As fans enter the Madison Avenue entrance, the two large posters of forward Henrik Borgstrom and Philipp Kurashev do not scream “let’s get ready for Blackhawks’ hockey.” One fan even muttered to his buddy that he could not believe those two players were front and center as fans enter the United Center.
The loudest cheer for lineup introductions happened when former Chicago forward Brandon Saad was mentioned as a starting winger for the visiting St. Louis Blues. Chicago fans were barely vocal as the five starters were mentioned for the home team, as Coach Derek King ran his fourth line out for the start of the contest.
At puck drop, Chicago found themselves down 1–0 just short of a minute when forward Pavel Buchnevich scored his sixth goal of the season. The play started with an excellent decision by Blues defenseman stepped up to take time away from Patrick Kane stepping over the blueline along his wing. The pass was intercepted and forced a two-on-one the other way for the Blues. Seth Jones gave a half-hearted effort to take the pass away and did not get into the scoring lane, looking like a forward playing defense, and Buchnevich buried the pass from forward Jordan Kyrou.
Chicago would appear to tie the game after a terrible miscue by Blues’ goaltender Jordan Binnington handed the puck over to Jonathan Toews who buried the puck into a wide-open net. St. Louis challenged the play and it was determined that Kane kicked the puck to his stick while crossing the blue line and drew himself offside. The challenge put Toews back to the goose egg in the goal category this season.
In a solid period in which Chicago did beat Binnington and pinged one off the crossbar by Borgstrom, St. Louis led 2–0 when Ivan Barbashev beat Chicago netminder Kevin Lankinen on the power play.
St. Louis outshot Chicago 16–10 in the first period but the visiting Blues would only muster nine more shots over the next 43 minutes of hockey.
Chicago came out in the second period with a much better approach to their zone exits and puck possession. Forward Jujhar Khaira was in the right place at the doorstep to tip home a puck that could not be challenged this time. The goal, the second of the season for Khaira, was assisted by Mike Hardman and Reese Johnson at the 0:34 mark of the period.
go to the net where good things happen they say 😌 pic.twitter.com/mp9V8DQORD
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) November 26, 2021
Over the next 20 minutes of action, the Blues played a quiet game, not pushing much action. Chicago did an excellent job of supporting teammates in their own zone and did a much better job protecting the puck in their own zone. Both teams looked to make safe, easy plays and not many “high danger” chances were accrued.
Chicago was awarded for their structured play at the 14:56 mark of the third period when Hagel tipped home a low shot from Jones at the point. Hagel’s redirect found Binnington out of position and the puck tickled the twine, giving the Blackhawk faithful still in attendance something to jump to their feet. The goal was Hagel’s seventh of the season.
The finish of the third period had the crowd on edge for the final four minutes of regulation. The crowd felt a little “playoff” like for the first time in a long time. The Blackhawks continued to put pressure on the Blues, something that has seemed to click under King. The Blackhawks of the early part of the season never had this kind of pressure and push, instead having the “how are we going to lose this game look.”
In overtime, the Blues controlled much of the early action as they were able to make several changes while controlling the puck but could not find the back of the net. As a result, Kane took a puck from his own blue line to the Blues zone and found himself on a two-on-one with Alex DeBrincat, sending a nice saucer pass and beat Binnington, giving Chicago the 3–2 win on Black Friday.
Lankinen stopped 23 shots in the victory.
“Kane. DeBrincat. Kane. DeBrincat. SCORE!!!”
Alex DeBrincat sent the Blackhawks home with an OT win 🙌 pic.twitter.com/2JNqpMv8Ze
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 26, 2021
A cool, calm, collective Blackhawks team tied the game late and finished the rivals off in overtime. Having Kane and DeBrincat on an odd-man advantage in overtime is a blessing. Those two really are the engine of this team.
Hagel is a fan favorite and he continues to work in the tough areas. Dominik Kubalik had an opportunity in front but was denied. These two getting to the front of the net and making plays is a must, especially if Kubalik is going to get going this season offensively.
Lankinen settled after giving up a goal within the first minute of action, he was hung out to dry a little by Jones but that will happen with a forward playing defense and did an excellent job when his team in front of him turned in a great defensive performance over the final 43 minutes of action.
Jake McCabe fought Brayden Schenn right before the Blackhawks’ first goal of the game. Neither has anything to do with the other. Fans thinking that fired up the Blackhawks were not paying attention. It was good not to see DeBrincat or Kirby Dach dropping the gloves though for obvious reasons.
This team is playing hard and light-years better defensively under King, most noticeably the forwards are giving a much better effort in their own zone. This is such a relief to the defenseman.