Blackhawks Flame continues to burn out
After a disappointing overtime loss, the Blackhawks looked to change their fortunes in the second of a home and home series against the Calgary Flames Tuesday night. After giving up their third period lead, the Blackhawks lost early in overtime on a goal by Sean Monahan.
On top of the letdown of an overtime loss, the Blackhawks lost the chance at a valuable second point. As each game goes by, the Hawks are creeping closer and closer to being pushed out of playoff contention. With that in mind, Coach Joel Quenneville took to the line blending once again, looking to spark his team into a home victory.
These were the Blackhawks starting lines:
Alex DeBrincat – Jonathan Toews – Anthony Duclair
Artem Anisimov – Nick Schmaltz – Patrick Kane
Patrick Sharp – Ryan Hartman – Brandon Saad
Tomas Jurco – David Kampf – Vinnie Hinostroza
Duncan Keith – Jordan Oesterle
Erik Gustafsson – Brent Seabrook
Michal Kempny – Jan Rutta
The first two minutes of the game did not start out the way Blackhawks fans had hoped. The Flames kept the puck in their offensive zone for a majority of the first two minutes, but their early success came to an abrupt end. After clearing the puck from his defensive zone, Jordan Oesterle was boarded by Michael Ferland, sending the Hawks to the power play about two minutes into the game.
The power play didn’t start out great, but did find some success off the momentum of a Nick Schmaltz backhand chance. During the last-minute of the man advantage, Alex DeBrincat found the back of the net for his 19th goal of the season. The goal was a bit of a revelation for the Hawks, who combined puck movement and player movement with net front presence. With Ryan Hartman parked in front of Flames goalie Mike Smith, DeBrincat fired a wrist shot that gave the Blackhawks an early 1-0 lead.
That power play goal really kick started the Blackhawks, with the Jonathan Toews line the first to create some chances as the first period progressed. Later in the period, Smith shut down Hartman on a 2-on-1 that could have given the Hawks a much needed 2-0 lead. Despite being stopped on the chance, Hartman was noticeable all night, and would be a cause for controversy later in the game.
With over four minutes left in the first frame, the Blackhawks found themselves trying to kill off a 5-on-3 after a tripping penalty by Erik Gustafsson, and a dumb boarding penalty by Brent Seabrook. Despite the daunting task, the Hawks penalty kill had great success, limiting the Flames to mostly perimeter chances, and killing off the 5-on-3 with relative ease. As coach Quenneville always says, “whoever wins the 5-on-3 battle, wins the game,” and the Hawks were given a jolt of energy once again after special teams success.
The newly formed David Kampf line also featuring Tomas Jurco and Vinnie Hinostroza, had a few grade A chances before the end of the first, but Smith shut the door, and kept the score 1-0 at the end of the period. The shots were also in the Blackhawks advantage 11-6.
As the second period began, so did the Michael Frolik love fest. Pat Foley spent the first few minutes of the broadcast rehashing his love for the former Blackhawk. But the reunion was finally ended when the Flames scored their first goal of the game.
At 1:10 of the second period, a 2-on-1 chance was put past Jeff Glass, as a pass deflected off Dougie Hamilton and trickled into an unattended Blackhawks net. Glass was found well out of his crease on the chance, and showed once again that his positioning is not up to par with NHL goalie standards.
Shortly after a successful penalty kill by the Blackhawks, a lucky bounce finally seemed to benefit the home team. Jurco jumped out of the box, helping to create a few scoring chances along with Patrick Kane, ending in a loose puck sliding into the back of the Flames net. It was a chaotic sequence that found a Jurco shot bouncing around and Hartman pushed into Smith as the puck trickled through the goalie’s legs. But the story is never that simple, because the NHL replay system got involved.
After originally announcing that the Flames were challenging for goaltender interference, the referee announced they would first review if the puck was kicked in, before approving the challenge. After ruling the puck was not kicked in, the referee then announced they would accept the Flames challenge. After watching the replay for another 5-10 minutes, the goal was disallowed, ruling Hartman did in fact interfere with Smith.
Regardless of the call, the NHL replay system was a disaster. It took a solid 10-20 minutes and a few different announcements of, “The Flames are challenging, wait no they’re not, no wait….yes, they are going to challenge,” before determining the goal would be disallowed. As Foley pointed out, this is yet another incident where the NHL replay system has shown their level of incompetence.
After the disallowed goal, the Blackhawks found themselves on the power play twice in a short time period. The Hawks were not able to capitalize, but did continue their momentum to some extent. On the first power play, the first unit, who scored the first power play goal, generated some good chances and sustained zone time.
