The Chicago Blackhawks got off to a pretty good start on Thursday night, but as the game wore on, once again, the talent gap between them and the St. Louis Blues was the ultimate difference. The Blackhawks dropped to 0-2-0 on their three-game road trip to close out 2022 with a 2-1 loss to their long-time rivals.
A Rare Good Opening Period
The script the Blackhawks have been sticking to for much of the season has called for them to give up the first goal before eventually falling behind 2-0. On Thursday, they followed the first part of the process. To complicate things, Josh Leivo’s game-opening goal was set up when Jack Johnson’s pass below the goal line hit off an official’s skate and kicked right out in front.
However, the Blackhawks came right back and tied the game with a Patrick Kane power-play goal six minutes later.
The Blues got a late power play thanks to a Taylor Raddysh hooking penalty. Sam Lafferty and Jason Dickinson kept the puck in the St. Louis zone and created a couple of scoring chances to help kill off the penalty. Raddysh had a breakaway out of the box but did not convert on a chance that would have given the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead in the final seconds of the period.
Overall, it was a good opening frame for the road team. They outshot the Blues 12-9 and had nine scoring chances and four high-danger scoring chances. Most importantly, the Blackhawks weren’t trailing after 20 minutes for one of the few times this season. The good vibes didn’t carry over into the second period as they were out 15-4 as the game got away from them.
It’s Time to Move on From Boris Katchouk
With each passing game, it is becoming clear that Boris Katchouk will not be a long-term part of this team. He just does not offer much to this lineup. He is supposed to play a physical brand of hockey, but we just don’t see that consistently enough to justify him playing every night at the NHL level. If you can’t score, you need to play a physical brand of defensive-minded hockey. Katchouk isn’t doing either of those.
If not contributing to the stat sheet wasn’t enough to move on, Katchouk’s glaring and avoidable mistakes of late have been inexcusable. We were critical of his boneheaded boarding penalty against the Columbus Blue Jackets last Friday, but his play that led to the game-winning goal against should have him heading to Rockford for the rest of the season.
With the game tied 1-1 in the second period, Katchouk decided to make a blind backhand pass into the middle of the ice that found the stick of Calle Rosen and was quickly deposited behind Alex Stalock.
If Katchouk looked up and had an ounce of awareness, he would have seen a pair of white sweaters below the goal line to bail him out if he went behind the boards. Instead, he gifted the Blues with their second goal.
It’s time to cut your losses here and see what you have in some of the younger guys in Rockford. The first guy that jumps out at me is Cole Guttman. He can play that gritty style of hockey you want on the bottom six and has some offensive ability. Guttman has 10 goals and 18 points in his first 21 professional games with the IceHogs.
Josiah Slavin is another option. He’s a big body who plays well in his own zone and has been an elite penalty killer during his time in the AHL. Heck, even giving Mike Hardman another sniff of the NHL would be more beneficial. We know what Katchouk is, and it’s not an NHL player. Let’s find out what we have in some of these unknowns.
Connor Bedard is the Reason for the Season
As the losses keep piling up for the Blackhawks, let’s all feel better by looking at what Connor Bedard is doing at the World Junior Championship. He followed up his seven-point performance against Germany with another two goals and six points in Canada’s 11-0 dismantling of Austria.
His first goal was a tremendous shot from a spot on the ice not many players can score from.
Bedard’s second goal was scored as he was falling down and was his 14th at the World Junior Championship, tying him with Jordan Eberle for the most in Team Canada history.
The future first-overall pick of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft has six goals and 14 points in three games. His next game will be Canada’s preliminary round finale against Sweden on Saturday.