Could it be true? Was this game boring? No, it’s the children who are wrong.
This was not the most exciting tilt between the Blackhawks and Kings that there ever was. Remember those teams in the 2010’s that split five Stanley Cups between them? Those were great Kings-Blackhawks games. This was not like that. Sure, there was a tussle and some decent goals scored, but nothing that resembled what the games between these teams used to be like, even if Anze Kopitar, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Quick, and Jonathan Toews are still on their respective sides.
The Blackhawks were out-possessed by the Kings all night, registering 33 shots on net on 71 shot attempts and winning 60% of their faceoffs against this Blackhawks team that came into the game leading the NHL in faceoff win-percentage. Chicago’s defensive group did their best to limit chances on starting goaltender Arvid Söderblom, blocking 23 Kings shots, but it was not a game dictated by the Blackhawks.
Jason Dickinson opened the scoring in the second period on a deflected shot. Caleb Jones and Filip Roos got the assists on the opening goal, but were both beat on the play that lead to the 1-1 goal for Los Angeles, coming from Blake Lizotte. The game would remain tied at one late into the third period with Söderblom making a huge save with just over four minutes to play to keep the game tied, which led to Chicago’s best stretch of offense that generated at least two great scoring chances. Unfortunately that stretch wouldn’t lead to a go-ahead goal and we would head to overtime. In the extra frame, it would be Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews netting the game-winner after Jake McCabe forced a turnover in front of the Kings net. The goal is Toews’ seventh of the season in his 11th game. He had 12 goals in 71 games last season.
I’m On Board With Arvid Söderblom
Petr Mrazek and Alex Stalock are not part of the Blackhawks’ goaltending future. As it stands right now, all signs are pointing to a prospect like Drew Commesso being next in line to be a long-term starter in Chicago. But the other goalie we should be paying more attention to was in net for the Blackhawks tonight with Arvid Söderblom, a free agent signed in May of 2021. He made his North American debut last season with the IceHogs and played in two games for the Blackhawks.
He’s already made more appearances this season for Chicago (3) with a 1-1-1 record after making 32 saves tonight against the Kings. He’s the antithesis of a guy like Stalock in the way he plays controlled in net and doesn’t have extreme movement in his game. As Jay Zawaski and Greg Boysen have pointed out before on the CHGO Blackhawks Podcast, there’s a lot of Corey Crawford’s style, both on the ice and on his pads, when it comes to Söderblom. I can get on board with that. He just turned 23-years-old over the summer and has a lot of his career ahead of him. There’s a growing sample-size for him in net in North America and with the injuries to Stalock and Mrazek, Söderblom has already made the most of this unexpected opportunity.
Jonathan Toews is not washed-up. Far from it. With the game-winner in overtime tonight, he has seven goals and two assists in the first 11 games of the season. It took him until game number 49 on March 12 last season to reach his seventh goal of the campaign. His mood is much better and that comes along with a few things, mainly the simplicity in which he and the Blackhawks are able to play.
After the game, Toews spoke about how the team is able to commit to playing a simplified game and “just go play hockey.” Maybe we are overstating the importance of Luke Richardson’s impact on the team or how playing a more simple style is actually “innovative” to this Blackhawks team, but it’s working.
“Doesn’t matter what your system is. When you have five guys out there, four supporting the puck-carrier and that want the puck, not afraid to go into traffic or take hits to make plays, it just translates and everyone feeds off that.” The Blackhawks Captain said postgame.
“Overall, there’s a good feeling in this locker room,” Toews continued after scoring the overtime winner, “You look at our record and you might be surprised if you were looking at this team before training camp with where the expectations were at. But with the group we have and the commitment we’ve made to each other to be part of this team and to building that chemistry, it doesn’t feel surprising to us.”
Look, the goal of this season was tanking. But to every play in the locker room, the goal was to prove every doubter wrong about who they were or what the makeup of this team is/was capable of. Toews has taken the reins when it comes to proving people wrong this season, and that’s OK.
Defensive Rotation Coming?
The Blackhawks are without Seth Jones until American Thanksgiving, at least. They’ve already called-up defenseman Alec Regula in his place, but with Filip Roos and Caleb Jones so far holding-down the third-pair duties, the chance to get Regula into the lineup has not yet presented itself. But, even with Roos and Jones registering an assist each tonight, the play of the third-pair has left something to be desired. Mainly on the part of Swedish rookie Filip Roos.
Caleb Jones is still registering points with six (all assists) in his nine appearances this season. It’s always nice to get on the board, but his game outside of racking-up assists has been meh-to-average. Roos has also looked meh-to-average at times, but is still suspect to turning the puck over a bit too much. I’m not sure if either player is really playing at a “benchable” level, but if Regula is here, he should be getting into the lineup in some way.
The top-four defensive group of Jack Johnson, Jake McCabe, Connor Murphy, and Jarred Tinordi looks to be safe for now according to Richardson, so if there’s going to be a rotation on the blueline in Chicago to get Regula in, I would expect it to start more likely with Roos shuffling out.