The Chicago Blackhawks and Seattle Kraken both entered Sunday’s tilt riding a high note from big wins on Friday night. The Blackhawks erased a two-goal deficit to defeat the Detroit Red Wings in overtime, while the Kraken scored a 3-2 win at the Colorado Avalanche.
Even though the Blackhawks won their third straight game after falling behind 2-0, head coach Luke Richardson said the team “dodged a bullet.” An effort to start the game like will saw on Sunday will lead to more losses than wins throughout an 82-game season, so there is still a lot to clean up.
Special Teams to the Rescue After Brutal Start
The Kraken has gotten off to a good start on the power play. Entering today’s game, they had a 29.2% success rate on the man advantage, good for sixth in the NHL. While the Blackhawks led the league with three shorthanded goals, their penalty kill unit sat 26th in the NHL at 70.6% before puck drop. That stat is misleading. After giving up four power-play goals on six chances to the Avalanche on opening night, the Blackhawks one goal on 11 chances, and that came on Friday night.
“I think our penalty-killing is going to disrupt up ice, and that’s really where we want to do the most damage,” Richardson said of the penalty-kill unit before the game.
The penalty kill got the Blackhawks back into the game after they fell behind 2-0 for the third straight game. Jujhar Khaira forced a turnover just outside the Seattle zone, then skated to the net, where he received a pass back from Colin Blackwell and beat Martin Jones for his first goal of the season.
Just over two minutes later, Tyler Johnson scored off a rebound while on the power play to even up the game. Max Domi netted another power-play tally off a rebound in the opening minute of the second period.
The penalty kill came up huge as they killed off a Johnson tripping infraction, then a Seth Jones double-minor for high sticking while the game was still tied.
“I think with our speed this year, with some of the additions and other guys being in better health, why not take a chance instead of just sitting back and let the best players in the world come at you 100 miles an hour?” Richardson said postgame. “Why not try to disrupt before they’re going 100 miles an hour and maybe force bad passes? Get them out of their routes; I think that’s what they’re doing. Obviously, teams will adjust, and we’ll have to counter and adjust, but I think aggressive is the way to go.”
Top Line Rides Struggle Bus Defensively
The trio of Andreas Athanasiou, Domi, and Patrick Kane is the biggest offensive threat in the Blackhawks’ lineup. However, they have also been one of the biggest liabilities on defense. Case in point, they were on the ice for two of the four goals allowed.
On Jared McCann’s opening goal, they were slow getting back in transition, leading to a 3-on-2 rush. Midway through the second period, Kane and Domi were late into the zone, giving defenseman Vince Dunn a wide-open slot to score Seattle’s fourth goal.
“All three of them stayed out too long,” Richardson said about the shift that led to Dunn’s goal. “Patrick and Domi were behind their guys, so that put us at a disadvantage. They extended their shift too long, trying to get everything back at once and win the game in the middle of the second period. You’ve got to win your shift; you’re not going to win the game in that moment.”
At the end of the day, the trio was on the ice for eight shots against and four shots for. Nobody expected this combo to be a shut-down line defensively. However, the team can live with the breakdowns as long as they live up to their expectations in the offensive zone. After Sunday’s loss, they have just two goals at 5v5; one of those was Athanasiou’s penalty shot conversion versus Detroit.
A Key Pep Talk
The first 10 minutes of the game were a nightmare for the Blackhawks. They were down 2-0, were being hemmed down in their end, and were turning the puck over at an alarming pace. Something changed after a television timeout just past the midway point of the opening frame. The team started finishing their checks and playing with more focus and engagement. Before you knew it, the game was tied.
“I felt like we were going up and down,” Richardson said of the first 10 minutes. “It was like a no-hitter, and I think they (Seattle) were happy to do that on the road. In a building like this, it should be more intimidating. You have to get in front of people in the neutral zone, slow them down, be more physical and finish our checks.”
He went on to mention Jared Tinordi, Khaira, Blackwell, and Makenzie Entwistle as players who helped turn the momentum in the game.
The Blackhawks are back in action Tuesday night when they host the Florida Panthers. As always, we will be live right after the game concludes.