The talent gap between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Carolina Hurricanes was quite evident at the United Center. While the home team didn’t have a terrible outing, they never felt like they were in the game. The Hurricanes, bona fide Stanley Cup contenders, took advantage of their golden opportunities to earn a 3-0 win, while the Blackhawks had trouble getting much going.
A Better Start, Same Results
Head coach Luke Richardson has been seeing everything we have. He knows the starts of both games in California weren’t great, especially the effort in Anaheim.
“We’ve got to be ready at the start of games,” he said after Tuesday’s morning skate. “Last game, when we got behind, we’ve put ourselves in that predicament a few times. As the season goes along, we are not going to be able to catch up in some of these games. The league gets faster, teams get tighter, and you can’t play from behind all the time.
“You have to recognize where you’re at, body-wise, head-wise. It’s a tough grind to the season. The teams that are prepared – and know where they’re at physically and mentally – before and during the game. If you’re not there mentally, you’re tired; you’re foggy, then you have to recognize that and play simple. It’s growing as a team.”
The Blackhawks started the night with the first four shots of the game. The Hurricanes didn’t get their first shot on goal until nearly seven minutes after the opening draw. However, once they registered that first shot, they outshot the Blackhawks 13-4 the rest of the period and, more importantly, outscored them 2-0.
“I don’t think it was a bad start,” Richardson admitted after the game. “It was better than the last game, obviously, it couldn’t get any worse. We’ve got to try to have momentum, especially at home. Try to get on the board early and get the crowd into it. That is something we are pushing to get better at.”
Including tonight, the Blackhawks have allowed the first goal of the game 11 times and fallen behind 2-0 in seven of those contests.
5v5 Woes Continue
Creating offensive chances at 5v5 continues to be a significant problem for the Blackhawks. They only had five 5v5 shot attempts during the first period to Carolina’s 17. The second period was better as the Blackhawks led 10-9 in 5v5 shot attempts, but only three were considered high-danger scoring chances. At the end of the night, the Hurricanes had a 42-27 advantage in 5v5 shot attempts. If the power play isn’t going to score, it will be hard to win games.
Some of these issues can be attributed to puck possession. Blackhawks centermen did their job by winning 60% of the faceoffs, including Jonathan Toews winning 18 of his 22 draws. The biggest factor was zone exits. Once the Hurricanes got the puck into the Chicago zone, they were able to have extended shifts with multiple shots, thanks to numerous failed clearing attempts. While at the other end of the ice, the Blackhawks had a lot of “one-and-done” possessions.
Toews praised the Hurricanes forwards for their pressure on the back check. He said the forwards need to work harder to create chances when they are being pressured hard. Richardson echoed these sentiments in his postgame presser.
“Part of the problem was they come so hard on our faceoffs. We need to better as a team to give them a little bump just to give the D a chance to make a play. They were on us pretty quickly even though we won the faceoff, so sometimes it’s not always an advantage. We have to work on that.”
Mrazek, Hard Luck Loser
Petr Mrazek spent three seasons as a member of the Hurricanes after signing with them in 2018. He played well for them, going 50-32-8 with a 2.48 goals-against average (GAA), .911 save percentage (SV%), and 10 shutouts. He also started 18 Stanley Cup Playoff games for them, winning eight of them.
The 30-year-old goaltender has done well against his former team during his career with the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, and Toronto Maple Leafs. In nine games versus Carolina, Mrazek is 7-2-0 with a 2.10 GAA and .939 SV%.
Monday was not Mrazek’s worst effort, but he could not get the job done against the Hurricanes. The first goal was scored off a deflection by Jordan Martinhook. Carolina’s second tally was a great short-side snipe by veteran Jordan Staal. The third goal of the night came off a brutal Caleb Jones turnover. You cannot pin any of those goals against on Mrazek.
In the end, he stopped 29 of the 32 shots he faced for a .906 SV%, higher than the .895 season SV% he had coming into the game.