Strong Start, Horrible Finish

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before. The Blackhawks actually played pretty well…they just didn’t win.

Second verse, same as the first…

The Blackhawks did indeed play pretty well, especially in the first period. They outshot Dallas 11-4. In fact, at one point in the period, they were up 10-0 in shots (thanks in part to a pair of power plays) and dictated the play for most of the period. But it was just another moral victory for Chicago. As the first intermission horn sounded, Dallas had a 1-0 lead.

But this time, it was different…or so we thought.

Luke Richardson discusses the Blackhawks need to finish games after Tuesday’s practice

The Blackhawks scored three goals in the second period, and withstood an early onslaught from Dallas in the third. Max Domi made it 4-1, then immediately took a penalty. That’s the only window the Stars needed. They stormed back with five unanswered goals in the span of just over nine minutes, and the Hawks were left licking their wounds again.

“We didn’t have our work ethic and we sat back a little bit — not [exactly] trying to preserve it, but they were coming hard and we just didn’t handle it well,” Richardson said to the assembled media, including the Sun-Times’ Ben Pope. “On every goal, it was something different… Unfortunately, I thought the guys worked really hard for 40 or 50 minutes. But the game is 60 minutes, so that’s just a tough lesson to learn.”

Should Richardson have called timeout?

With a roster this thin on talent, it’s tough to evaluate Richardson, let alone be critical, but there was one glaring moment that stood out to all three of us on Wednesday’s CHGO Blackhawks Podcast. He should have called a timeout before he did.

When asked after the game if he considered it, Richardson said he hadn’t. “It’s a loud building. We tried to be confident on the bench and positive to the guys up until the fifth goal.”

That’s been one of Richardson’s philosophies this season…focusing on the positive. In his mind, he thought calling a timeout might have incited more panic than calm. We’ll never know if he was right or not, but the reasoning was sound, despite the result.

The Five-Forward Power Play

Once again, the Blackhawks deployed the five-forward power play unit vs Dallas. Jonathan Toews, Max Domi, Patrick Kane, Taylor Raddysh, and Philipp Kurashev generated some really solid looks, especially in the first period.

Luke Richardson discusses the five-forward power play strategy after Tuesday’s practice

“We’re just (trying to ) make our best opportunity to score, and that’s what we need right now,” Richardson said after Tuesday’s practice.

I get what he’s trying to do, but I don’t love Patrick Kane as the point option. The Blackhawks use the 1-3-1 power play, which deploys only one point man, as opposed to the “traditional” umbrella powerplay that features two point men.

1-3-1 Power Play - 5 Options | Ice Hockey Systems Inc.
via IceHockeySystems.com

Yes, Kane can distribute the puck as well as anyone in the game, but he doesn’t have a booming slap shot, and isn’t exactly your ideal “last line of defense” should something go awry. I prefer Kane along the right wing boards, looking to work the puck to the bumper man between the circles. Toews is an underrated passer, and is a much better (and more willing) defender than Kane.

During the first period, Kane and Toews did seem to swap roles after the first 1:15 of the Blackhawks’ power play. I’m unclear whether or not that was a coincidence or part of the plan. I’ll make sure to ask Richardson about it next time I’m at practice.

BONUS: 500 assists for Jonathan Toews

Congrats to the Captain, Jonathan Toews, for recording the 500th assist of his career, picking up the apple on Connor Murphy’s second goal of the season.

Toews joins Stan Mikita, Patrick Kane, Denis Savard, Doug Wilson, Bobby Hull, Duncan Keith, and Steve Larmer in the Blackhawks’ 500-assist club.

DOUBLE BONUS: Home Whites!

NHL teams should wear white sweaters at home. I will die on this hill. The Dallas Stars wore their home whites on Wednesday night, and it looked great. I do realize that I might feel this way because the Blackhawks home whites are so far superior to the reds (there is no argument against this so don’t try), but I don’t care. I understand why the NHL went the way they did in the 2003-04 season. They felt that the home team should stand out more, but I always thought it was cool to see the road teams’ more colorful uniforms. I’ve come to terms that it probably won’t change, but it should.

Speaking of that…the Blackhawks play the Canadiens at the United Center Saturday afternoon. I would love to see the Blackhawks in their reds and the Canadiens in their glorious Reverse Retros.

Nov 15, 2022; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens forward Juraj Slafkovsky (20) prepares for a face-off against the New Jersey Devils during the first period at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

When the UCLA Bruins and USC Trojans play football, they both wear their home darks, and it looks amazing. Do it, NHL!

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