Friday night. Last home game before Christmas. Original Six matchup. There’s no wonder tonight’s crowd at the United Center was the largest and loudest of the season.
With the Montreal Canadiens in town, Jim Cornelison rocking the dual anthems, the 20,340 in attendance were ready for the Blackhawks to continue to build off their past two performances and put on a show. It almost was a perfect night, but the Blackhawks weren’t able to hold onto a 2-0 lead and gave up five unanswered goals, eventually falling to Montreal 5-2.
The game got off to a slow start, but mid-way through the first period the pace started to pick up. Off a broken play in the Montreal end, MacKenzie Entwistle and Anthony Beauvillier found themselves on a 2-on-0 and both had chances to put the puck in the net, but it was somehow kept out on both attempts. The United Center was buzzing following the close call and a few moments later, Ryan Donato gave it reason to erupt with the game’s opening goal off a beautiful pass from Connor Bedard.
The Blackhawks would add to the lead in the second period thanks to a fantastic effort from Colin Blackwell to setup Jason Dickinson for the 2-0 goal. Dickinson scoring his tenth goal of the season, a new career-high for him just 32 games into the schedule. Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, they weren’t able to keep the momentum they had built and Montreal four its way back into the game, scoring three unanswered goals in the second period to take a 3-2 lead into the second intermission.
Following an extended stretch of uninterrupted play to begin the third period, the Blackhawks had a few chances to get the equalizer, but couldn’t find it. With just under seven minutes to play, the Canadiens were able to extend their lead to 4-2. Not ten seconds later, the Habs thought they had put it away with the 5-2 goal, but Luke Richardson made a successful coach’s challenge to keep the game a two-goal difference. Chicago wouldn’t be able to make the game any closer though, with an empty-net goal in the final moments of the game, Montreal came away with five-straight goals to send the Blackhawks into the Christmas holiday on a sour note only the Grinch could like.
Greg: Lukas Reichel Looks for Consistency
Tuesday night was the Lukas Reichel we’ve been waiting to see all season long. He had his best game of the season against the Colorado Avalanche. He scored his third goal of the season, finishing off a 2-on-1 rush with Connor Bedard. Even though he didn’t get a point on the Blackhawks’ first goal, Luke Richardson credited Reichel’s forecheck for starting the play.
“I think that goal gave him a lot of confidence,” Richardson said Tuesday night. “Playing the right way comes back to you, and you’ll get some chances. It was nice to see him have that. He’s been skating and working. Tonight, he did all the right gritty things and was rewarded with a goal and a couple of other really good chances.”
Reichel was finally playing with the swagger and confidence we saw at the end of last season. While it was great to see, that needs to be the standard for every game going forward. Would he bring that same effort and impact for a second straight game?
The answer is no, but outside of the third line, most of the Blackhawks’ lineup was ineffective. Reichel’s line produced the first goal of the night, but there wasn’t much there after that. He only had one shot attempt on the night. However, the top line just didn’t have the puck enough. They had 11 5v5 shot attempts versus 16 against.
Reichel wasn’t a ghost or hindered the team. He played well, caused a turnover, and was willing to get to the front of the net on more than one occasion. But, like for much of the season, the team needed more from him.
Jay: Kevin Korchinski Returns to the Lineup
Blackhawks rookie defenseman Kevin Korchinski returned to the lineup after missing six games after the passing of his father.
Korchinski finished with 20:36 of ice time. One shot, three shot attempts, a takeaway, and a blocked shot. The defensive pair of Korchinski and Nikita Zaitsev was the only Hawks defensive pair to finish above water in shot attempts, as well.
“He had an excellent third period, and he did some things in the first couple periods just with his skating ability alone,” Luke Richardson said.
I kept a close eye on Korchinski’s game tonight, and while he didn’t show many signs of rust, I’d like to see him be more aggressive with his shot. There were several opportunities to shoot that he passed up. Oftentimes, the passes he’d make were spectacular and led to scoring chances, but as we’re seeing Connor Bedard learn, sometimes the simple play is best. This is a common trait of young players, so it doesn’t concern me much, but to fully realize his offensive potential, he’ll need to take charge a bit more.
Mario: The Colin Blackwell Effect ™️
Colin Blackwell missed ten months of his hockey life after having sports hernia surgery. His return to the Blackhawks lineup has been incredibly impressive. Following a six-hit, three-shot night in his season debut on Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche in 16:41 of ice time, Blackwell had 13:20 minutes of action tonight with an assist, two hits, and two shots on goal. He also created a short-handed breakaway opportunity in the first period. He was energized, all over the puck, and a key factor for Chicago again.
Being able to jump into the lineup on the third line with Nick Foligno and Jason Dickinson and immediately make an impact is exactly what the Blackhawks needed out of Blackwell, with his style of play being missed on this team. Without Andreas Athanasiou, the speed factor in the lineup has been lacking. Blackwell brings that element back. If he can keep up this level of play, it’ll be hard to justify that he hasn’t earned a regular lineup spot if/when Chicago gets back to full health this season.
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