On October 29, the Chicago Blackhawks took a 3-1 lead into the third period only to lose 4-3 in overtime to the Buffalo Sabres. The Blackhawks got their revenge on Tuesday night by returning the favor and flipping that exact script.
A Better Start Doesn’t Yield Desired Results
The start of Saturday’s 8-5 loss to the Seattle Kraken was an absolute disaster, allowing six goals on seven shots, including five goals on five consecutive shots. Forward Tyler Johnson said the team had nobody to blame but themselves for the awful period.
“At the beginning, we were a little sluggish, a little slow,” he said. “When you get off to a bad start, it’s hard to get back after that. I thought the guys started to compete a little bit, but you can’t start that way. The game is too difficult, and the league is too good. It’s hard to come back that way.”
The two-time Stanley Cup winner stressed the importance of getting off to a better start against the Sabres.
“The start is important in every game,” added Johnson. “You look around the league, and the teams that get the first goal and get the lead usually stay that way. You have to compete for the full 60. A team like Buffalo, they score goals. They are one of the top teams in the league in that department. So, you have to be mentally sharp. We have to take care of our own net first and work our way out from there. That’s been our biggest Achilles’ heel is not worrying too much about the defensive side. We have to do a lot better job at that.”
The first period on Tuesday wasn’t a raging success, but it wasn’t a dumpster fire either. The Blackhawks looked more engaged than in the previous outing. They were skating hard and finished their checks. They even scored the game’s first goal on a play started by Jonathan Toews winning a board battle to get the puck to Philipp Kurashev, who strung a pass across to Connor Murphy for the tally.
The good vibes couldn’t carry over into the intermission. Victor Olofsson tied the game less than four minutes later with his third goal against the Blackhawks this season. Tage Thompson gave Buffalo a 2-1 lead with just 6.9 seconds left in the opening period. Both goals were aided by sloppy play in front of Petr Mrazek, who was caught out of position on the Thompson strike.
The Blackhawks were outshot 11-4 in the first period. At 5v5, the Sabres led 12-7 in scoring chances and 4-1 in high-danger chances.
Second Line Steals the Show
Luke Richardson dressed the same 18 skaters we saw against Seattle but tinkered with the lines a bit. He moved Johnson back up to the top line with Max Domi and Patrick Kane. Jason Dickinson, who hasn’t scored in 28 games, was moved to wing on his line. Kurashev was put back on the second line with Toews and Taylor Raddysh. This trio has played well together in the past, and they were fantastic on Tuesday.
Kurashev set up the Murphy goal in the first then scored his sixth goal of the season in the third period by redirecting a Seth Jones shot in the net.
“I haven’t seen him play like that, a consistent full game like that, since early in the year when he was really riding some good confidence out of training camp,” Richardson said of Kurashev. “He deserves all the points he got tonight. I thought he could’ve had a few more. But you know what? It’s great for players to see. He’s a fun guy, has a smile on his face, loves the game, puts in the work, and it was nice to see him kind of persevere and have a real solid 60-minute effort.”
The second line was dangerous the entire night, while the other nine forwards had a pedestrian evening. At 5v5 in regulation, they produced 17 shot attempts. The other three lines combined for 18, with just six coming from the
Blackhawks Need More from the Blue Line
Defense is literally the name of the game for NHL defensemen. However, in today’s fast-paced, highly skilled game, blueliners need to be more offensive. The Colorado Avalanche showed last season how deadly you can be with some dynamic defenders who can find the scoresheet on a regular basis. However, Cale Makars don’t grow on trees, and they are hard to find.
Murphy’s game-opening goal was his fourth of the season, which, at the time, led all Chicago defensemen. His goal gave Blackhawks’ defenders 13 total for the year Rasmus Dahlin of the Sabres has 13 by himself. The Blackhawks biggest offensive threat on the back end is Jones, but he has yet to become a consistent offensive producer since arriving in Chicago. However, that could be turning around right before our eyes. With his two tallies and assist tonight, Jones has three goals and nine points in his last five games.
“I’ve been trying to shoot a lot more as of late, and it just hasn’t really gone in,” Jones said. “I had some chances in the second period – a Grade A chance at the circle. I missed the net, and I think I broke a stick on the bench there and wasn’t happy with myself. It’s kind of been that way, so it’s nice to see a few go in.”
Kyle Davidson drafted Kevin Korchinski seventh overall to be that dynamic two-way defenseman. But he won’t be able to help the roster in Chicago for quite some time. Even when he gets here, fans will need to be patient. Dahlin is a perfect example of requiring patience. He needed three full seasons after being the first-overall pick to become the star he is today.