Saturday night, the Blackhawks beat the Rangers 4-1 at Madison Square Garden, snapping an eight-game losing streak. If you just look at the fancy stats of this game, it would look like most Hawks games. The opponent has the vast majority of possession and chances. The difference was special teams. The Blackhawks scored three times with the man-advantage (goals from Patrick Kane, Max Domi, Taylor Raddysh), while killing-off three of four Rangers power plays. Special teams can be the great equalizer, and were the difference in the win.
That first goal feeling
For only the fifth time this season, the Chicago Blackhawks scored the game’s first goal after Reese Johnson redirected a Jake McCabe point shot. Of course, this comes after the inaugural CHGO Friendsgiving party, where Greg, Mario and I told everyone that would listen to bet on the opponent scoring first as often as possible. Don’t worry, CHGO friends, we’re confident this will continue to pay off as the season goes on.
After the win, the Blackhawks are now 3-0-2 when scoring first, and 4-12-2 when giving up the first goal. Any team that trails in a game, at some point in the action, is forced to chase the lead and take defensive risks they don’t want to take in order to get back in the game. It also requires mistake-free hockey, which will always be a challenge for a tanking team.
This is especially important for a team like the Blackhawks, who lack the firepower to come back from multiple-goal deficits. No team in the league had scored fewer goals than the Hawks heading into Saturday’s action.
The longer they can stay with their game plan and not chase, the better of they will be. Simplicity is their style, but trailing night after night complicates things. As the game went on, Patrick Sharp, who had the call Saturday night, kept pushing for the Blackhawks to keep it boring. They did, and as a result, they have two more points.
Luke Richardson records another blocked shot
Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson blocked a lot of shots during his 21-year NHL career. Saturday night, he picked up another one.
Jack Johnson sent a pass sailing over the Blackhawks bench, hitting Richardson on the right side of his head. Head trainer Mike Gapski tended to him on the bench, but the bleeding wound forced Richardson to leave the bench for a few minutes. He did return later in the period, and despite a pretty nasty gash on his head, didn’t have a hair out of place.
“I’m good. We got a win,” Richardson said after the game.
Blocked shots weren’t tracked until the 2007-08 season, the year before Richardson called it a career after two games with Ottawa in 2008-09. In 07-08, Richardson was credited with 55 blocked shots, so we’ll have Hockey-Reference update the career number to 56 ASAP.
Jujhar Khaira and Jacob Trouba drop the gloves
While fights don’t happen as often as they used to, it felt like Jujhar Khaira vs Jacob Trouba was bound to happen. Last season, Trouba leveled Khaira with a hit that knocked the Blackhawks forward out and sent him to the hospital, then injured reserve. Khaira ended up missing twenty-one days.
The confrontation happened in the second period, after a typically physical shift from Trouba, who put big hits on Jason Dickinson, then Khaira later in the shift. After that, the gloves were off. The scrap wasn’t exactly Bob Probert vs Tie Domi back-in-the-day, but it hopefully provided some closure for Khaira.
Later in the second period, Trouba struck again. As Andreas Athanasiou was exiting the Blackhawks’ zone, Trouba lined him up and laid a high hit on the speedy forward.
Trouba was met immediately by Jonathan Toews, who dropped the gloves. Connor Murphy and Barclay Goodrow squared off as well. As things are in the NHL these days, only Toews got the extra penalty for instigating. The Rangers scored on the ensuing powerplay, cutting the Blackhawks’ lead to 3-1.
I hate the instigator penalty.
Yes, the rule has lessened the amount of fights in the game, but you could argue that it’s made hits like Trouba makes more common, and those are the hits that truly injure players. There’s no consequence for the player initiating the hit. If there is, their team gets a power play. Toews sticks up for his teammate after a questionable hit from a player who has lost the benefit of the doubt, gets an extra penalty and a ten minute misconduct. It seems backwards to me.
When the next CBA negotiations occur after the 2025-26 season, I hope the league revisits the instigator penalty. Their hearts were in the right place when they made the rule, but it hasn’t protected players as they had hoped.
News and notes
- Patrick Kane picked up the 1,200th point of his NHL career Saturday, assisting on Raddysh’s power play goal in the third period.
- Petr Mrazek did not return to play in the third period. After the game, Richardson said he injured his “other groin,” and would miss some time. In relief, Arvid Söderblom stopped five of six Rangers shots. No word yet on who will be called up to back up Söderblom tomorrow vs the Islanders.