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The Chicago Blackhawks played their second game in as many nights on Thursday, losing 1-0 to the Golden Knights in Vegas. They’re off a 0-2 start on the season. However, the feelings after the games haven’t been as doom-and-gloom as one might suspect. The Blackhawks have been competitive in the losses, finishing checks, playing defensively sound hockey, and in last night’s game, getting some better-than-expected goaltending.
Alex Stalock shines
Backup goaltender Alex Stalock got his first start of the season (and second start in three years) for the Blackhawks Thursday night and was named the game’s third star. He was outstanding, stopping 36 of 37 Vegas shots. Watching Stalock can be an adventure. He likes to venture outside his net and handle the puck, but there were 4-5 “oh my god” moments in the game where the Knights had the puck, and Stalock was nowhere near his crease. “We were wondering what he was doing as the low forward in the second period,” Luke Richardson quipped. “That’s the way he plays, and it works for him.”
“I’m not a huge guy, so I’ve got to use my body in a way that’s effective,” Stalock said after the game. “Sometimes it’s coming out and playing more aggressive.”
Still no even-strength goals
120 minutes, no even-strength goals. What’s evident while watching the Blackhawks play, despite how aggressively they’ve checked, how hard they’ve skated, and how committed the team seems to look, is their overall lack of offensive talent. This should come as no surprise, considering the roster, but it’s really evident in the little things. During the game, Blackhawks analyst Patrick Sharp noted that the Hawks had several strong shifts but weren’t able to sustain any momentum in that regard. Passes that the “Dynasty Hawks” would have made hop over sticks or are at the feet instead of on the tape. Pucks that should be held in at the line trickle out, causing the entire team to have to reset. Part of this, I believe, can be due to a mostly new team still learning an entirely new system, but just like their football counterparts on Thursday Night Football, you need talent to pick up wins.
The defensive rotation
Before Thursday night’s game, defenseman Caleb Jones, who had been dealing with a shoulder injury, was activated off of injured reserve. With Jones’ return to the lineup, Alec Regula was the healthy scratch. It’s been made clear that Kyle Davidson has very few intentions of playing “the kids” at the NHL level, at least for the early part of the season. That said, I’m not really down with Regula and Alex Vlasic being the healthy scratches in the game. If you’re going to have players that might project to being Blackhawks when the Blackhawks matter again, sitting them in the press box in favor of Jarred Tinordi or Caleb Jones doesn’t make sense. If the Blackhawks sent Vlasic and Regula to Rockford, so bet it, but both players should be playing.
Speaking of the defensive rotation, Filip Roos is doing his best to make sure he stays out of that rotation and in the lineup. Despite his rookie status, Roos is 23 and has several seasons of professional experience in Sweden. He’s never going to be a big offensive threat, but he plays a steady and calm game. Whether or not there’s much of a ceiling above where Roos is now remained to be seen, but for the time being, he’s earned his spot on the ice and out of the rotation.
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