The Blackhawks were rewarded with four days of rest prior to Friday’s contest against the Columbus Blue Jackets. A win over one of the league’s best teams certainly was impressive, but keeping up the strong team play was the real key entering Friday night’s game.
Prior to Friday’s game, the Blackhawks honored two-time Stanley Cup Champion and former Chicago Blackhawks forward Dave Bolland for his One More Shift. Bolland received a warm welcome from the home town faithful at the United Center.
A loud and well-deserved ovation for the return of Coyotes legend Dave Bolland. pic.twitter.com/0LogK0XTKc
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) October 19, 2019
The famous saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” was in order for head coach Jeremy Colliton ahead of the game. The only lineup change made was at goalie, as Robin Lehner was starting in goal:
After everyone settled into their seats, the third line did what they have done best throughout this young season: be a force to be reckoned with. Roughly fourty seconds into the period, Brandon Saad and Dominik Kubalik started a rush up ice with Saad dishing over to Kubalik. After the Czech winger crossed the opposing blue line, he dipped his shoulder and fed a pass to Saad in front. Unfortunately, the bid was denied.
Early in the opening frame, the Blue Jackets did a good job of controlling the pace of play. They generated numerous quality scoring chances early, including on the power play, but Robin Lehner stood tall.
After very little action to touch on, the Blackhawks struck first. Calvin de Haan fed a pass up the left wing boards to Alex DeBrincat in the Blackhawks’ zone. DeBrincat subsequently fired a pass off the glass and down the ice. The feed perfectly found Drake Caggiula at the opposing blue line, waiting for the dish. Caggiula skated in on the two-on-two and wired a perfect shot to the top right corner of the net for his first goal of the season.
Drake Caggiula's first goal of the year is NICE
— Blackhawks Talk (@NBCSBlackhawks) October 19, 2019
After the impressive tally by Caggiula, the Blackhawks took their lead into the first intermission, despite being outshot by the Blue Jackets 15–10 and badly out possessed.
The middle frame against Columbus felt awfully familiar. The Blackhawks seemed to come out flat, unlike they did against Edmonton. The game Monday finally seemed like the Blackhawks improved in the middle frame. They didn’t play bad, but they were still outshot and out possessed.
The best chance of the early minutes came from Chicago. Calvin de Haan found the puck behind the net and dished it out in front to Patrick Kane. Kane was able to get a good shot off, but Columbus goaltender Elvis Merzlikins made an excellent save on the play.
About five and a half minutes into the period, the Blue Jackets’ top center took over. Pierre-Luc Dubois was fighting for the puck against the Blackhawks’ top pairing and was able to wiggle his way around Connor Murphy for the loose puck. Upon gaining possession, Dubois out-waited Robin Lehner, forcing him out of position, and fired a bad angle shot into the back of the wide open net. The game-tying goal felt inevitable after Columbus had dominated possession.
The Blackhawks’ best chance of the period came about a minute after the Dubois goal. Merzlikins attempted to move the puck up ice but the pass was picked off by Andrew Shaw. Shaw found Kane down low to Merzlikins’ right side as he waited for one of his linemates to get open. Dylan Strome ended up being open back door, but could not connect on the one-timer that would have given Chicago the lead.
The Blackhawks survived the middle frame without yielding any more damage. Columbus outshot Chicago once again in the period and was the better possession team again.
The opening minutes of the third period did not look great for the Blackhawks. They looked sluggish and behind in comparison to their opponent. Around three minutes into the period, a Blackhawks turnover led to a Columbus rush up the ice. Defenseman Markus Nutivaara fired a shot on net and followed his own rebound. The rebound shot wasn’t as strong as the first, but he got just enough on the puck to float it into the back of the net and give the visitors the 2–1 lead.
Markus Nutivaara laukoo omasta reboundista kauden toisen maalinsa 🇫🇮 pic.twitter.com/WVrzlABRtT
— NHL Suomi (@NHL_fi) October 19, 2019
Following the goal, the Blackhawks found more of a pep in their step. They seemed to turn it on after going down a goal in the third period. With about 12 minutes remaining, the Blackhawks had an important power play but nearly cost themselves. Nick Foligno had a shorthanded breakaway and the puck squeaked through Lehner. However, the whistle had already been blown before the puck trickled out from under Lehner and into the back of the net. Chicago lived to see another day.
The reason that power play was so important is because about forty seconds later, Gustafsson set up at the point on that power play and found Patrick Kane at his usual right wing spot on the man advantage. Kane gifted a perfect pass across the ice to DeBrincat, who was set up at the left wing face-off dot. DeBrincat wasted no time, one-timing the puck into the back of the net to tie the game at two-a-piece.
— Blackhawks Talk (@NBCSBlackhawks) October 19, 2019
For the remainder of the third, the Blackhawks penalty kill stood tall and Lehner looked good. The Blackhawks were able to generate a power play themselves, thanks to Ryan Carpenter, but they could not capitalize on the opportunity. The game required overtime to determine a winner at 1901 W. Madison St.
Columbus won the opening face-off of the extra frame and proceeded up ice. Despite having possession for the first forty seconds, the visitors could not do anything with the opportunity.
Instead, the dynamic Kane-Toews duo proceeded up the ice with Toews feeding Kane as the trigger man. Kane put a shot on net, that ultimately hit Toews’ shin pad, and it found its way into the back of the net to secure the Blackhawks 3–2 victory.
— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) October 19, 2019
- Day late, but not a dollar short: The Blackhawks lacked meaningful energy until the Blue Jackets took the 2–1 lead early in the third period. After that, the Blackhawks were by far the better team. However, one player’s energy that stuck out was Alex Nylander. He was constantly back checking and was almost always one of the first player up ice when he was out there. Other players had great energy too, but you could see Nylander embracing the fourth line role and making the most of it.
- Is he a backup?: Robin Lehner, the “backup” goalie, looked sensational for the Blackhawks on Friday night. Despite giving up two goals, he made many big saves throughout the game, especially early in the first when the Blue Jackets were badly outplaying the Blackhawks. If the Crawford/Lehner duo look like they did on Monday and Friday, respectively, then the Blackhawks have something they can be proud of in net.
- Top shelf/top line: The Blackhawks “first line” was responsible for all three goals Friday night, as Alex DeBrincat scored on the power play and both Drake Caggiula and Jonathan Toews registered their first goals of the season. If the top line can get going and the second line follows suit, then the offense will continue to look like it did last season and, potentially, even better.