Recap: Blackhawks outlast Leafs, 5-4 in regulation


Sunday night’s game at the United Center featured an Original Six matchup between the young and (perhaps) ascendant Toronto Maple Leafs and the declining/rebuilding (you might say “schizophrenic”) Chicago Blackhawks.

To be fair (and honest), the Hawks are coming off a couple of their stronger outings this season. Last night in Pittsburgh, Chicago gave a fairly solid effort, but in the end hung Corey Crawford out to dry one time too many, blowing a lead then falling and losing the second point in the Gary Bettman Marketing Gimmick known as “the shootout.”

The game may also go down in history for NBCSN color man Ed Olczyk’s summarization of the talents of Erik Gustafsson: “his strength is not defense.”

Robin Lehner would take the net for Chicago Sunday night for the first time in 3 games, 190 feet from ex-Winnipeg Jet Michael “Don’t Call Me Hutchence” Hutchinson for Toronto.

The Hawks’ lines and pairings were:

Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsAlexander Nylander
Alex DeBrincat — Dylan StromePatrick Kane
Zack SmithDavid KampfDominik Kubalik
Drake CaggiulaKirby Dach — Andrew Shaw

Duncan KeithAdam Boqvist
Calvin de HaanBrent Seabrook
Olli Maatta Erik Gustafsson


Call it old time hockey or Meatball Stuff, but :32 in to the game, Jonathan Toews did what an NHL captain does, by going hard after Toronto defenseman Jake Muzzin who had taken a big time run at a defenseless Brandon Saad, dropping Saad hard to the ice behind the Toronto net. The refs stepped in quickly and Muzzin took a two-minute minor, with Toews getting an extra two minutes, resulting in a Toronto power play, which the Hawks successfully killed.

At 5:18, Patrick Kane capitalized on an odd bounce and Cody Ceci involuntary redirect to put the Hawks out in front 1-0. Alex DeBrincat got the assist.

The action was fairly fast and furious throughout the first 11-12 minutes or so, with Dominik Kubalik just missing an opportunity to put the Hawks up 2-0, when he hit a post on a wide open side of the net.

At 12:00 in, Calvin DeHaan corraled a Muzzin turnover and blasted it off Hutchinson’s pads. Kirby Dach swooped in on the fat rebound and did not miss. 2-0 Chicago.

Just ten—ten—seconds later, with the Leafs in full disarray, Kane stepped out between the circles and delivered arguably the league’s best backhand into the top of the Leaf net. 3-0 Hawks.

The Leafs started coming on around the 15 minute mark but Lehner delivered some big saves to protect the Hawk lead. Former Hawk property Justin Holl took a badly called penalty at about the 17 minute mark, which the refs then, in classic NHL fashion, immediately “made good” with a slashing call on Dylan Strome. Three seconds later, Auston Matthews won a draw clean to William Nylander who beat Lehner. 3-1 Chicago.

Muzzin then took a tripping penalty at 17:17, giving the Hawks a 4-on-3. Sure enough, Toews immediately capitalized on a tic tac toe passing play. 4-1 Chicago at 17:28 and that was how the period would end—leaving NBCSN viewers to wonder just how “Gizmo” would break this one down between periods. Shots were 15-12 Toronto.


This period was a bit more tightly checked but about 6-7 minutes in, the Hawks started getting a little sloppy wth the puck, leading to turnovers and prime scoring chances for Toronto. Fortunately, Lehner repeatedly rose to the challenge.

Morgan Reilly took a hooking penalty at 8:01, putting Chicago back on the man advantage, which the Leafs easily killed. Ceci then took a hooking penalty at 13:08. This also was killed off by Toronto, although the Hawks launched several shots on goal on this power play.

Strome took another penalty at 17:05, and Toronto quickly won a face-off and set up shop. But the Hawks did their job and eventually killed it off. The period ended scoreless. Shots were 16-15 for Toronto.


A weak Erik Gustafsson turnover along the wall led to another William Nylander tally for the Leafs at 2:27. 4-2 Chicago

Alex Nylander took a high-sticking penalty at 3:55, giving Toronto even more life. However, Auston Matthews evened it out by high-sticking Calvin deHaan a minute later.

Toronto continued to keep pressure on Lehner (which he was more than up to), surpassing 40 shots midway through the third.

Gustafsson took a penalty at 12:37, leading, sure enough, to the Leafs third goal that appeared to injure Lehner in the collarbone or neck area. Lehner remained in the game, which was a good thing because it appeared the Hawks would need him with just a 4-3 lead.

However, after the Hawks converged on a loose puck in front of a down and out Lehner, Toews and Saad combined on a high speed goal, putting Chicago ahead 5-3 at 16:26.

Toronto then pulled Hutchinson, followed by a Zack Smith hooking call at 18:23. Lehner continued to stand tall under withering pressure, until Andreas Jonsson broke the spell at 19:18. 5-4 Chicago. The Hawks withstood the Leafs attack over the remaining seconds, sealing the win.


Kane (2G) and the Kane/Strome/DeBrincat line. Dach, Toews, Saad, Lehner (especially) and Calvin deHaan all had nice games.


The Hawks continue an ongoing theme of poor puck management that they have gotten away with of late due to superior goaltending.


57 Toronto shots on goal. Consider also that the Hawks are getting excellent play from deHaan and solid play from Olli Maatta. You want 2 “forwards” in your six-man defense rotation because . . . “pointz?” Careful what you wish for.

All we have on this one. Please comment below.

Center Ice Forums Recap: Blackhawks outlast Leafs, 5-4 in regulation

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    John Jaeckel

    Sunday night’s game at the United Center featured an Original Six matchup between the young and (perhaps) ascendant Toronto Maple Leafs and the declin
    [To continue reading full article, click here: Recap: Blackhawks outlast Leafs, 5-4 in regulation]

    Apparently, all goalies are Vikings

    Mister Ricochet

    Fun game if you like shots (lots from the outside by TOR), chances, skill, speed, goaltending, drama.   Seems the Hawks have decided to let the team “go”,  join the rush, pinch, trade chances, rely on great goaltending (they’re gonna need both goalies if they’re giving up 50 SOG per game) and try and coach em up in their zone the best they can.

    Sustainable?  We’ll see but if nothing else it gives StanBow and Colliton their best chance at holding on to their jobs and the fans whiplash hockey to watch.

    De haan is an NHL Dman, 28 yrs old, can skate an NHL shift and has since he came up as a 1st rd pick.  Maatta is an NHL Dman, 25 yrs old, 1st rd pick, can skate an NHL shift, has won two cups.  They replace Dahlstrom, Forsling, Davidson, Manning types who can’t skate a regular NHL shift.   The difference is palpable and will become even more so over 82 games.

    Gus, “defense is not his strength”.  Nope, and neither is it Letang’s, Karlsson’s, Barrie’s or Ristolainen types.  Their best defense is having the puck in the Ozone and being on the ice when their team scores more than they get scored on.

    Last yr at 5 on 5 Gus was on the ice for 73 GF and 67 GA.  This yr he’s on the ice for 15 GF and 9 GA.  As ugly as it looks sometimes, same for a Karlsson or Letang, Gus gives the Hawks more goals than he allows…….. If he could play even average in his end he’d be making 8-9 mil a yr. Context.

    This is where having Dmen like De haan, Maatta and Murphy, who can skate an NHL shift, so so important.  They can reasonably carry a Seabs, Gus and Bovquist allowing them to have a good chance of winning a game where they give up 50 shots.



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