During the second power play the story was the passing between Kane and Hinostroza. Multiple times the players found themselves passing the puck back and forth through the slot, looking for one timers reminiscent to the Kane and Artemi Panarin days. The only difference was that Hinostroza has nowhere near the skill of Panarin, failing to actually shoot a one timer. Despite the lack of success, the sequence may be a preview of more to come on the Hawks power play. After failing those two times on the power play, the second period ended with a score of 1-1, and a 23-12 Blackhawks shot advantage.
The third period started off with yet another Blackhawks power play, but came to a screeching halt as Hartman was caught for tripping. After a terrific save by Glass, the Blackhawks killed the remainder of the Flames power play, and the controversy of the game reached an all-time high.
The Flames took a 2-1 lead on a Michael Stone goal, that looked to be tipped in a high stick by Johnny Gaudreau. Quenneville quickly turned around and challenged the goal, but didn’t have any luck. After a few minutes, despite a clear high stick, the Flames were awarded a goal, one that would be the dagger to the Blackhawks chance of winning, and yet another replay mishap.
As the period continued the teams traded chances in a fast-paced period. The Blackhawks continued to outshoot the Flames, but with nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.
With two minutes left, Quenneville pulled Glass, a decision that turned out to be costly. Not even a minute after Glass left his net, Monahan fired a shot into the empty net, making the score 3-1, and ending all hopes of a Blackhawks victory.
With about six seconds left, Kane scored, but it was too little too late for the Hawks. As the final seconds ticked off, the Flames finished their road victory with a 3-2 win, the first of a six game road trip for the Canadian team. The Blackhawks struggles at the United Center continue, and their playoff chances continue to decrease along with it.
- The Blackhawks special team’s units really had a strong game. The penalty kill did not give up any goals, and looked great while killing off the 5-on-3 during the first period. As for the power play, although it only generated only one goal, it did look much more competent than we have seen this season. The unit led by Toews and DeBrincat seemed to have some good puck movement which generated some nice chances. Even though going 1 for 5 doesn’t seem like progress, I think the eye test is more telling of the unit’s performance, and is hopefully a sign of things to come.
- I think it is safe to say the Blackhawks have found two productive lines they can trust. The DeBrincat-Toews-Duclair has played great since being formed a few games back. DeBrincat has had the hot hand lately for the Hawks, and Duclair has showed signs he may be a part of the Blackhawks future. The second productive line has been the Jurco-Kampf-Hinostroza line which has created a spark in the bottom six for the Blackhawks. Kampf continues to show he is a legit NHL center, and Hinostroza’s production has continued to be one of the few bright spots in the Hawks lineup. Also, despite not being a big fan of his game, Jurco has been a solid complementary piece on that line as well.
- I thought Hartman had his best game of the season, who played physical, gave the Hawks some much needed net front presence, and showed he can add some speed to his game as well. Is he Andrew Shaw 2.0? Absolutely not, the comparison is extremely lazy. Shaw is a much more energetic, antagonizing player, while Hartman is a more skilled hockey player. Nonetheless, I hope to see Hartman’s game stay this way the rest of the season.
- The NHL replay system is an absolute joke and can be added to the laundry list of issues Gary Bettman and the rest of the NHL can’t seem to figure out. I think the officials got both reviews wrong, and the organization of the replay system was embarrassing to say the least. I don’t think that the calls should be to blame for the loss, the Hawks scored 1 goal in 59 minutes, but the NHL continues to show they are not capable of having a game consistently officiated.
- I know the Hawks have almost 30 games left, but after watching this team for 53 games, I don’t think there is any hope for a playoff berth. For all of you out there who hold out hope Corey Crawford will save you, think again. This roster has more problems than the Kardashians, and a bunch of veterans not producing. I am of the opinion the Blackhawks should start selling now, but I will more likely be forced to suffer for the remainder of the season.
- Speaking of lack of production, Brandon Saad, what’s up man? Saad has been demoted to the fourth line, and didn’t show any reason he should be in the top six. This may be the most disappointing story of the season, and no one seems to be talking about it. The Blackhawks gave up Panarin for what hoped to be 30 goals, and the left wing Toews needed. Instead they are looking at a 24 points in 53 games at a 6 million dollar cap hit. I was a fan of the Panarin for Saad trade, both for cost certainty and the roster implications, but if Saad doesn’t pick things up, someone must be held accountable.