The Blackhawks started fast last night, but seemed to run out of gas in the latter two periods of the second game of a road/home back-to-back.
The Chicago Blackhawks squandered a hot start, dropping a 2–1 decision to the Minnesota Wild Wednesday night at the United Center. The United Center ice seemed to be tilted in the first period. The Hawk offense was buzzing, generating quality scoring chances throughout the frame. Chicago fired 14 shots on goal to Minnesota’s five.
The Blackhawks broke through 12 minutes into the game when Brent Seabrook chipped in a rebound from below the goal line for his second tally of the season. The goal came on the heels of the first healthy scratch of Seabrook’s career, certainly boosting the defenseman’s confidence and creating an early feel-good vibe in the game.
Despite the strong offensive showing from the Hawks—an astounding 39–11 shot attempts advantage—Minnesota goalie Devan Dubnyk stifled the Blackhawks the rest of the period, keeping the game within reach for the Wild.
Minnesota came out for the second period reinvigorated, creating scoring chances throughout the frame. Blackhawks goalie Anton Forsberg denied a net front shot from Wild forward Jason Zucker off a nice cross-ice pass from Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu. The Wild finally cashed in on a shot from the point by Jonas Brodin midway through the period. Brodin’s fourth goal of the season deflected off Blackhawks forward Tommy Wingels, and Forsberg was unable to react in time to make the save. After 40 minutes, the United Center scoreboard read 1–1, with the shots favoring Chicago 23–15.
The third period proved to be pretty even in play, but the Wild got the breaks. Wild defenseman Ryan Suter sniped his sixth goal of the season on a perfect shot over Forsberg’s shoulder three minutes into the period to give the Wild a 2–1 lead. The Blackhawks were unable to convert on their chances the rest of the way, and the Wild walked away with a hard-fought, come from behind win in what initially appeared to be the Blackhawks’ night.
The loss drops the Blackhawks’ record to 21–16–6, a total of 48 points. Chicago entered the night in the second wild card position in the Western Conference standings. The Wild improved their season record to 23–17–4, reaching 50 points to leapfrog the Blackhawks in the standings.
Despite the action on the ice, perhaps the most significant event of the day happened off the ice. Prior to pregame warmups, the Blackhawks sent right winger Richard Panik and prospect Laurent Dauphin to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for winger Anthony Duclair and defenseman Adam Clendening.
Panik, 26, had a rollercoaster tenure with Chicago. The Slovakian winger was acquired from Toronto in exchange for Jeremy Morin during the 2015–16 season, and saw huge success last year flanking Jonathan Toews, registering 22 goals and 22 assists, smashing his previous career highs. Unfortunately for Panik and the Blackhawks, Panik could not repeat his performance on the ice this season after general manager Stan Bowman rewarded him with a two-year, $5.6 million contract over the summer. Panik has registered just six goals and 10 assists this season.
Dauphin, 22, was acquired from the Coyotes in June as part of the Niklas Hjalmarsson trade. Dauphin has spent the beginning of the season playing for the Rockford IceHogs. Dauphin will report to the Tucson Roadrunners of the American Hockey League.
Duclair, 22, is an intriguing addition. His combination of speed and skill provide the Blackhawks with a package they have lacked in recent years. Duclair has not lived up to expectations with the Coyotes the past season-plus after posting 20 goals in 2015–16. Reports surfaced earlier this month Duclair requested a trade.
Clendening, 25, is a familiar name to Blackhawks fans. The Blackhawks selected Clendening in the second round in the 2011 entry draft. Clendening showed signs of his potential while in Rockford, but could never crack the Blackhawks lineup. He was ultimately flipped to Vancouver in 2014 for Gustav Forsling. Clendening has since bounced around the league, including stops in Pittsburgh, Edmonton and New York before joining the Coyotes this season. Clendening will report to the IceHogs, but does provide another depth option on the blue line should the need arise later in the season.
The deal immediately appears to be a big win for the Blackhawks. Chicago rids themselves of Panik’s $2.8 million cap hit for the rest of this season and next season, while Duclair has a $1.2 million cap hit and is a restricted free agent at the end of this season. The cap savings give the Blackhawks additional flexibility should they choose to be active prior to the trade deadline late next month. The deal also furthers Bowman’s goal of making the team younger and faster.
Additionally, Duclair’s unique package of attributes could greatly benefit the Blackhawks on the ice. It is not difficult to envision Duclair causing havoc with his speed on a line with Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane, opening space for the duo to generate offensive chances. Of course, Duclair would also be able to contribute offensively as well, being a former 20 goal scorer. The trio could form a formidable line and finally restore a potent one-two punch for Chicago’s offense.
Another option, should Joel Quenneville not want to break up the Ryan Hartman-Schmaltz-Kane combination would be a third line of Duclair, Artem Anisimov (when healthy) and Alex DeBrincat. Duclair adds to Chicago’s forward depth, and depending on lines come playoff time, the bottom six could include names such as Anisimov, Hartman and Dylan Sikura, in addition to the slew of depth forwards the team already has in DeBrincat, Patrick Sharp, John Hayden, Tommy Wingels, David Kampf and Lance Bouma, giving the Blackhawks much-needed flexibility come playoff time.
Duclair is expected to make his Blackhawks debut when Chicago next takes the ice Friday, hosting Winnipeg in the second game of the Blackhawks’ six-game homestand. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
— The offense showed more flashes of excellence in the first period.
— The Blackhawks looked very fast in the first period of dictated the pace of the game, dominating the first 20 minute, despite only scoring once.
— Nick Schmaltz extends his point streak to five games with an assist on Seabrook’s first period goal. Schmaltz now has 12 points (six goals and six assists) in his last eight games.
— Chicago put 35 shots on goal, which is encouraging. On most nights, 35 shots should be plenty to win the game. The offense is generating the chances they need to get results. Though they did not capitalize on their early chances, the chances were still there, indicating a trend in the right direction.
— The Blackhawks level of play decreased after the first period, allowing Minnesota to get back in,and later take over, the game.
— The Hawks squandered the game by not taking advantage of early opportunities.
— Forsberg made two minor mistakes in the whole game and they cost him. He slid slightly too far to the right when challenging Brodin’s game-tying goal and dropped to his knees slightly too soon on Suter’s game-winning goal.