Corey Crawford made his first start in net for the Blackhawks in nearly ten months, Thursday night. The visiting Coyotes spoiled the celebration as returning former players Niklas Hjalmarsson, Vinnie Hinostroza, Richard Panik, Jordan Oesterle, and Annti Raanta got the better of their former team.
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) October 18, 2018
The Arizona Coyotes came into the game last night in Chicago having scored zero 5-on-5 goals in five games this season. In fact, they had only scored three goals total. They would more than double that total before the night was over.
Being Corey Crawford’s first game action since last December 23, the hope was that this struggling Arizona team would be a good opponent for him to shake off the rust and settle into the game.
This would not be the case.
Corey Crawford did see some easy, long range shots early on as the Coyotes tested him. As a casual observer, you could make an argument that we were just happy to see him on the ice in game shape. Naturally, as a competitor, it was great to see him look game ready from the get go.
End-to-end action early on did not result in many high scoring chances until, with 11:19 left in the first, Patrick Kane found Alexandre Fortin all alone in front of the net. Fortin gathered in the pass and rifled a shot wide blocker side. Three Coyotes players flocked to Kane, leaving Fortin wide open with only Coyotes netminder Antti Raanta in front of him. The Blackhawks rookie wing could not take advantage of the situation, though.
At the 11:43 mark of the period, Henri Jokiharju was caught at the Coyote’s blue line by a nice stretch pass from defenseman Jordan Oesterle to forward Clayton Keller along the boards. Keller skated in 2-on-1 from center ice with Lawson Crouse and made a nice dish over Brandon Manning’s stick. Crouse was left with an open net to bury the first goal of the game passed Crawford.
Not only did Jokiharju allow a stretch pass that should have been broken up, Manning was caught between taking the puck and/or taking the pass away and left Crawford out to dry.
There was minimal action the rest of the period and Coyotes entered the locker room up 1-0, with the Hawks leading in shots on net 13-12.
Within the first two minutes of the period, Crawford was put to the test. Forward Michael Grabner corralled a rebound from a point shot in the slot but could not bury it past a sliding left pad of Crawford.
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) October 19, 2018
Five and a half minutes into the period, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and John Hayden were both sent off to their respective penalty boxes to open up the ice for some 4-on-4 play.
Erik Gustafsson did an excellent job of controlling the puck deep in his own zone until he found a lane for an outlet pass to a streaking Alex DeBrincat. Debrincat made the blue line with ease and found Jonathan Toews coming down the left wing. Gustafsson jumped back into the play on the right side where Toews found him all alone and he buried the puck past Antti Raanta.
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) October 19, 2018
As far as perfect plays are concerned, the Hawks executed a beauty from end-to-end. They gained the blue line, found the open man and hit the trailer on the backdoor. It could not have been drawn up much better.
This goal, however, would be the last thing Blackhawks fans would have to cheer about.
Just a few minutes after Gustafsson tied the game, Former Blackhawk Vinnie Hinostroza took a pass from Ekman-Larsson and buried it past Crawford. The cross-ice pass left Hinostroza alone with time to pick apart a moving Crawford, glove side. This goal gave the Coyotes the lead for good, at 2-1.
Raanta, on the other hand, was not challenged much in the period. Most shots were from low percentage areas with no traffic in front. The Coyotes’ defensive scheme of making the Hawks shoot from the perimeter was working.
As far as uninspiring goes, this period fit the bill. The Coyotes out shot the home team 10-9 in the period and held on to their 2-1 lead.
Action was very limited in the first three-quarters of the third period. By this time, the crowd had started to dissipate, already. You could have heard a pin drop across the ice for most of the period.
With 5:43 left in regulation, Chris Kunitz found himself with the puck along boards in front of his own bench. He telegraphed a horribly irresponsible pass attempt through the middle of the ice which was picked off by Clayton Keller at the blue line. Keller walked in all alone on Crawford and buried it five-hole.
The turnover, and resulting goal, sucked the air right out of the building. This was one of the types of simple mistakes that could be avoided.
Joel Quenneville, who seemingly had no answers, pulled Crawford with 5:11 left for the extra attacker. Just like the power play, the extra man did not generate enough pressure to matter. Making matters worse, most zone entries were sloppy and the Hawks spent most of the time attempting to retrieve the puck. One could almost make the argument it looked similar to the 5-on-5 play, if you ignore the empty net on the other side of the rink.
With just under three minutes remaining, Vinnie Hinostroza buried his second of the night into the gaping net to seal the win. This goal combined with little pressure left Blackhawks fans with little option but to head for the exits early.
The Hawks outshot the Coyotes 34-31 for the game, and Arizona left with a satisfying 4-1 win.
- The return of Corey Crawford. His presence in net is needed. The last time we saw him, he was putting up Vezina Trophy type numbers. He did not get much help from the guys in front of him tonight but kept the team in the game for the most part.
- Jonathan Toews and Alex Debrincat have kept the offense afloat. The pair each recorded points again tonight. The chemistry between the two continues to grow.
- A real nice salute to Niklas Hjalmarsson on the video board during a timeout. Hjalmarsson was a huge piece on the backend during the cup runs. He is still the shutdown type defenseman this Hawks team is sorely missing.
- Another goose egg on the power play. Zone entry and puck possession continue to haunt the power play. Even when set up, too much standing around and low percentage shots from the point with no one in front makes for easy saves.
- High scoring chances for the Coyotes. This is becoming a common theme with these Hawks.
- Turnovers (see above).
The Hawks looked uninspired. Four days off between games is not an excuse. This effort might get them a point in the cup era but not with this hole filled roster. I could not pick out a player of the game even if I had was forced. It should be interesting to see how they respond from this effort.