Limping into tonight’s game at 0–2, the Blackhawks faced off against a tough divisional foe in the 3–2 Winnipeg Jets. Perhaps of greater importance, the game marked the regular season Blackhawk debut of Robin Lehner in net. With Corey Crawford playing neither particularly well nor really terrible in the first two games of the season, and the Hawks in need of a lift, this game could be seen as a chance for Lehner to begin to stake an early claim on the Hawks’ net—if not this season then next.
Connor Hellebuyck took the net for the Jets. Defenseman Calvin de Haan also made his Blackhawk regular season debut in this game.
Blackhawks lines and pairings
Lehner was tested early and made a couple of nifty pad saves on the Jets’ first two chances.
Zack Smith took the first penalty of the game on a trip at 3:18. But, it was the Hawks who would capitalize, with newcomer Ryan Carpenter gathering a puck deep in his end and motoring past two flat-footed Jets to create a two-on-one with Brandon Saad. Carpenter then deftly fed Saad for the go ahead at 4:02, 1–0 Chicago.
Were it not for some stellar goaltending by Hellebuyck, the Hawks could have registered one or two more goals on the penalty kill, with ensuing shorthanded chances by Jonathan Toews and Connor Murphy.
Adam Lowry took the first Winnipeg penalty at 11:00. After Lehner made a quality stop on a shorthanded shot from the slot by Kyle Connor, Brent Seabrook blasted home a rebound from the right hashmark at 12:37, putting Chicago up 2–0.
That was the lead the Hawks would take into the dressing room after arguably their best period of hockey in the early part of the season. Shots were 13–10 Chicago.
Blake Wheeler took an offensive zone penalty at just 48 seconds in, giving Chicago an early man advantage that Winnipeg would effectively kill.
At 5:27, Duncan Keith went to the box for slashing. The Jets converted at 7:05 when Nikolaj Ehlers buried a one-timer past a screened Lehner, cutting the score to 2–1 Chicago.
Chicago subsequently drew another penalty after Erik Gustafsson was manhandled and stripped behind his own net by Patrik Laine, setting up a sustained bout of Winnipeg pressure, that culminated in Dylan Strome getting two minutes for slashing at 8:30. The Hawks succeeded in killing off the penalty, however.
The Jets dialed up the pressure during the latter part of the period, forcing Lehner to make several key stops, including a nice post-to-post robbery of Jack Roslovic at 14:20. The Hawk netminder repeated the act at 18:20 on a wide open Mark Scheifele at the doorstep. The Jets outshot the Hawks 11–6 in the second, which ended at 2–1 Chicago.
The first part of the period saw back and forth action with neither team generating much pressure. The Hawks mounted some nice pressure a couple of times around the middle of the period, but came away with nothing.
At 11:44, the Hawks got lazy on defense and Connor came free from around the back of the net to find a waiting Andrew Copp for a tap in, tying the game at 2–2.
Saad took a penalty at 14:48, putting the Hawks in a bit of a hole in terms of retaking the lead in regulation. But, Chicago was able to kill the penalty, and then mount some five-on-five pressure over the final few minutes of regular time. Still, the game was tied at the end of regulation. Shots were 10–9 Winnipeg for the third and 31–28 through regulation.
Forty-seven seconds in, and at the end of the Hawks’ first shift, Wheeler found Scheifele at the left circle, and the big Jet forward blasted it past Lehner’s glove for the 3–2 Winnipeg game-winner. The Hawks got their first point of the season, and now sit at 0–2–1.
Lehner was mostly very good and really the only goal you could put on him was the third and deciding tally. That said, a lot of goalies do not stop that shot, and Lehner deserved a better outcome in his Hawk debut after making several quality saves throughout the night. Carpenter, Murphy and Saad all had good nights for the Hawks.
The Hawk defense, while better, was again lackadaisical at really bad times. For a “man-to-man” defense, this team does not press the issue and engage nearly enough.
The Hawks laid an egg in the second period—they are not good enough as a team to give less than a 60-minute effort. It is a shame because they had a terrific start and a very good first period.
All for now. Comment below.