If there’s ever been an assured outcome in a hockey game, it was this one. The rebuilding Blackhawks vs. the dominant Cup-contending Hurricanes? To steal a lyric from Hamilton, the Hawks were out-gunned, out-planned, out-numbered, out-manned. Unlike George Washington’s revolutionary soldiers, the Blackhawks were not able to pull off the upset, losing 3-0. The Hawks were out-shot 23-7 in the first period. During a power play in the second period, broadcaster Troy Murray called out the team’s overall effort. The Hawks put up a fight, as they usually do, but it was predictably ugly for the better part of sixty minutes, and we should all be glad it’s over.
Behind the eight ball from jump
As if Chicago wasn’t up against it from a talent standpoint alone, the NHL’s holiday break restricts teams from traveling on December 26. Therefore, the Blackhawks had to jump on their charter at 6:15 a.m. They had a morning skate in Carolina at 10:25 a.m, and a puck drop at 6:00 p.m. That is not an ideal travel day.
After the morning skate, head coach Luke Richardson tried to spin the situation as positively as he could. “Other than the early travel, maybe it takes a little pressure off and you just go out and play,” Richardson said. “The home team’s probably got a lot of family here and distractions at home. Which is good. It’s good this time of the year. But here, on the road, you can just go to the hotel and get a relaxing nap in and a meal and come and just focus on the game. I think it’s the same for both teams this time of the year, and the first team that dials it in quicker has the best chance.”
Alex Stalock should be the Blackhawks starter
I’ve seen enough. Yes, the Hurricanes absolutely blitzed the Blackhawks from the moment the game began, but there is zero justification for Petr Mrazek to be the default starter anymore. Sure, Alex Stalock was coming off a case of myocarditis that caused him to miss almost all of the 2021-22 season, so maybe you give Mrazek the chance to lose the job.
Guess what? He’s lost the job.
Entering Tuesday’s action, Mrazek had a 4.23 goals against average and a .874 save percentage. Those are video game numbers, and not in a good way. He has a -7.92 goals saved above average. Meanwhile, Stalock has been tremendous. In his seven decisions this season, he’s 4-2-0-1 with a 2.78 goals against and a .917 save percentage.
Yes, he settled down after a shaky first period on Tuesday. In fact, Mrazek stopped a career high 46/49 shots, but it’s still time to make the change. The players see one goalie thriving while one is actively hurting the team’s chances to win. At this point, they understand what this season is about. One way to keep them somewhat invested is to reward the players who have earned the right to play. Those things matter, and Richardson needs to reward Stalock for being one of the Blackhawks few bright spots this season.
The Blackhawks give up the first goal…again
For the 27th time in 33 games, the Blackhawks gave up the game’s first goal. Obviously, this is not ideal but seems especially important for the Hawks, who are 4-0-2 when scoring first, and 4-21-2 when giving up the first goal.
I continue to contend that being down 1-0 shouldn’t be that huge of a mountain to climb for any team, regardless of talent level. I mean, someone has to score the first goal. It shouldn’t be the dagger in the heart for those teams. Yes, the Blackhawks have less talent than most others in the league, but one goal isn’t insurmountable.
Richardson’s mentioning of confidence is interesting. This team is certainly fragile, and now that this has become not only a trend but an expectation, it has to take its mental toll on the team. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much of a solution. For the most part, the Hawks have come out ready to play and ready to go, but they just don’t have the weapons.