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The Chicago Blackhawks looked more like the team we saw earlier in the season than the team that got blown out in Boston last night. Yes, they fell behind 3-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins, but they had that effort and resiliency we saw during their four-game winning streak in October. They came all the way back to tie the game before Sidney Crosby scored his first career goal in the United Center with less than four minutes to play. The effort was there during the 5-3 defeat, it was just another night where the talent level wasn’t enough to get them back in the win column. The Blackhawks will try to end this four-game skid at the Dallas Stars on Wednesday night.
Only One 81
Let’s face it, the reason over 21,000 fans packed the United Center happened 90 minutes before puck drop. The game between the Blackhawks and Penguins was a moot point after Marian Hossa’s No. 81 headed to the rafters.
There was a buzz in the building from the moment the atrium doors opened at 2:30. The entire team and coaching staff wore their Hossa t-shirts into the arena. Plenty of Marian’s former teammates made the trip for his night, including Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook, and, of course, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, who came out for the pregame ceremony.
A special night kicked off with a huge ovation for Eddie Olczyk, who emceed the retirement ceremony. Surrounded by his family, former teammates, and Blackhawks brass, Hossa watched an exceptional video package paying tribute to his amazing run in Chicago. Even a special old friend made an appearance, the Stanley Cup.
In his speech, Hossa thanked the fans, his family, his friends, his agent, the training staff, his former teammates, coach Joel Quenneville, and former Blackhawks’ general manager Dale Tallon, who signed him back in 2009.
“Something tells me I’ll be flying back to Chicago to raise a few more of these jerseys,” Hossa said with a smile. He’s not wrong.
No. 81 will forever hang in the rafters, next to fellow Blackhawks legends Glenn Hall, Pierre Pilote, Bobby Hull, Denis Savard, Stan Mikita, and Tony Esposito.
Blackhawks Start Chasing Early
The Blackhawks have spent far too much time chasing the game and playing from behind this season. Heading into tonight’s game with the Penguins, they have given up the first goal in 13 of their 17 games and fell behind 2-0 in nine of those.
“They’ll be an extra buzz,” head coach Luke Richardson said before the game. “That’s what I love about this building. Our starts haven’t been the greatest, so hopefully, that can generate a little bit more for us.”
There sure was an extra buzz after an extra loud anthem, but it was gone 1:04 later as Brock McGinn gave the Penguins an early 1-0 lead. Once again, the Blackhawks were chasing. Moments later, the new third line of Jujhar Kharia, Jason Dickinson, and Colin Blackwell provided a spark and created a couple of scoring chances.
Even though they surrendered the early goal, the Blackhawks had a pretty good opening 20 minutes. They doubled up the Penguins in shots on goal 16-8 with three high-danger scoring chances and a 62.9 CF%. However, Pittsburgh netminder Casey DeSmith stood tall and kept the puck out of his net.
Kane Finds the Back of the Net
While everyone has been wondering about the future of Patrick Kane, the present hasn’t been the greatest for the Blackhawks’ superstar. He entered the night with just two goals on 47 shots, shooting at just 4.3%, far below his 11.6 career shooting percentage.
“He was pissed off after that second period (in Boston) because we were right in that game, and then all of a sudden, we’re out of it,” Richardson said of the Blackhawks superstar. “He’s still uber-competitive. He’s still creating stuff. He’s frustrated that it’s not going in for him. For a player like that, it will go in at some point.”
Richardson wasn’t wrong because Kane scored a 4v4 goal late in the second period to get the Blackhawks to within a goal. It was his first tally since Oct. 27, ending a 10-game goal drought. The Blackhawks hope this is the goal that opens the floodgates and gets their best player going.
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