Along the boards: Blackhawks extinguish Flames in Calgary, 8–4

  

After Jacob Markstrom won Wednesday’s game for the Canucks, the Blackhawks looked to rebound against the Calgary Flames for some Saturday night hockey.

The Blackhawks wasted no time getting things going. As fans were settling in their seats, and admittedly, writers for settling into their favorite chair with an ice-cold beverage, Jonathan Toews put the visitors out front early with a beautiful snipe from the left-wing side of the ice.

Slater Koekkoek’s pass squeaked through the pinching defenseman for Calgary and found Toews in stride with plenty of room to spare.

Despite the hot start for the Hawks, it did not take long for Calgary to respond. About two minutes after Toews’s tally, Sam Bennett tipped home a pass in the blue paint from Dillon Dube to knot the game up. Bennett was able to hide and get to Robin Lehner’s backside for the tip.

As the period neared its mid-point, the Hawks’ top line went back to work. As Patrick Kane went down low, he dished the puck to Toews, who found Dominik Kubalik from behind the Calgary net to give the visitors the lead once again. Kubalik was able to find space in the low slot and capitalize on the Toews feed.

The Flames refused to go away. Sam Bennett once again tallied for the Flames to tie the game once again. This time, a slick Dube pass sprung Bennett on a breakaway and he beat Lehner to his blocker side.

As the game moved into the second period, the Blackhawks were primed for an onslaught. Four minutes into the middle frame, Brandon Saad tallied on a nice set up from Kane to restore the Blackhawks’ lead. Saad found space and beat David Rittich five-hole to finish on his 18th of the season.

Just over a minute later, an unlikely name tallied to force the lead to two goals. A cross-ice pass for Calgary was intercepted in their defensive zone by Alex Nylander. He walked in on Rittich and made one move to beat the goalie for the fourth tally of the night. Nylander showed that skill that made him the eighth overall draft pick years ago.

The Flames threatened after Elias Lindholm scored on a big shot from the mid-slot. However, two late period tallies would open the game up for the Blackhawks.

With just over two minutes remaining in the period, the “third line” went to work in the Calgary zone. Kirby Dach and Dylan Strome were both working beneath the goal line, ultimately stealing the puck from the Calgary defense. Strome gained possession and found his friend Alex DeBrincat who finished for his 14th of the season. “The Cat” has had a tough season, so seeing him put the frozen biscuit in the net was a pretty sight for Hawks fans everywhere.

On the next shift, the fourth line went to work in the offensive zone as well. Matthew Highmore found the puck below the goal line and hit Alex Nylander with a sweet pass in the slot and the Swede beat Cam Talbot, as he took over for Rittich, to extend the Blackhawks’ lead.

Elias Lindholm threatened once again, tallying his 27th goal of the season on the power play. However, Patrick Kane finished on an empty-net goal just two and a half minutes later to seemingly put the game out of reach. However, with a minute to play, Kirby Dach took the puck all the way up ice and, after being denied on his first shot, finished on a slick little backhand to add the eighth goal of the night and the win for the Blackhawks.

Along the boards

There was a lot to be pleased about in Saturday night’s game. Although it feels like this was a day late and a dollar short, the win shows this team has players with potential.

Kirby Dach has had really nice chemistry with Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome. They’ve played together at times this season and had a lot of success when they do. Maybe it’s worth keeping this group together on the so-called third line and see what happens.

Alex Nylander was a pleasant surprise on Saturday. Sadly, the young Swede has not been able to find any consistency with his offensive game. He has had flashes, like this two-goal performance against the Flames, but struggles to consistently be a threat. If Nylander can ever truly put it together, he would become a solid contributor for this team, maybe becoming a 20-goal scorer. However, that remains to be seen.

Toews and Kane both had three points on Saturday, which is always encouraging. When the stars are playing well, good things happen. Even The-Rink’s very own Mario Tirabassi knows the formula.

However, it seems like it may be too late for this team. Now, with the trade deadline rapidly approaching, moves should be made by Stan Bowman to improve this team for the future. Trading players like Erik Gustafsson, possibly Corey Crawford, and, if the right deal came along, Brandon Saad to set up the team going forward. Although I believe Saad can be an answer in the future for this team, he would be the most appealing piece that teams will look at.

There is a lot of possibilities over the next 12 days or so. Blackhawks fans… be sure to keep your ears to the ground and keep up with The-Rink for any news and updates.

The Blackhawks return to action on Sunday night in Winnipeg, where they started this Canadian trip. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. CST at Bell MTS Place.

Center Ice Forums Along the boards: Blackhawks extinguish Flames in Calgary, 8–4

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