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Friday night did not get off to a great start for the Chicago Blackhawks. All-Star Clayton Keller scored early and gave the Arizona Coyotes a 1-0 lead on their first shot of the game. Former Blackhawks first-round pick Nick Schmaltz doubled the lead a few moments later, playing in his 400th NHL game. Seth Jones got the Blackhawks on the board, scoring goals in back-to-back games for the first time since arriving in Chicago.
The Blackhawks had plenty of chances to take control of the game during the middle. After Andreas Athanasiou tied the game, it looked like Taylor Raddysh gave the Blackhawks the lead, but his goal was waived off for goaltender interference on Max Domi. Moments later, Jake McCabe had a rare breakaway attempt but was denied by Connor Ingram.
The home team proved that it’s not how you start a game but how you finish it. Late in the third period, Athanasiou drove hard to the net and was stopped, but Colin Blackwell followed him up and pushed home the rebound. Even though Nick Bjugstad tied the game with 2:27 left, the Blackhawks picked up their second straight overtime win when Caleb Jones scored off a rebound.
Luke Richardson Knows the Deal
We are exactly three weeks away from the NHL Trade Deadline. Many of the season’s biggest storylines will finally have their conclusions by 2 pm on March 3. We will know where Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are finishing their seasons. Domi and Athanasiou, who were signed to be flipped, will likely have new homes. We will have a resolution on whether or not guys like Sam Lafferty or McCabe get moved.
Head coach Luke Richardson knows that his team will be in flux, and the roster could be in for a major shake-up over the next 21 days. In fact, he was very specific about when he was made aware of general manager Kyle Davidson’s plans.
“Day one of the interview. Day two of the interview and day three of the interview,” he said with a sly smile. “Was I ready for that and all that? I’m like, ‘yeah, I understand.’ I’ve worked in the American League on developing young players coming. There’s always change down there, so you always have to be ready to change on the fly.
“They just wanted to make sure they were totally transparent on what they were doing here and to get everybody involved and on the same page. I’m here doing the best I can do with who’s in that dressing room every night, and that’s what I control, and the players control what they can control on the ice, and Kyle and Norm [Maciver], and the management, they do their job in trying to make this franchise better every day.”
A handful of the players that could be moved before March 3 helped raise their trade value against the Coyotes. Athanasiou was the most noticeable tonight. He used his backhand to score his 11th goal of the season with an assist from Lafferty. He later added an assist on Blackwell’s third-period goal.
In overtime, Athanasiou was sent to the races off a nice kick pass out of the zone by Lafferty. His initial shot did not go in, but Caleb Jones swooped in to knock home the game-winner. He finished his night with a goal and three points.
In addition to his breakaway in the middle frame, McCabe picked up an assist on Jones’ first-period strike. Lafferty had assists on both of the Jones brothers’ goals.
Producing From the Back End
In today’s NHL, defensemen must be effective at both ends of the ice. They not only have to prevent the opposing team from scoring but generating offense when they have the puck goes a long way in having a successful night.
The Blackhawks’ defensive corps was extremely active tonight and set the tone early. Blueliners were responsible for 11 of the team’s 16 shots in the first period. It was more of the same in the second period, as six of the 10 shots came from the back end.
At the end of the night, defensemen were responsible for 20 of the 44 shots Ingram faced. Seth Jones had six shots on goal; only Athanasiou had more with eight. Caleb Jones, Connor Murphy, and McCabe had four shots apiece. Jack Johnson contributed with two shots. Ian Mitchell was the only blueliner without a shot.
Frank Nazar Makes His Season Debut
Yes, I know this is technically a recap of the game at the United Center, but it was hard not to pay attention to the goings on in East Lansing, MI, tonight. The fifth-ranked University of Michigan Wolverines traveled to take on their intra-state rivals, No. 15 Michigan State.
More importantly, Frank Nazar played his first game since the Blackhawks drafted him 13th overall last summer.
Nazar didn’t have a point, but the fact that he was even on the ice was encouraging. When he had surgery to repair a hip injury in October, it was doubtful he’d play at all this season. Now, he could have up to six regular-season games before the Big 10, and NCAA tournaments begin.
Besides Nazar, there were some players Blackhawks fans should keep tabs on who had big nights. Adam Fantilli scored a goal before he was ejected for fighting.
Gavin Brindley, who could be an option with the second first-round pick from the Tampa Bay Lightning, scored twice, including the game-winning goal.
Bonus Hit: Kings and Queens of the Game
We launched the CHGO Blackhawks Podcast less than a year ago. While Jay, Mario, and I were excited about the opportunity, there were still plenty of unknowns. How fast can we attract an audience? How will our chemistry be on the air? We worked out the uncertainties and started to build our brand of coverage, and today was a big payoff.
We sold out our first-ever CHGO Blackhawks Takeover tonight, with 30 Diehards and listeners filling up two rows of section 310. You are the true Kings and Queens of the Game tonight. If it weren’t for your support, the three of us wouldn’t be able to live out our dreams of being on an NHL beat and covering the Blackhawks. I can speak for everyone in the CHGO family in that we are all grateful for each and every one of you who has come to an event, listened to a podcast, read an article, or followed us on Twitter.
Whether you came out and had a blast with us tonight or are bummed, you missed it; I can promise you there will be many more of these events as we move forward. As we keep gaining momentum will have more great interactions with our Diehards throughout 2023 and beyond.
Once again, thank you!
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