The Chicago Blackhawks entered last night’s game with a 0–2–1 record for the second consecutive season and looked to bring some much needed energy to the start of the game after having fallen behind in all three of their road games to start the season and having not led at any point.
The United Center crowd enjoyed the introductions of their current team for the home opener. Captain Jonathan Toews’ video telling fans not to take things for granted (a great lesson for anyone) and how excited he was to be back playing in Chicago this season was met with the loudest eruption of the night from fans.
Head Coach Jeremy Colliton did not receive such a warm welcome.
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) October 20, 2021
Chicago started the contest with a noticeable speed on the forecheck that had not been prevalent in the first three games this season. At one point, the Blackhawks were outshooting the New York Islanders by double digits and finished the period with an 18–9 advantage in shots. Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin was a wall behind the surprisingly leaky Islanders defense. The Blackhawks could have easily been ahead in the game, but could not figure out Sorokin.
Forward Alex DeBrincat had a few nice chances early and just missed a redirect that would have been a highlight-reel goal. DeBrincat has been known to pick pucks out of mid-air and find the back of the net, but the Farmington Hills, Michigan, native would have no luck this time. The saucer pass from Henrik Borgstrom was one of the only few positives you could take away from Borgstrom’s night.
The Islanders buckled down midway through the second period and found themselves on the scoresheet first. Anthony Beauvillier took advantage of a loose puck at the side of the net and beat Marc-Andre Fleury five hole on a freaky-type goal in the front of the net after a poor decision by Erik Gustafsson to leave the front of the net unattended. A well-coached team like the Islanders did not make many mistakes the rest of the game.
Back to Borgstrom, his terrible pass in the first minute of the third period looked like a youth-level teaching point that coaches all over North America could show to their respective teams on what not to do at your own blue line. Oliver Wahlstrom beat Fleury five hole again on another change up-type goal. Down by two, Chicago looked lost for the next 10 minutes and never recovered from the early third period goal.
Before you knew it, Chicago was down 4–0 and the seats began to empty. MacKenzie Entwistle scored at the 19:34 mark, but only about 5,000 fans were there to see it. Chicago received an alarming send off as they entered the locker room after a 4–1 loss.
The remaining fans boo the team off the ice. Rough times for the Blackhawks. pic.twitter.com/mwFSnDe3Rb
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) October 20, 2021
The Blackhawks did a wonderful job of celebrating the life of Tony Esposito, who passed away this summer. Chris Chelios gave the “eulogy” and explained Mr. Esposito would not want a moment of silence, but rather a chant of “Tony, Tony” from the crowd, and the Blackhawks faithful did not disappoint.
The UC crowd honoring Tony O the only way we know how ❤️ pic.twitter.com/n9IlPYPlW1
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) October 20, 2021
The home team did make a noticeable effort to play better early in the game. Being prepared to play a hockey game at the professional level should not be something to get excited about, but when Chicago has been so bad so early, let’s turn this into a positive.
DeBrincat played an exciting game and had prime opportunities to score. The shifty winger is the type that can score in bunches. His shorthanded breakaway attempt was less than stellar, but watch out if he gets his confidence going.
Kirby Dach played well and continues to show he can be effective all over the ice.
Entwistle scored late, and it was great to see him rewarded for his efforts.
Sorokin was lights out for the Islanders. He kept Chicago off the scoresheet early in the first, and when the Islanders started boxing out the front of the net, the home team never really had a chance. A nice 39-save effort fell short of his fourth career shutout by a handful of seconds due to Entwistle’s last-minute tally.
The Chicago crowd let their true feelings be known for Colliton and after the game. It has been a long time since the Blackhawks have been booed off their home ice. There is a mounting pressure on Colliton to get this ship turned around.
Borgstrom’s turnover and his overall defensive liability on the ice is evident. He could not corral a loose puck behind the net on the first goal (maybe nitpicking here, but when you are winless, these things mount), and the aforementioned bonehead cross-ice pass at his own blue line to give the Islanders their second goal, one could only wonder how bad Dylan Strome has been in practice.
Mike Hardman took a hit along the boards from Matt Martin that clearly wobbled Hardman, as he went to the bench and into the locker room. You hate to see this happen to anyone. All the best to Hardman and a healthy, quick return.