The New York Islanders added to the Chicago Blackhawks’ misery on Tuesday night with a 3-1 win to push to home team’s losing streak to four games. The home team was dealt a massive blow by losing their starting goaltender in the opening minutes of the game. After that, the Islanders played the type of smothering defense they are known for and ground out a big road victory.
Alex Stalock Leaves Early with Injury
Alex Stalock’s night only lasted 2:56. Islanders forward Casey Cizikas drove hard to the net, did not pull up, and made heavy contact with Stalock’s head. The Blackhawks’ netminder was motionless on the ice for a few moments before skating off on his own power. Arvid Soderblom came in to take over from there, while Cizikas received a five-minute major for goaltender interference and a game misconduct. The Blackhawks were unable to convert on the extended power play against the league’s top penalty-kill unit.
Head coach Luke Richardson said Stalock would be reevaluated in the morning and likely placed in concussion protocol. Depending on the severity of Stalock’s injury, this could leave the Blackhawks in a very tough spot. Petr Mrazek just started skating with the team today and is still a few days away from returning to action. Jaxson Stauber, Soderblom’s backup in Rockford, was injured during Saturday night’s IceHogs victory.
Tuesday’s loss to the Islanders brought back memories of the preseason. There was a lack of energy and overall offensive production that we hadn’t seen since the final exhibition contest in St. Louis. Many of the concerns about secondary scoring and a consistent offensive effort were forgotten after the first ten games of the regular season.
The Blackhawks were held to just five shots on goal during the opening period, which included that five-minute power play. It took them nearly seven minutes to get their first shot of the middle frame. They went about nine minutes without a shot to start the third period. The Islanders were known as one of the best defensive teams under Barry Trotz, and that hasn’t changed now that his protégé Lane Lambert is behind the bench.
“The Islanders are structured and stay in lanes,” defenseman Connor Murphy said after the game. “We didn’t do a good enough job, when we were able to recover pucks, of getting shots through onto their net with rebounds. They stayed a little stingier to their game plan than we did with ours.”
The Blackhawks finished the night with 22 shots, four below their average on the season. However, there were not many that made Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin too nervous. Part of this was because of the great defense New York plays, but another reason is the absence of Seth Jones, who was second on the team in shots on goal before being lost to a thumb injury.
Faceoffs Continue to be Strong Suit
Entering tonight’s tilt versus the Islanders, the Blackhawks led the league with a 58.8 faceoff win percentage (FO%). Max Domi’s performance at the dot is a big reason for that. He leads all NHL players who have taken at least 100 draws with an astonishing 67.2 percent. This feat is even more impressive when you consider he had a 45.5 FO percent average for his career before this season began.
“It’s still really early, but we work on it, for sure,” Domi said after Tuesday’s morning skate. “It’s a whole game within the game. Some of it is mental, but a lot of it is pretty simple stuff; just positioning, where to put your stick and whatnot. When you have two wingers that jump in and help out as well, that makes a big difference too.”
Domi isn’t the only Blackhawks centerman getting the job done in the faceoff circle through 10 games. Jonathan Toews is third in the NHL at 64.9%, MacKenzie Entwistle is at 57.5%, Jason Dickinson is at 53.6 percent, and Sam Lafferty is at an even 50.0 percent. The only two players under 50 percent before Tuesday’s game were Colin Blackwell and Andreas Athanasiou, who have taken a combined 18 draws.
The faceoff circle was one of the few areas of the ice the Blackhawks had success against the Islanders. They won 26 of the 39 faceoffs, finishing at 53 percent as a team. Domi led the way at 56 percent (5 for 9), followed by Toews, who won half of his 24 draws.