The Chicago Blackhawks put together a lineup against the Calgary Flames that did not look so great on paper. Captain Jonathan Toews was a late scratch with a non-COVID illness, and goaltender Jaxson Stauber was making his second career NHL start. However, the Blackhawks played a simple and disciplined game while getting goals from five different players in a dominating 5-1 win over the Flames.
Blackhawks Have a Great First Period, Until They Didn’t
The first period has been a disaster for the Blackhawks the last three games. Against the St. Louis Blues last Saturday, they had just five 5v5 shot attempts the entire period. Sure, it helped that Jordan Binnington let the first two shots he faced get in behind him, but it was an awful first period that saw them have an 18.52 Corsi for percentage (CF%). The sting of the terrible start was eased because Chicago was able to steal a victory from their rivals.
Things weren’t much better in the 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday night. The Blackhawks had just four 5v5 shot attempts and an 18.18 CF%. In their last outing at the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday night, the Blackhawks took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission thanks to a fantastic effort by goaltender Petr Mrazek. They had just six of the 21 shot attempts in the first period to go with a 23.08 CF%.
It isn’t just that the Blackhawks aren’t getting a lot of shots on goal during the opening frame; they aren’t even attempting to shoot. In this three-game stretch, they are averaging five 5v5 shot attempts in the first period.
The effort for the start of Thursday’s game was a breath of fresh air. Taylor Raddysh got the first shot on goal 15 seconds after the opening draw and had the game’s first four shots.
The first period was an excellent road period for 19 minutes. Raddysh scored his 13th goal of the season; the Blackhawks had nine shots on goal and 12 5v5 shot attempts. And then they gave up a goal to Jonathan Huberdeau with 27 seconds left in the frame.
Boris Katchouk Makes a Grand Return
It has been quite some time since we’ve seen Boris Katchouk in the Blackhawks’ lineup. He has been a healthy scratch since playing against his former team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, on Jan. 3. Going 23 days between games can’t be easy, but let’s be honest, he hasn’t given Luke Richardson many reasons to get him back out there. In 22 games this season, Katchouk has one goal and three points. He is a minus-4 with a 41.5 CF%, and he isn’t even noticeable on most nights. That is unless he is taking a bad penalty.
When Katchouk arrived from Tampa last March, he made a good first impression. He played physically, was effective on the penalty kill, and even created a handful of scoring chances. However, we haven’t seen much of that Katchouk this season. Nobody expects him to put up All-Star numbers or be a top-six forward, but there are ways to contribute while playing bottom-six minutes. There just haven’t been many of those nights, which is why he hasn’t seen the ice in over three weeks.
Katchouk finally drew back in against the Flames, which makes sense since they are a bigger team that likes to play heavy. After a relatively standard first period, Katchouk found the back of the net to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 just before the halfway point of the game.
Luke Philp, born in nearby Canmore, Alberta, picked up his first NHL point with the lone assist on the play. He skated 12:59 tonight, had the goal, an assist, a hit, a takeaway, a blocked shot, and was a plus-2.
Max Domi Rebounds After Tough Night
Following Tuesday’s loss in Vancouver, we discussed our disappointment in Max Domi. He took 17 minutes worth of penalties for going after Dakota Joshua following and hard, yet perfectly legal, check on Patrick Kane. Later in the night, when Joshua scored the eventual game-winning goal, he cross-checked the Canucks forward directly into Mrazek. The Blackhawks’ netminder remained on the ice for a few moments but stayed in the game. Both Mrazek and Alex Stalock have had trouble staying healthy this season, so they don’t need any help from their own players in the injury department.
Domi had some new linemates due to the late scratch of Toews. He was slotted down to the second line between Philipp Kurashev and Raddysh. He picked up his 20th assist of the season and team-high 34th point. He finished his evening with an assist, two shots on goal, and three takeaways while winning 50% of his faceoffs in 16:59 of ice time. And most importantly, he stayed out of the penalty box.