The Blackhawks headed to Winnipeg Thursday night, to finally face a team with a winning record. With defensemen Cody Franson and Jan Rutta hurting, the Blackhawks had recalled Ville Pokka and introduced Jordan Oesterle and Michal Kempny back into the lineup. Pokka took the place of Oesterle and Kempny in the healthy scratch shuffle. Corey Crawford was playing his fourth straight game since coming back from injury, and the Jets had Connor Hellebuyck in their net.
These were the Blackhawks starting lines:
Brandon Saad – Jonathan Toews – Alex DeBrincat
Nick Schmaltz – Artem Anisimov – Patrick Kane
Patrick Sharp – Vince Hinostroza – Ryan Hartman
Lance Bouma – Tommy Wingels – John Hayden
Duncan Keith – Jordan Oesterle
Gustav Forsling – Connor Murphy
Michal Kempny – Brent Seabrook
From the opening faceoff, the Blackhawks took the bull by the horns and never looked back. They looked like a confident team, and showed no ill symptoms of lineup shifts.
Just two minutes into the game, noted Chicagoan Vince Hinostroza opened the scoring for the Blackhawks, a lead that the team never lost, coming on their first shot of the game. The Hawks third line finally showed some signs of life, having gone dormant after losing Alex Debrincat to the first line. Ryan Hartman forced a Jets turnover at their blue line to Patrick Sharp, who found Hinostroza trailing the play. Sharp served up a pass into Hinostroza’s wheelhouse for a mean one-timer that eluded Connor Hellebuyck. Just that quickly, the air was sucked out of the Bell MTS Place, never to return.
Less than five minutes after Hinostroza grabbed the lead, another unlikely name, and noted Chicagoan, gave the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead. Fourth liner Tommy Wingels continued his hot streak, finding a soft spot at the top of the left circle. Wingels took a Lance Bouma pass, snapped a shot by the surprised Hellebuyck, off the post and into the net on the Blackhawks second shot of the game. This was Wingels’ third goal in four games.
Not to be outdone, four minutes after the Wingels goal, Nick Schmaltz put the Blackhawks up 3-0. A rare unblocked Duncan Keith shot made it to Schmaltz and Artem Anisimov, who were passing in front of Hellebuyck, and Schmaltz tipped the shot up and over the young goalie.
Everyone, including Blackhawks fans, were shocked at the score less than eleven minutes into this game. The shot totals for the period were in the Hawks favor 12-6, but were not completely dominating.
The Jets spent almost the entire game chasing the lead, which also allowed the Blackhawks to methodically pick their chances. Midway through the second period, Nick Schmaltz was, again, at the center of another Blackhawks scoring play. Schmaltz picked up a loose rebound in the Jets slot area, spun and quickly threw a highlight reel pass across to a wide open Patrick Kane, who one timed the puck past Hellebuyck. According to a Schmaltz quote following the game, he was not sure Kane was there, but had a feeling that Kane might be waiting for the pass. Regardless, the Blackhawks had a 4-0 with half the game left to be played.
The Blackhawks then set themselves on cruise control, while the Jets just tried to save face and avoid being shut out. It would take until the five minute mark of the third period until the Jets finally broke the Corey Crawford shutout bid, on the power play.
Young Jets star Nikolaj Ehlers took the puck off a Winnipeg faceoff win deep in the Blackhawks zone, and surprised the Blackhawks goaltender by snapping a top cheddar shot over Crawford’s blocker side. Little harm was done, but maintaining the shutout might have been a nice cherry on top of the sundae.
The real feel good moment of the night, in my opinion, came just three minutes after the Ehlers goal. Joel Quenneville castoff Michal Kempny, playing his first game after 13 as a healthy scratch, scored a goal in his first game back in the lineup. There was nothing fancy about the goal, either. He simply skated up the left side all by himself, locked, loaded, and ripped a shot over Hellebuyck’s blocker side, off the crossbar, off the far post and into the back of the net.
- I would be remiss if I did not give a little tip of the cap to Michal Kempny. Good on him for giving the coaching staff the middle finger in his first game back in the lineup. Somewhere you could hear the Geto Boys’ “Damn, it feels good to be a Gangsta” softly playing in the background. Kempny has been completely given the shaft by this coaching staff. I hope he gets traded to some team where they will put him in the lineup and give him an honest chance. People are confusing healthy scratches due to the coaching staff playing favorites with lack of talent, and it is deeply skewing reality in this fan base.
— Gatekeeper (@PuckinHostile) December 15, 2017
- It might be time to come to the realization that Nick Schmaltz is an NHL wing. He can fill in at center, but his offensive skill does not hit it’s full potential until he is playing wing. Maybe that will change with experience, but he needs to stay right where he is for the time being.
- Overshadowed by all the offensive outbursts was Corey Crawford playing another extremely solid game, and making 27 saves.
- To most everyone’s surprise, the defense hasn’t lost a step after plugging in two players that should have been, theoretically, rusty. Oesterle and Kempny showed no rust. Another really good sign for the future.
- The Jets did NOT look like a team that came into the game 18-8-5, and led the Central division in goals scored.
- The Jonathan Toews line took the night off, which is fine after their big night against the Panthers, but needs to be pointed out.