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The depleted roster of the Chicago Blackhawks limped into Madison Square Garden on Thursday for the fourth game in this five-game road trip. The New York Rangers entered the game as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and were coming off a 6-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. However, the Rangers were 9-1-0 following a loss this season. You can now make that 10-1-0 as they beat the Blackhawks 4-1, handing them their 13th straight road loss.
Ex-Blackhawk Artemi Panarin had the lone goal of the first period, his 20th of the season. It was a play we remember well; a one-timer blasted from the left circle. In 10 games against his former mates, Panarin has eight goals and 18 points. Chris Kreider doubled New York’s lead to 2-0 with a power-play goal in the second period. The play was reviewed as the puck went in off Kreider’s skate, but the officials ruled it was not “distinct kicking motion,” despite Petr Mrazek’s protests.
Colin Blackwell gave the Blackhawks some life with his first goal of the season late in the second period. The new-found momentum didn’t last long as the Rangers scored two goals in 1:10 early in the final frame. Jacob Trouba had the first tally with an unexpected shot from the right hash marks. Jimmy Vesey finished off a 2-on-1 rush just over a minute later.
The Blackhawks will finish this road trip at the New Jersey Devils tomorrow night. This will be another mismatch on paper, and they will take a Herculean effort to pull off an upset.
Jay: Shoot the Damn Puck!!
When this game began, it looked like Luke Richardson’s message of, “For the love of God, please, please, please shoot the puck,” did not quite compute for the Blackhawks. “We have to create puck luck by shooting the puck more,” Richardson said before the game. Six minutes into the game, shot attempts were 8-1 in favor of the Rangers. Ten minutes into the game, it was 13-2, but when the first period ended, things had evened out to 23-18.
Were things turning around? No. No, they weren’t.
As the game went on, though, the Hawks reverted to their old ways. They finished the game with 20 shots on goal. That’s it. 20.
It’s something that even the most novice hockey fan can see, which is why it often becomes the biggest crutch in analysis, but with the Hawks, it’s been an epidemic. In the rare times when the current iteration of the Blackhawks actually has the puck, they balk at taking shots over and over again. This is the sign of a team lacking confidence, and there are no bigger culprits than Lukas Reichel and Kevin Korchinski.
“I think the mentality of shooting first has got to be number one right now,” Richardson said. “When your confidence is low, you don’t want to take that shot because you think it’s not the right choice. I think whatever your first intention is is the right choice. We have to live on those instincts.
Reichel, who was expected to be the team’s second-best offensive option behind Connor Bedard, ended the game with three shot attempts. Korchinski had an opportunity to drift a puck with a wide-open look and instead threw the puck into a congested high slot.
They’re certainly not alone, and it’s unfair to isolate just those two. Even Bedard was mentioned by Richardson before the game. “He’s got that good shot. We’ve got to get him to use that more. That’s not being selfish. Just like everybody else, getting him to shoot that puck early in the game will back people off, and maybe there will be a play there later.”
It’s all perfectly logical. Now Richardson needs the team to get the message. Perhaps Jacob Trouba’s goal could be used as an example of why putting the puck on net is never a bad idea.
Greg: Colin Blackwell Provides Lone Highlight
It took Blackwell 296 days to return from his sports hernia surgery. Before returning against the Colorado Avalanche on Dec. 19, we hadn’t seen him in a game since Feb. 27 of last season. His return was noticeable that first night as the Blackhawks beat the Avalanche 3-2.
Talking to Blackwell after that first game back, he said the only thing he enjoys scoring goals more is getting under the opponents’ skin. Scoring goals doesn’t happen often for No. 43, but he found the back of the net on Broadway tonight.
The new guy, Jaycob Megna, started the play with a beautiful stretch pass to Boris Katchouk, who quickly got the puck over to Blackwell.
The goal was Blackwell’s first since Feb. 10 against the Arizona Coyotes. The assist was Katchouk’s third of the season and his first point since returning from the Rockford IceHogs. Seven seconds after the goal, Blackwell drew a tripping penalty on K’Andre Miller, but they could not cash in on the power play. He finished the night with a goal, three shots on goal, six shot attempts, and a blocked shot. One thing is for sure: you can never question Blackwell’s effort.
Coming into a brand new team and trying to make an impact is hard enough for an NHL player. Trying to do that, while it is also your first NHL game of the season and you’ve only played two AHL games prior, is a whole other challenge. Newly added waiver-wire pickup Jaycob Megna was able to make an impact tonight and overcome those challenges in his first game with the Blackhawks.
A former youth hockey player in the Chicagoland area, Megna was picked off the waiver-wire by the Blackhawks on Wednesday afternoon and was playing on the second defensive pair just over 30 hours later. The veteran of 141 NHL games played a simple game and made one major play, a stretch-pass from his own goal line to the opposite blue line to Boris Katchouk that helped spring Colin Blackwell for the lone Chicago goal tonight. It’s not a play that we should always expect from Megna, but given the circumstances of him joining this team, and where the team currently sits health-wise, having a guy you’re just throwing into the lineup be able to make that kind of impact is a cherry on the top feeling.
Megna is coming here to be a stop-gap guy. If he’s anything more than that while the Blackhawks wait for Seth Jones to get healthy again and return to the lineup, even better. His play tonight was a bright spot in a dreary stretch of hockey for the Blackhawks.
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