After winning four games in a row, the Blackhawks picked up their second consecutive loss, losing 4-3 in overtime in Buffalo on Saturday night. The Hawks got goals from Jason Dickinson, Sam Lafferty and Taylor Raddysh, but the story was goaltender Arvid Söderblom, who was absolutely outstanding in the loss. He stopped 41 of 45 Sabres shots, and is the number one reason the Blackhawks picked up a point.
Can’t ignore the first period
The Blackhawks learned a lesson in the first period. If they don’t come out 100% ready to go, they get in trouble early. Yes, the Sabres are much improved this season, but they’re far from one of the league’s elite teams. As we’ve said on the CHGO Blackhawks Podcast all season, the path for victory for the Hawks is outworking their opponent. If they’re not ready to work, games can look like a 5-on-5 powerplay for the opponent. At one point, the Sabres had an 11-0 shot advantage in the frame. After 20 minutes, the shots were 16-6 in favor of Buffalo. “We’re not necessarily a real young team, but we’re a new team,” Luke Richardson said after the loss. “Finding that togetherness will be through lessons like tonight and last game.”
Arvid Söderblom keeps it close
With Blackhawks starter Petr Mrazek on the IR, and back-to-back games this weekend, Arvid Söderblom got his first start of the season with the big club. He was fantastic, bailing the Blackhawks out several times in the first period. He made a diving glove save on Casey Mittelstadt, a pair of glove saves on Sabres breakaways,a point blank save late in the third period, and 14 high-danger saves in the game. Without his heroics, the Hawks don’t pick up a point.
“He played great. He really deserved better tonight,” Richardson said. “He showed a lot of poise out there. It was nice to see.”
As we look ahead to the next three-to-five years of Blackhawks hockey, the goaltending situation looks solid, though not overly deep. Drew Commesso, who is currently the starter at Boston University, is among the team’s top prospects. If Söderblom continues to develop as he has, the team could have a pretty formidable tandem in the years to come.
Last season, it was Sam Lafferty. This season, it’s Philipp Kurashev who has stolen our collective hearts. Aside from being one of (if not the) team’s best defenders, his offensive game is catching up. He had an assist Saturday night (and five points in eight games), but had some of the most impressive shifts for either team in the game. He also led the team with four shots on goal.
Kurashev, who will be an RFA this summer, looks like a Stan Bowman player who might win over Kyle Davidson. The Blackhawks can sign him to an extension beginning November 1st. I’m going to wear the #ExtendKurashev hashtag out until it gets done. Why not reward a kid who has earned it with a new contract? It might ease some of the pain of the trades made last season and show that the team is serious about rewarding young players who do the work to get better.