloat. This is going to be a challenging year.
  • The Blackhawks penalty kill continues to show a vast improvement from last year, but took a big hit in this game. Vegas, whose powerplay is middle of the road, scored two goals in this game. This overshadowed Hayden's shorthanded goal.
  • It's all good and well that Ryan Hartman is drawing penalties, but he is starting to turn into the overly dramatic Brad Marchand/Andrew Shaw type. Give me the last years Hartman. He seems more concerned with the game drama, which is not helping his line. If he wants to play that game, and Quenneville wants that kind of babysitter out on the ice with Kane, swap him with Hayden.

The Ugly
  • The game wasn't five minutes old and Steve Konroyd blurted out this very statement:
    "Duncan Keith doesn't usually get his shot blocked from the point"
    Excuse me, Steve, but this might be one of Duncan Keith's biggest downfalls and has been for years. That comment is the exact opposite of the truth, and is a prime example of an analyst giving viewers blatantly incorrect information. You know what that also creates? Misinformed meatballs.
  • This is just another case of the Blackhawks making a backup, this time 3rd string, goalie look like an all-star.
  • The Blackhawks powerplay is continuing to be just barely competent. They pitched another 0-fer night, going 0-3. Bad powerplays don't win championships. You have to be, at least, middle of the road and they sit at 20th overall. Honestly, 20th seems high based on the clown shoes approach they have had.

The Lineblender
Left Wing - Center - Right Wing
Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Richard Panik
Ryan Hartman - Nick Schmaltz - Patrick Kane
Patrick Sharp - Artem Anisimov - Alex Debrincat
Lance Bouma - Tommy Wingels - John Hayden

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Jordan Oesterle - Connor Murphy
Gustav Forsling - Jan Rutta


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