The Chicago Blackhawks returned to action on the second half of a back to back against the Oilers in Edmonton. The previous night, the Hawks lost to Vancouver due to a flurry of costly turnovers. So, the Blackhawks looked to rebound in Alberta with Cam Ward in net.
Nick Schmaltz took a seat as a healthy scratch, which was arguably the game’s biggest story line for the Blackhawks. After a bad turnover the night before, and being invisible most of the game, Schmaltz was the recipient of a message from head coach Joel Quenneville. Patrick Kane also returned after missing the previous game with an illness. The line combinations were as follows:
DeBrincat – Toews – Kahun
Saad – Anisimov – Kane
Fortin – Johnson – Hayden
Kunitz – Kruger – Martinsen
Keith – Jokiharju
Gustafsson – Seabrook
Manning – Davidson
The first period began quite slowly for the Blackhawks. There wasn’t much action that was worth noting early on.
One thing the Blackhawks were able to successfully do is put shots on net. Chicago outshot Edmonton 15-8 in the opening frame. Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen was spectacular in the first period, showing why Edmonton spent $2.5 million for him to come over from the KHL and be their backup to Cam Talbot.
Chicago found some life late in the period as Alexandre Fortin drew a holding penalty on Adam Larsson. In typical fashion for this 2018-19 Blackhawks team, they were unable to do much on the power play. The power play units were shaken up a bit due to the Schmaltz scratch. The top unit consisted of DeBrincat, Toews, Johnson, Saad and Gustafsson while the second unit consisted of Anisimov, Kunitz, Kane, Keith and Seabrook. Neither unit was able to generate any solid chances.
Cam Ward was excellent early on, keeping the Oilers off the score-sheet after they generated 4 high danger scoring chances with only 8 shots on net.
The second period did not open well for the visitors. Eighteen seconds into the period, Oilers’ captain Connor McDavid passed a puck from the half wall to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at the right wing dot. Nugent-Hopkins quickly dished the puck down low to Drake Caggiula who was on the doorstep of the blue paint. After making a half spin to the net, Caggiula slipped the puck through Ward’s five-hole and gave the Oilers the 1-0 lead.
The Blackhawks were able to generate a few quality shots in the second period, one such shot was a chance from Brandon Saad, who followed up a Brandon Davidson shot. Saad’s quality chance was turned aside by Koskinen once again, after making numerous quality saves through the first two periods.
After a Nugent-Hopkins near miss with 6:47 remaining, the Oilers went to the power play due to slashing penalty on Henri Jokiharju. However, Chicago went on offense while killing the penalty, creating numerous quality chances on Koskinen. Jonathan Toews had a breakaway which was stopped by Koskinen, and Saad narrowly missed on the follow up attempt. Artem Anisimov, Brandon Manning and Alex DeBrincat also had shorthanded chances, but could not bury any of them to tie the game.
Chicago forward Andreas Martinsen drew a silly penalty with just under two minutes remaining after catching an edge and falling into Koskinen. The goaltender interference penalty gave the Oilers a late power play chance.
On the same man advantage, Jonathan Toews made the smart clearing play by trying to put the puck up off the glass and out of the zone. However, as the puck was leaving the zone, it was knocked down and the Oilers regained possession. Tobias Rieder took a pass from Jason Garrison at the left faceoff circle and dropped it back to Garrison. Garrison fired a hard one-timer and beat Ward clean, giving Edmonton a 2-0 lead heading into the second intermission.
Chicago maintained the shot advantage, 31-17, despite the Oilers commanding the scoresheet.
Chicago opened the third period with a bit of energy. Down 2-0, the team needed to desperately score to get back into the game. Joel Quenneville started tinkering with the lines at the end of the second and to begin the third. Dominik Kahun was playing down on the third line and, at times, loaded up with Kane, Saad and Toews.
At the 6:49 mark, while Chicago was on the power play, Edmonton started up ice after a turnover by the visitors. The home team would capitalize on the shorthanded 2-on-1 and they would take a 3-0 lead. Caggiula registered his second goal of the contest. Blackhawks defenseman Erik Gustafsson was back on the play and did not do much to negate the chance.
After some back and forth, Chicago made a huge mistake that would remind fans of the Vancouver game the previous night. At the 10:38 mark, a Brandon Davidson pass was picked off at the Chicago blueline and the Oilers had a clean 2-on-0 chance in on Cam Ward. Alex Chiasson tapped in the pass from Rieder and made the game 4-0. Oilers’ center Leon Draisaitl also picked up an assist on the play.
Edmonton continued to dominate the pace. Late in the period, around the 3:00 mark, tempers boiled over after a high hit from former Oiler Brandon Davidson on defenseman Darnell Nurse. Nurse got up and dropped his gloves and ran after Davidson, who also dropped his. Referees and teammates stepped in before a fight ensued, but Davidson received a game misconduct and a major penalty for the hit and Nurse received a two-minute minor and a ten-minute misconduct penalty. Both were sent to the locker room as Chicago went to the penalty kill for the remainder of the period.
The ensuing Oilers power play would not result in a goal and the Blackhawks lost to the Oilers 4-0, despite Chicago owning the shot advantage 40-29.
Brandon Saad/Alexandre Fortin: The two forwards were the most noticeable players in the game. Saad was all over the ice generating chances again after a big game in Vancouver. Fortin drew multiple penalties because of his speed and effort. These two need to continue to play this way and hope the rest of the roster plays up to their pace.
Cam Ward: Cam Ward was spectacular despite what the score-sheet showed. He made 7 saves on 9 high danger shots for the Oilers and kept the game from being a complete circus blowout. He deserves some credit because the team in front of him did not play well enough to keep those four pucks out of the net.
The Not So Good:
Power play: Once again, the power play continues to struggle. Chris Kunitz on the power play is interesting. Kahun is a much better player for that situation and would likely help Kane create more offense. Instead, the entire second power play unit went through Kane and it became very predictable.
Sense of Urgency: The Blackhawks did not have enough energy to even try and squeak a win out in Edmonton. After going down 2-0, the team seemed to lose a bit of their step. Early in the third, they found some, but it wore off as the period progressed. They were visibly tired and started to give up on some plays that may have helped change the momentum of the game.
Turnovers: Another very bad turnover at Chicago’s blue line resulted in a 2-on-0 and a goal for Edmonton in the third period. It’s not exactly easy to give up a 2-on-0 when the puck hasn’t even left your own zone, but somehow it happened. The careless turnovers have kept Chicago from gaining at least 2 of a possible 4 points in the last two games.
Fun Fact: Edmonton, although being outshot by the Blackhawks 40-29, was outpacing Chicago 13-8 in high danger chances, ultimately showing which team had more quality chances on net.