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Hawks Hits: Blackhawks fall short of upset bid in 2-1 loss to Oilers

Mario Tirabassi Avatar
January 10, 2024

With the cavalcade of injuries the Chicago Blackhawks have faced this season, they have been forced to field a lineup made of north-south players who play simple hockey games. Weirdly, that has led to the team putting in better efforts in recent games, and that trend continued tonight, even in a loss. Falling short against the Edmonton Oilers, 2-1, the Blackhawks pushed the pace for most of the game and held the Oilers to a team-low 15 shots on goal.

The Blackhawks got out of the gate the right way against the Oilers tonight, scoring the first goal immediately after stopping a Connor McDavid scoring chance. Petr Mrazek came up huge with a save on McDavid, and going back the other way, Jason Dickinson waited out a sprawling Oilers defender and went bar down for the game’s opening goal and his 14th of the season. Dickinson’s 14 goals this season continue to grow his career-high total and lead the Blackhawks. It marked the 22nd time this season that Chicago had scored the first goal of the game.

The high of taking a 1-0 lead over the Oilers didn’t last long as Leon Draisaitl, future member of the Blackhawks, tied the game with his 19th goal of the season. Just a preview of what is to come to Chicago, starting in October of 2025. Chicago nearly took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission as Joey Anderson was stopped on the doorstep by Stuart Skinner with 9.8 seconds left in the first period on a fortunate bounce in a broken play.

That near-goal would’ve been helpful to the Blackhawks as the second period began with a blink and you missed it goal from Connor McDavid to make it 2-1 just 92 seconds into the middle frame. McDavid vs. Jarred Tinordi…not a great matchup for Chicago. After a disallowed goal from the Oilers for goaltender interference, the Blackhawks would take the lead in the game for shots on goal with a flurry during their first power-play opportunity of the game in the second period but couldn’t tie the game heading into the second intermission.

It looked like the Oilers were going to put the game away early in the third period as it appeared Zach Hyman had scored the 3-1 goal for Edmonton, but the Blackhawks challenged, and after a lifetime of a review, the goal was disallowed, and the game stayed, yet again, at 2-1. Chicago pushed the pace in the third period, with the fourth line of Zach Sanford, Ryan Donato, and Boris Katchouk having at least three impactful offensive-zone shifts late in the period to try to find the tying goal, but it wouldn’t be enough. At the mid-way point of the season, 41 games played and 41 yet to play, the Blackhawks are 12-27-2 and 31st in the league with 26 points in the standings, only ahead of the San Jose Sharks.

Greg: Rem Pitlick Has Solid Effort in Team Debut

As the injuries continued to mount last week, general manager Kyle Davidson went out and acquired Pitlick from the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday. The 26-year-old winger made his Blackhawks debut tonight, which was his first game in the NHL this season. He had eight goals and 24 points in 32 games for the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins in the AHL before arriving in Chicago.

“There definitely have been some ups and downs,” Pitlick said of his career this morning “I’ve had some really good experiences and I believe I’m ready for this opportunity. I’m excited.

“My skating ability makes me a 200-foot player. I’m not the biggest guy, so I’m not the most physical, but I have an active stick to disrupt plays. I have hockey IQ and the passing ability to make some plays and contribute offensively, as well.”

Pitlik has 21 goals and 54 points in 123 NHL games. He isn’t coming into Chicago blind. He was a third-round pick of the Nashville Predators back in 2016. He played multiple seasons for the Milwaukee Admirals with Colin Blackwell and Jarred Tinordi. He also spent part of the 2021-22 season with the Montreal Canadiens where Luke Richardson was an assistant coach.

“That was a situation where I got a really good opportunity,” Pitlick said of his time in Montreal. “Luke was there and got to see me in some of those spots, so hopefully, there’s a connection, and we’ll see what happens.”

It might have been the familiarity that landed Pitlick on the top line and got him some power-play time on night one with the team.

“He’s a fast and dynamic player,” Richardson said of Pitlick. “He’s got speed and he can check. He can play wherever you want to play. I think he’s a first-line guy in the American League, and when he comes up here, his skill level can help on the top six. He’ll help on the power play with his speed and stick skills. I don’t know if it’s the right place to be, on the fourth line at the NHL level. So that’s why Pittsburgh had him playing a lot of minutes down there and being ready to go in case you lose someone in the top six.”

Pitlick had some good looks all night long. He missed a couple of shots on a late second-period power play. He had a fantastic chance early in the third period but rang the puck off the goal post. He finished with two shots on goal, four shot attempts, and a 55 Corsi for percentage (CF%) in 18:48 of ice time.

Jay: Connor McDavid is Inevitable

Confession time: Sometimes, when you work in sports for as long as I have, covering games can become routine…part of the daily grind. While big picture I never lose sight of how privileged I am to have this job, sometimes I need a reminder.

Watching Connor McDavid in person is that reminder.

As the Oilers took the ice for warmups, I didn’t even look up from my laptop. I was looking at Twitter or whatever…just another game. Then I realized No. 97 was on the ice. I shut the laptop and watched his every move. I had the chance to watch one of the best to ever play the game, and I wasn’t going to take my eye off of him again.

I’ve been watching hockey religiously for 25+ years. In all honestly, since 1996 I may have missed all of three or four Blackhawks games. In all those years, I’ve seen many of the game’s all-time greats. Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Steve Yzerman, Pavel Bure, Peter Forsberg…I could go on, but you get the point.

Never, in all of those years, have I seen a more electrifying player than McDavid. His ability to go from zero to 60 is unmatched. One moment he’s standing still, the next he’s a blur, blasting past your defenseman and putting a puck behind your helpless goaltender.

It’s not just McDavid’s straight-ahead speed that makes him so dangerous. He’s effortless. He has the green light to freelance in the offensive zone. He’s like a shark, silently circling the zone, looking for that soft spot in the defense. At one moment, a defenseman will look over his shoulder and see McDavid covered, the next, he’s on the other side of the ice arms raised celebrating a goal.

As the years go on, and the Bedard v McDavid conversation (hopefully) rages, don’t hate McDavid just because. Instead, make it a point to catch him live whenever you can. If Chicago’s Connor can even be in the conversation with Edmonton’s Connor, Chicago could very well be raising banners in the not-too-distant future.

Mario: If not Connor Bedard, why not Jason Dickinson?

If the NHL is going to have every NHL team represented at the All-Star game, and if injured All-Star Connor Bedard cannot go and represent the Blackhawks, why not have Jason Dickinson go? Dickinson is second on the team behind Bedard in scoring and has been one of the most consistent players this entire season. He has taken on a leadership role for the Blackhawks amidst their slew of injuries and is having a career year.

The NHL All-Star game is in Toronto this year, and Dickinson is from the area, so why not send a kid who grew up near the biggest hockey hotbed to his home as an All-Star? Plus, Dickinson scored his first career hat trick against the Toronto Maple Leafs. So there’s that, too.

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