Still in search of their first win AND first lead of the young season, the Chicago Blackhawks hosted their Original Six brethren, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who entered Wednesday’s game having lost four straight. The Hawks played their second straight contest without Patrick Kane, who remains in the COVID-19 protocol, however, before the game, the Blackhawks removed Jonathan Toews from the COVID-19 list and inserted him into the lineup. Kevin Lankinen received the start in net for the Hawks opposite the Leafs’ Jack Campbell.
Nearly six minutes into the game, the Blackhawks took a 1–0 lead on a beautiful tally from Kirby Dach, who danced through Toronto’s defense and finished the play with top shelf shot for his third of the season. The goal marked the first time this season the Blackhawks held a lead, ending its drought at nearly 367 minutes of game action, the longest stretch without a lead to start a season in NHL history.
At the 11:48 mark, Alex DeBrincat scored his third of the season on a breakaway to give the Hawks a 2–0 advantage. Seth Jones assisted on both goals, as he led the team to arguably its best period of hockey this season. The Hawks also held an 11–10 shots on goal edge through one.
The Leafs opened the period playing much more crisp, as their passes were much cleaner, and it eventually paid off. At 6:14 of the second, the Leafs got on the board on a nice rush up the ice that ended with a filthy backhand shot from the slot by John Tavares that went top shelf to cut the Hawks’ lead to 2–1. The Hawks would hang on to the lead through two. In the second, the Leafs had a 10–9 edge in shots on goal and the teams stood even at 20 apiece for the game.
The Hawks had multiple chances to regain a two-goal lead. Philipp Kurashev had a step on a defender and plowed into Campbell, dislodging the net as Dominik Kubalik tapped in a loose puck. The referee pointed as if it were a goal and the horn sounded, but instead, the ref assessed Kurashev with a goalie interference minor infraction. Later in the period, MacKenzie Entwistle was stopped by Campbell on a shorthanded breakaway to keep the Leafs alive.
At 12:31 of the period, former Blackhawk David Kampf tallied his first as a Leaf to tie the game at 2–2 on a backhander from the slot that deflected off Erik Gustafsson’s skate and past Lankinen. Neither team would score in the rest of the period, sending the contest to extra time. In the third, the Leafs had a 17–7 edge in shots on goal and a 37–27 advantage in regulation.
Nearly two minutes into the extra session, William Nylander skated in on a breakaway and slipped a backhander past Lankinen for his third of the season to complete the comeback and earn the Leafs the win and end their four-game slide.
Analysis: The good, the bad, the ugly
Seth Jones: He played arguably his best game in a Blackhawks sweater. He was a strong presence in all three zones, playing over 28 minutes. Jones registered two assists, five shots on goal and three blocked shots.
Kevin Lankinen: Once again, the Hawks’ sophomore netminder received the start over the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, Marc Andre-Fleury. Lankinen kept the Blackhawks in the game, especially in the third period when Toronto applied a ton of pressure. Lankinen has been positionally strong this season, which demonstrates the significant confidence he is playing with. All he needs is a win to show for his strong efforts thus far.
Finishing games: Once again, the Hawks appear allergic to holding leads (dating back to last season when they actually held more than one in a season). The Blackhawks need to find a way to finish games, whether it is getting that clutch insurance goal, staying strong defensively or getting that big save (I will take all three!).
The Hawks’ record: While they picked up a point in this game for their strong effort, you cannot help but notice the big fat zero in the win column.
Things will not get easier this weekend with back-to-back road games beginning Friday night at RBC Center against the undefeated Carolina Hurricanes. Puck drop is at 6 p.m. CDT on NBCSCH and WGN 720.
News and notes
Following the game, Kane, who appeared remotely while in COVID-19 protocol, and Toews met with the media for the first time since the results of the investigation into how the Blackhawks handled sexual assault allegations against former video coach Brad Aldrich back in 2010. The virtual media scrum also came hours after former Blackhawks first-round draft pick Kyle Beach came forward as “John Doe” in the investigation. Below are select quotes from Kane and Toews’ media availability.
“(It) definitely could’ve been handled differently, most importantly for Kyle’s sake. It seemed like the organization did what they had to do as far as making necessary moves as far as guys who were with the team that were still with the team now and aren’t with us anymore. I knew Stan very well. I knew him as a great man. He did a lot for me personally, coming into the league and over the course of my career. I’m sure he would’ve handled things differently nowadays. But what happened, happened in the past. The organization made the right moves to get the Blackhawks going forward in the right steps and making sure we’re trending forward.”
“Very courageous for (Beach) to come out and let his name be known to the world after everything he went through. I wish back then we could have done some different things, knew about some different things, maybe we could have helped him.”
“I don’t know if he wants to hear from us or not, but I’d like to reach out to him and say that I wish I knew more at that time in that situation, if I could’ve done anything to help him out. Obviously, he’s been living with this a long time, and it takes a lot of courage by him to put his name behind the story.”
“Winning the Stanley Cup that year is beside the point. Whether we win or lose…we wish we could take it back and it never happened and young players didn’t have to deal with a situation like that.”
“Not that it was a joke, but it was something that wasn’t taken super seriously at the time. I thought Brad being let go or resigning from the organization was the way it was dealt with. … Had I been more connected to the situation and known some of the more gory details of it, I’d like to say, yeah, I would’ve acted differently in my role as captain.”
“I feel a ton for what Kyle went through and what he’s dealing with at this point, too. I don’t know what else to say. I think the guys that were part of that group all wish they could have done something different.”
“Stan (Bowman) and Al (MacIsaac)…they’re not directly complicit in the activities that happened. It’s not up to me to comment on whether they would like to deal with it differently or not. … I have a lot of respect for them as people. They’re good people.”
“To me, Stan and Al, make any argument you want, they’re not directly complicit in the activities that happened. Regardless of mistakes that may have been made, for someone like Stan, who has done so much for the Blackhawks—and Al, as well—to lose everything they care about and their livelihoods as well…I don’t understand how that makes it go away, to just delete them from existence and (say), ‘That’s it, we’ll never hear from them again.’”