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Hawks Hits: Third-Period Blitz Leads Blackhawks to Comeback Victory Over Sharks

Greg Boysen Avatar
March 17, 2024

The Chicago Blackhawks have won three out of their last five games. Those three wins were by a combined score of 19-8 over the Arizona Coyotes (twice) and Anaheim Ducks. The Coyotes and Ducks are 27th and 30th, respectively, in the NHL standings. The two losses were by a combined score of 9-1 to the Washington Capitals and Los Angeles Kings. The Capitals are one point out of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, while the Kings sit third in the Pacific Division.

Sunday’s opponent, the San Jose Sharks, is the only team in the league with fewer points than the Blackhawks. Back on Jan. 16, Cole Guttman scored in regulation before Boris Katchouk scored in the eighth round of the shootout to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 win. Neither of those guys are on the roster this time around. Today, they got contributions from some core pieces of the future to secure a 5-2 victory.

These two teams played the first 8:15 of the game without a whistle. Shortly after the first stoppage, former Blackhawk Ryan Carpenter took advantage of a big rebound from Petr Mrazek to score his fifth goal of the season. Klim Kostin doubled the Sharks lead six minutes later by depositing a feed by Mikael Granlund from behind the net.

Late in the second period, the Blackhawks’ top line got on a rush. Philipp Kurashev finished off a nice passing play from Connor Bedard and Tyler Johnson for his 14th goal of the campaign. The tally was the team’s first since the third period of last Tuesday’s game against the Ducks, snapping a goal drought of 103:08.

Just past the midway point of the third period, Donato tied the game with a wrist shot from the high slot. Taylor Raddy provided a great screen in front of Devin Cooley to help Donato’s 10th goal. Just 72 seconds later, Kevin Korchinski gave the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead when his shot from the point was deflected by Sharks defenseman Jacob MacDonald.

Right off the next faceoff, Joey Anderson went between the legs for his third goal, capping off a sequence that saw the Blackhawks score three times in 1:23. Bedard iced the game with an empty-net goal with just 0.3 seconds left on the clock.

That 83-second fury was all the Blackhawks needed for the win. They will now follow the Sharks back out west for a three-game road trip starting in Los Angeles on Tuesday night.

Jay: Has Andreas Athanasiou Found a Home at Center?

Throughout his NHL career, Andreas Athanasiou has shifted between center and wing with varied success. At the end of last season, more out of necessity than anything, the speedy forward got an extended look down the middle and looked every bit the part of an NHL center. Then, he was centering Philipp Kurashev and Lukas Reichel. He won’t get that chance this year, as Luke Richardson would need the Jaws of Life to pry Kurashev and Connor Bedard apart.

Today, Athanasiou centered the second line between Lukas Reichel and Nick Foligno. He won seven and lost seven of his faceoffs (50% for those of you scoring at home). As a combo at five-on-five, the trio held a 4-1 shot advantage over the Sharks. 

Was the line perfect? No, but Athanasiou’s speed did a lot to create looks. It also gives him the ability to provide support all over the defensive zone. He has shown a willingness to play a more defensively focused games when playing the pivot.  

Whether or not Athanasiou finishes the season down the middle is less important than his overall presence, however. Adding a player of his caliber, as imperfect as he may be, allows other players on the roster to slot in more appropriate positions. For example, instead of Ryan Donato on a line with Bedard or Reichel, he’s on a line with Taylor Raddysh and Landon Slaggert, which would be one of the better fourth lines in the league. 

Donato responded with a goal and a team-leading six shots on goal on this game. When players are able to play in positions that fit their skill sets appropriately, they’ll get better results. 

Greg: Lukas Riechel Returns

Tonight marked Lukas Reichel’s first NHL game since Feb. 13. He spent the last month back in the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs, where he a goal and seven points in nine games. The reports from IceHogs head coach Anders Sorenson must have been good, as the 21-year-old forward was recalled by the Blackhawks on Friday night.

Reichel was all smiles at practice on Saturday, even though he admitted being nervous when he took the ice. You have to believe there were some nerves during the national anthem prior to puck drop.

Head coach Luke Richardson said before the game that Reichel’s playing well in Rockford was the first step in salvaging his season and finishing strong.

“So now the next step is here, and if any indication from yesterday’s practice, he’s skating free, mind free, shooting pucks, and that’s the way he’s got to play the game tonight,” Richardson said.

He was put on a line with Andreas Athanasiou and Nick Foligno. Richardson hoped that Reichel and Athanasiou would reignite the chemistry they had and the end of last season, while Foligno would do all the dirty work.

Reichel picked up the primary assist on Korchinski’s game-winning goal. To the naked eye, he looked more confident than the last time we saw him at the United Center. He was more willing to engage, did not shy away from contact, and was harder to get off the puck.

He finished his day with an assist, one shot on goal, two shot attempts, a hit, four blocked shots, and a plus-1 rating in 13:04 of ice time. Meanwhile, the line with Athanasiou and Foligno finished with nine shot attempts for and 11 against for a 45.0 Corsi-for percentage.

Mario: Petr Mrazek’s Above Expected Season Continues

The Blackhawks have been getting a lot of use out of Petr Mrazek this season, much more than all of us expected coming into the year. Mrazek was coming off an injury-riddled 2022-23 season and was a sub-.900 save-percentage goaltender. We all thought that by this time, Arvid Söderblom would be the starting goaltender for the Blackhawks. But that’s far from the case. 

Tonight was Mrazek’s 350th NHL start. It was his 47th appearance and 44th start of the season and matched his highest number of starts in a season since the 2016-17 campaign when he did it with the Detroit Red Wings. 

With 25 saves on 27 shots tonight, Mrazek earned his 15th win of the season. His health has been keeping up this season and his play has been well above expected for the Blackhawks this year. His .907 save-percentage on the year ranks 13th out of 15 goaltenders that have started 40 or more games this season. Which, for this Blackhawks squad, is nothing to shake your nose at. His performance tonight was also coming off of a 23-save performance he made on Friday night in relief of Söderblom with five minutes to play in the first period of the game. 

He’s holding up well physically and his game has come around to a level that almost no one would have expected of him this season. It makes the move to extend him for another two years all the more logical and, quite frankly, enlightening for this organization moving forward. 

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