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Hawks Hits: Lukas Reichel moved up to top line as Blackhawks fall short against Sabres

Mario Tirabassi Avatar
November 19, 2023

Following a disappointing loss in Nashville just over 24 hours prior, the Chicago Blackhawks were back on home ice and putting in a much better effort against the Buffalo Sabres. In a game that felt like they should have been rewarded with at least one point, the Blackhawks came up short in a 3-2 loss to the Sabres, dropping their record to 5-11-0 with just one win at home this season.

Buffalo opened the scoring with a snipe from Rasmus Dahlin in the first period to give them a 1-0 lead that they would carry into the second period. The Blackhawks responded well in the middle frame with two goals in the period, the 1-1 game-tying goal coming from Taylor Raddysh and the 2-2 game-tying goal from Philipp Kurashev, with a Jeff Skinner goal in the middle and it would be 2-2 heading into the third period.

In the third, the Blackhawks opened the period with a ton of sustained offensive pressure and nearly took the lead on at least two great chances. But it would be Buffalo once again taking the lead thanks to Erik Johnson making it 3-2 just past the mid-way point of the frame. Chicago threw everything they could’ve at the end of the game trying to get the equalizing goal, but came up just inches short from forcing overtime, ultimately falling 3-2. They have dropped five of their last six games and, excluding empty-net goals, all five of those loses were one-goal games.

Jay: Philipp Kurashev stays hot

“He’s been awesome. He’s a different player this year.”

That’s what Blackhawks’ analyst Troy Murray had to say about Philipp Kurashev’s hot start to the season. After picking up a goal in Saturday’s 4-2 loss in Nashville, the winger kept his production going, this time scoring a goal and an assist in Sunday’s loss to the Sabres. He now has 10 points in 10 games this season, and Sunday was his third multi-point game of the season. 

Focusing only on Kurashev’s offense is doing him a disservice, though. He made several solid defensive plays, including knocking a puck out of mid-air on an odd-man rush. His reliable defensive play also allows Luke Richardson to deploy the top line of Connor Bedard, Lukas Reichel and Kurashev, knowing Kurashev can help the trio recover from any turnovers or defensive lapses. 

“Kursh was the driving force on that line,” Luke Richardson said after the game. “He’s been pretty responsible. [He] brings speed to our game, [and] consistency since he’s been back.” 

At all strengths, Kurashev was on the ice for 25 shot attempts for and only 13 against. He is quickly becoming one of the bright spots in a season quickly lacking in bright spots. He’s become one of Richardson’s most dependable players, and won’t be moving from that top line any time soon. 

Greg: Connor Bedard & Lukas Reichel Finally Put Together

The Blackhawks did not hold a morning skate today, and Luke Richardson said that the forwards group would be the same when he met with the media. What he didn’t let on was that while it was the same 12 forwards playing, the top six got a major shakeup. In a move that many have been wanting to see for weeks, Reichel moved up to the left wing of the top line with Bedard and Kurashev.

The new-look top line was victimized on the first Buffalo goal. They had a chance to clear the zone after Mrazek stoned Zach Benson, but they failed to do so, and seconds later, the puck was in their net. With about five minutes left in the opening frame, they provided the Blackhawks with the most sustained zone time of the period. They did produce a couple of shots on goal, but it was a lot of skating around looking for the perfect play rather than just getting the puck on the net and crashing the crease.

All three forwards picked up a point on the Blackhawks’ second goal, with Bedard and Reichel getting assists on Kurashev’s fourth goal of the season.

The line was buzzing early in the third period leading to Reichel drawing a penalty. Unfortunately, the power play unit was unable to cash in on the opportunity. At the end of the net, the trio finished with a goal, three assists, five shots on goal, and 11 shot attempts. At 5v5, they were on the ice for 16 shot attempts for and 10 against for a 61.54 Corsi For percentage (CF%). There is no reason to break this line up for Wednesday’s game against the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets.

Mario: Blackhawks have a response in middle frame

Coming into tonight, the Blackhawks had been out-scored 17-9 in second periods this season, their worst goal-differential in any of the three periods of a regulation game. Often times we see this Blackhawks group coming out of the gates with a good start, but have it falter later in the first period or not have that start translate to the second period and end up leading to either blown leads or to the Blackhawks chasing games.

Tonight, Chicago was chasing a game five minutes into the competition and had to make up from that 1-0 deficit heading into the first intermission.

They were awarded an early powerplay in the period, and after what looked to be an underwhelming man-advantage, Taylor Raddysh would get a deflected puck past Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen to tie the game just after the powerplay had expired. The Sabres would respond with an actual powerplay goal from Jeff Skinner to regain the lead but it wouldn’t last long as Philipp Kurashev would score a rebound goal to tie the game once again at 2-2 and that would be it for then second frame.

It wasn’t perfect, but the Blackhawks were able to show a bit of jump and response to the Sabres in the second period, more than they were showing yesterday against the Predators. In the middle frame, the Blackhawks out-shot the Sabres 12-5 (10-3 at 5v5), and out-scored them 2-1.

The momentum built in the second period seemed to translate into the start of the third period, but unfortunately didn’t turn into the third goal of the game for Chicago before the Sabres eventually took the 3-2 lead later in the final period.

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