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Tuesday was a very long day for us on the Chicago Blackhawks beat. First, we all woke up to the news that Patrick Kane is signing with the rival Detroit Red Wings. Before the burner on that story cooled down, the Blackhawks announced they were terminating Corey Perry’s contract. In between general manager Kyle Davidson’s press conference and the opening faceoff, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman broke the news that forward Anthony Beauvillier was being acquired from the Vancouver Canucks.
After getting a month’s worth of news in half a day, the Blackhawks and Seattle Kraken finally played a hockey game. The Blackhawks played a simplified game, something that head coach Luke Richardson has stressed since the start of the season. The approach worked as it led to a hard-fought 4-3 victory.
The home team got off to a quick start with goals from Boris Katchouk and Jason Dickinson 89 seconds apart. It marked the first time the Blackhawks scored first since Nov. 16 against the Tampa Bay Lightning and their first 2-0 lead since Nov. 4 versus the Florida Panthers. The Kraken got on the board with a tally from Matty Berniers. They drew even in the late opening frame with a shorthanded goal from Alex Wennberg off a failed drop pass by Kevin Korchinski.
Early in the second period, Tyler Johnson took an excellent feed from Taylor Raddysh and went bar down for his sixth goal of the season. Lukas Reichel was credited with the secondary assist for his fourth helper on the campaign. Joey Anderson picked up his second assist of the night by digging the puck out from the end boards, then sending a backhand pass across the crease that was banged home by MacKenzie Entwistle.
Seven minutes into the final frame, Tye Kartye drew Seattle to within a goal by just squeezing the puck through Mrazek. Things got tense when the Kraken had a two-man advantage for 1:03 with less than six minutes to play. The penalty kill came up huge as they preserved the one-goal lead, much to the delight of the United Center crowd.
Jay: Please Kill the Slingshot Power Play
If you’ve been watching the Blackhawks for the last number of years, you’ll notice a trend on their power play. The puck carrier will skate up the ice with another skater on his tail. When the carrier reaches center ice, he will turn around and drop pass the puck to the trailing player. The concept is to create space and to allow a player with speed to enter the zone. Too often, it causes a turnover. Tonight, it caused a shorthanded goal.
What you won’t see in the above highlight is Korchinski’s pass off a Kraken shin-pad at center ice. The puck ricochets into the Kraken zone, and they take it the other way. Yes, the defense and goaltending were poor in this sequence, but it never should have happened.
This has been a thorn in my side for years. It seems that the slingshot works in the opposite way it’s supposed to. If the initial puck carrier is flying through center ice with speed, why slow him down? Why stop his momentum? By dropping it back, you’re allowing the penalty-killing team more time to gather four-wide at the blue line, making any zone entry more difficult.
We’ll ask Richardson about it this week at practice, but please, please, please, let’s launch this approach into the sun. It rarely worked when the Blackhawks had played like Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat on the roster. What are the odds it works with a lesser-skilled team?
Greg: Nick Foligno Back on Top Line with Connor Bedard
When the Blackhawks took the ice for morning skate ahead of tonight’s game, Richardson shuffled up his lines. The biggest move was Nick Foligno taking the left wing spot on the top line with Connor Bedard and Philipp Kurashev.
“He’s a great player to have as much success as he’s had in this league,” Bedard said of Foligno. “He’s a skilled player and has a lot of tools. Whoever we are playing with, I’m excited for that. Playing with Reichs the last few games was great. But having Folingo back should be good with how hard he plays. We have a little chemistry from the few games we played together.”
Heading into the game, Foligno and Bedard had played 106:12 of 5v5 ice time together; the most Foligno has played with any forward this season. They were on the ice together for 98 shot attempts for and 119 against, a 45.16 Corsi for percentage (CF%). The Blackhawks scored eight goals with them on the ice and gave up nine.
This combination was not very good tonight. They spent much of their 5v5 time chasing the puck in their own zone. In 8:05 of 5v5 ice time, the line had four shot attempts to 12 allowed for a 25 CF%. The good news was that they didn’t need to be dominant, as the Blackhawks got contributions from the other three lines. It will be interesting to see where the newly acquired Beauvillier will fit in. There is a good chance he jumps in on Bedard’s left side, and Foligno can return to that effective third line with Dickinson and Anderson.
Mario: Simplicity Pays Off
It’s amazing to see what the Blackhawks can do offensively when they are executing what head coach Luke Richardson is preaching: keep it simple. The Blackhawks scored three goals tonight that were simple plays and simple setups.
The game’s opening goal was from Boris Katchouk being in the right spot for a rebound off a shot with a screen in front of Phillip Grubauer. The second goal was another opportunity for Jason Dickinson to send a ripper on net through traffic on an extended offensive shift. MacKenzie Entwistle’s goal to make the game 4-2 in the second period was a perfect example of players being rewarded for going to the net with purpose. Joey Anderson brought the puck around the back of the Seattle net and tried to stuff it home, while Entwistle came out of the corner and went directly to the front of the net and found himself with a wide-open net and a rebound chance for his second goal of the season.
These kinds of plays in the offensive zone are what Luke Richardson has been asking of his Blackhawks team and what de-facto “Captain” Nick Foligno has reiterated in postgame availabilities that the team needed to commit to doing. For as fun and exciting tic-tac-toe passing and cross-ice sauce passes are, the Blackhawks do not have enough talent to make those kinds of plays routinely yet. This is still a team that needs to rely on their work-ethic and not their talent to be competitive. It was a breath of fresh air to see them play this way tonight and be rewarded for it.
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