The Boston Bruins came into the United Center on Tuesday expecting victory. Why shouldn’t they? They are the fastest team to 100 points and the fastest team to 50 wins in NHL history. They’re a juggernaut.
It looks like they read their own press clippings.
The Blackhawks played a simple game, knowing they were outmatched in terms of talent. They made smart, safe plays and took advantage of the opportunities they had. When it was all said and done, the Hawks skated away with a 6-3 win…and that score was representative of the game on the ice.
Taylor Raddysh scored the first hat-trick of his career and picked up his team-leading 20th goal of the season. Boris Katchouk had a great night as well, adding a goal and two assists of his own.
Goaltender Petr Mrazek was having his best game of the season as well, stopping all 16 Bruins shots before leaving the game with a groin injury in the second period. Alex Stalock entered the game in relief, and stopped 23 of 26 Bruins shots.
On to the Hawks Hits…
Greg’s Hit: Fourth Line Keeps Rolling
When the starting lineups were announced ahead of tonight’s faceoff, some may have wondered why Luke Richardson went with his fourth line. The truth is that the combination of Boris Katchouk, Jujhar Khaira and Joey Anderson have been the best Blackhawks line for the past three games.
In the 4-3 loss at the Panthers, they had the second-best 5v5 Corsi for percentage (CF%) at 46.15. They also combined for a goal, three assists and five shots on goal. Against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the trio led the team with a 69.23 CF%.
Richardson rewarded the fourth line with start against the NHL’s best team. They rose to the occasion and continued their hot play. Katchouk had a career night with a goal and three points. Anderson had a goal and an assist, and Khaira had his second two-assist effort in the last three games. At 5v5, they had another dominating night with six shots on goal and a game-high 66.67 CF%
These are three guys playing for their NHL lives and future, whether its back here in Chicago or with another team. Katchouk is the only one of the trio signed for next season. Anderson will be a restricted free agent, while Khaira will be unrestricted.
Jay’s Hit: Luke’s Boys Won’t Quit
If you haven’t noticed by now, the 2022-23 Blackhawks play hard. It’s been their identity all year, and it’s only intensified since the trade deadline. After Tuesday’s upset win over the Bruins, the Hawks players were defiant in their comments.
Joey Anderson (via Ben Pope): “I don’t think [beating the Bruins] is surprising. Everyone in this room comes in every day with the same mindset: To win every game. Obviously they’re a great team and we knew we had to play a full 60 minutes tonight, and that’s exactly what it took.”
MacKenzie Entwistle (via Mark Lazerus): “We have a locker room of young guys that are all hungry and want to prove themselves, so I think it’s a little bit easier to go out there and play with an eff-you attitude.”
Jason Dickinson (via Mark Lazerus): “Not that we don’t understand what [management is] trying to do. But as a group, we still want to win games. Personally, I hate losing. So every time we lose, it kills me a little bit. Every time I lose a shift, it eats at me. So we’re still doing the little things because we still want to win. And it seems like everybody in this room is on that same page.”
I know die-hard Blackhawks fans have already accepted the rebuild, and have shifted in to “tank thinking.” But please, I implore you, enjoy the rare wins. Especially against a team who is having an historically great season, like the Bruins. You’re a Blackhawks fan. Don’t feel guilty or conflicted for feeling good after a great win.
Mario’s Hit: Blackhawks have no time for your “tanking” ways
We all know that the goal of this season for the Blackhawks was to end the year with the best odds to have the first-overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. Kyle Davidson constructed the team to do its best to achieve that goal. But when he hired Luke Richardson as the head coach, he did it knowing that Richardson was a guy who was not going to just go along with the plan.
After morning skate on Tuesday, Richardson expounded on the idea of the Blackhawks “tanking” this season and what his role as the head coach of the team this year has been.
Watch the full quote below.
Credit to Richardson, he has been given some of the worst lineup options in the NHL this season, especially after the March 3 trade deadline, and yet he is getting this team to play as if they are in the thick of the Western Conference playoff hunt. Even in losing efforts recently, the Blackhawks have not looked like a team that is phoning-in the final 20 or so games of the year. They took the Florida Panthers to overtime and push the Tampa Bay Lightning to the final minute of regulation in their last two performances before tonight’s matchup against the NHL-leading and historically paced Boston Bruins.
You wouldn’t have known that these Bruins had 50 wins and had locked-up a playoff spot before St. Patrick’s Day if you only watched this one NHL game all season. The Blackhawks were able to get on the board first and weather a number of onslaughts from the Bruins. This was just the 17th time all season the Bruins were trailing after the first period.
Petr Mrazek was putting in another impressive night between the pipes for the Blackhawks before leaving the game just after them mid-way point of the second period. He left the game having a 16-save shutout in progress.
Heading into the third period, who would have guessed that the Blackhawks and Bruins would be tied 2-2, with goals coming from MacKenzie Entwistle and Joey Anderson?
*insert Paul Rudd “Not Me” gif*
Early in the third period, the Burins took the 3-2 lead and you could have excused the Blackhawks at that point if they ran out of gas trying to hold this Boston team back. But less than a minute after giving u the 3-2 goal, Taylor Raddysh pulled the game back even with his team-leading 18th goal of the year and then, of all people, Boris Katchouk gave the Blackhawks a 4-3 lead…a lead, over the Bruins, in the third period.
There is no quit in this Blackhawks team.
Taylor Raddysh put the Chelsea Dagger in the Bruins with just under four minutes to play with his second goal of the game and then AGAIN for good measure with the empty-net goal for his first career NHL hat-trick and the Blackhawks dropped the Bruins 6-3.
For as much as losses mean more to the “tank” than wins do, you have to give credit where it is due to the players and to Richardson. He has come in and set the culture for the Blackhawks now and into the future with him behind the bench, and the players have refused to pack-it-in for the year.
You can be mad at this Blackhawks team for winning meaningless games. I’m not going to stop you. But be sure to remember these kinds of games when you want to praise Luke Richardson down the road for being a good coach and having the Blackhawks playing well when games matter again. The foundation for that is being laid here.
To steal a line from our friends on the CHGO Bears show: Brick by brick.