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Hawks Hits: Blackhawks Fall Short, Again, Against Stars

Greg Boysen Avatar
January 14, 2024

The last time the Chicago Blackhawks faced the Dallas Stars, they were embarrassed 8-1 in Texas on New Year’s Eve. The team has played better, as a whole, since that debacle despite losing players like Anthony Beauvillier, Nick Foligno, and Connor Bedard to injury. With single-digit temperatures raging outside, the Blackhawks looked to turn up the heat on the Stars inside the United Center.

The Blackhawks got a four-minute power play when Mason Marchment was called for tripping and roughing on the same play. Even though the team extensively on the man advantage Friday, they only got one shot on goal over the four minutes.

Nine minutes into the second period, goaltender Scott Wedgewood headed to the bench to get looked at by the Dallas trainer. Moments later, he was replaced by Jake Oettinger, who allowed six goals against the Nashville Predators on Friday night, his first game since Dec. 15. The Blackhawks put pressure on him immediately. The scoreless tie was broken when Zach Sanford got a step on Nils Lundkvist. His shot was denied, but Boris Katchouk followed up the play, got inside position on Ryan Suter, and tapped home the rebound for his fourth goal of the season.

Dallas pushed late in the frame, but Petr Mrazek stood tall and kept them off the board.

The Stars tied the score with a power-play goal early in the third period, as Matt Duchene’s wobbly shot somehow got through Mrazek’s left arm and body. Later in the period, Marchment forced a turnover from Jones and went in to score the eventual game-winning goal.

Joe Pavelski iced the game with an empty-net goal in the final minute. This was another solid effort for the Blackhawks, but we’re sure they are sick of “moral victories.” At some point, they need to find a way to get that second goal and then possibly a third.

Jay: Kyle Davidson meets the media

Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson met with the assembled media during the first intermission of Saturday’s game. Here are some of the highlights from a long-ranging interview on all things Blackhawks.

On Bedard’s physical and mental health: “He’s doing fine. It’s still early. I’m sure as things go along and he feels more capable of doing things on the ice, he’ll be excited to get back, but all is going well right now.

On the decision to re-sign Nick Foligno: “Pretty easy decision on my side. He’s been invaluable for our team, the young players, the older players. Just a great leader and a great person. Keeping him around for two years, I think, is really important to make sure he feels more invested that we believe in what he’s bringing to the table. I think it worked out for both sides.”

On the Blackhawks’ improved recent play: “It’s been fantastic. The last handful of games have been really impressive. Not only the effort, but the ability to keep chances low on the other side and play a team game. Obviously, you want to win a few more for that positive reinforcement…but the efforts have been really, really positive.”

Is he considering bringing Jason Dickinson and Petr Mrazek back?: “It’s a constant balance. On one side, they’re playing very well and potentially could be valuable. The other side, you’re trying balance a little bit of continuity. If we were to move them, then those are probably players we’re going to be looking at in the summer. So do you just want to cut out the middle term and have them back? That’s what we’re going through now. They’re making that decision difficult on us.“

On Lukas Reichel’s sophomore season: “I think it’s had ups and downs, but I think we’ve seen flashes of the confidence coming back. It takes time. There are hurdles to overcome. I think he’s just going through one of those grinds and those times that you just got to work your way through. I think we’ve seen some signs of him coming out of that, playing a little faster, playing a little more assertive with the puck, and hopefully, he can just keep stepping up and continue to the point where he’s got the confidence, and he can play the way we saw him play at the end of the year.”

These items only scratch the surface of the topics Davidson addressed, so be sure to check out the full interview below.

Greg: Seth Jones Picks Up Right Where He Left Off

The Blackhawks’ injury issues have been one of the biggest storylines this season, as so many of their best players have spent time on injured reserve. One of their most important players, defenseman Seth Jones, returned to the ice Saturday night. They had been without their No. 1 defenseman since Dec. 10, when he suffered a shoulder injury against the Washington Capitals.

“Players always give you a boost when they come back because they are excited,” said head coach Luke Richardson. “He’s a good player, so we’re looking forward to having him back.”

The Blackhawks gave up 94 goals in the 27 games Jones played for an average of 3.48 goals per game. That average went up to 3.8 with 57 goals allowed in the 15 games Jones missed. The veteran was paired with rookie defenseman Alex Vlasic, who had picked up much of the slack in Jones’ absence.

“They played well together earlier in the season,” said Richardson. “They are two big, rangy guys who can move the puck. Seth is a veteran guy who can play with anybody, but this will make it easier for him.”

It’s unbelievable to think that playing with Vlasic would make things easier for a former All-Star, but that shows how much the youngster has progressed.

Watching from up top, you couldn’t see any rust on Jones. He did take a tripping penalty early in the game but then drew the pair of minors on Marchment shortly after returning to the ice. During that extended power play, he made a nice stick play to break up a shorthanded chance for the Stars.

Jones was victimized on the game-deciding goal. He took ownership of the play after the game saying needed to be “on the right side of the puck,” and make the safer play. He finished his night with 24:12 of ice time, three shots on goal, six shot attempts, and four blocked shots. A pretty standard night for No. 4.

Mario: Petr Mrazek Deserves Better

Can Petr Mrazek please play with some goal support? This has been one of the best stretches of play that Mrazek has put together, not just since being in Chicago, but over the past two-to-three seasons. He deserves better than falling short allowing just two goals on most nights as of late.

With 27 saves on 29 shots tonight, Mrazek once again gave the Blackhawks every chance to stay in the game late and try to weather the storm as another playoff contender pushed for the game-tying or game-winning tallies. Tonight was the fourth-straight start for Mrazek where he played in, essentially, a one-goal game save for the empty-net goal scored by the Stars tonight.

He ranks 23rd out of 50 goaltenders to play 800 minutes or more this season in Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) at a 0.55 marker. That’s better than other goalies like Juuse Saros, Jake Oettinger, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Igor Shesterkin. His save-percentage this season also ranks 23rd out of those same 50 goaltenders at .904. That’s also better than those same four goaltenders, plus “NHL All-Star” Alexander Georgiev. He ranks 11th out of those 50 goalies in high-danger shots against per 60 minutes this season with an 8.83 rate.

It’s not that he has been a Vezina-caliber goaltender, but for this Blackhawks team to be right in the game these past few starts for Mrazek isn’t by coincidence. He’s earned the starting role away from the near 50-50 split he had with Arvid Söderblom to begin the season and has improved from last year. Give the guy some support.

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