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MILWAUKEE — On a Sunday afternoon in the “Good Land,” Milwaukee for those unfamiliar with the native languages of the Ojibwa, Menominee, and Potawatomi or with Alice Cooper’s appearance in ‘Wayne’s World,’ the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild connected for a preseason game that was technically a home game for the Blackhawks. The first NHL game played in Milwaukee since 1993 saw a Wisconsin-based crowd that was heavily skewed towards the “home” team Blackhawks and served the sell-out Fiserv Forum faithful to a 3-0 shutout loss for Chicago, much to the delight of the numerous and very vocal Minnesota Wild fans in town.
This was the fourth preseason game for the Blackhawks, now with a 1-3-0 record in preseason action, and served as their final home game of the six-game preseason slate. It was nearly a copy and paste of their efforts from Saturday night against the Detroit Red Wings where their starting goaltender, in this case Petr Mrazek, held the fort as long as he could before the gates opened in the third period and the Blackhawks had zero offensive response.
Athanasiou-Domi-Kane will be the Blackhawks’ best chance at offensive production this season
Granted the lineup in Milwaukee was not the most NHL-heavy for the Blackhawks, the theme of the offense running through the trio of Andreas Athanasiou, Max Domi, and Patrick Kane will likely continue into the regular season as it was tonight. Athansiou was again creating a number of scoring chances using his high-end speed, but his finishing was not where you’d hope to see it. Very Stalberg-ian.
Domi and Kane continue to build chemistry, but the curse of playing on the same line of Patrick Kane and deferring the offensive chances to him is creeping into the Domi-Athanasiou duo as both punted on great scoring chances early in the game in favor of making the extra pass to Kane when it was unnecessary. Hopefully those two can take more offensive initiative as the regular season begins and not just give the puck to Kane and see what he can do with it.
Competitive mentality is being engrained
Whether or not the lineup was heavy with NHL talent, the players who make up the Blackhawks lineup night-in and night-out are showing the character that Kyle Davidson wanted to build his team with. These Blackhawks teams this season will compete their asses off. They may not be able to win many games based on talent matchups, but they are not built with players who will look for the exits early.
Not only are the professional level players showing that character, but so are the young players. Davidson made it a point in his first draft class to bring in young players who had speed and relentlessness in their games. Guys like Samuel Savoie and Kevin Korchinski, both 2022 draft picks, have showed those traits in their handful of preseason performances and the game in Milwaukee was no different. Those two will be headed back to their respective Junior teams in the coming days, but their paths to the NHL look to not be that far away if they continue to exhibit that relentlessness in their games.
Get used to this…
It took the Blackhawks over two and a half periods of hockey to reach double-digits in shots on goal. In a preseason game. Let that marinate for a second.
That is going to be a more common theme in this Blackhawks season than in many, many seasons prior. In the previous point, I talked about the Blackhawks being a competitive, relentless team no matter the score or how the flow of the game is going. Which is good, but usually those kinds of graces are placed on a team that is not offensively competitive. This Blackhawks team will not be.
Goaltending in the past two contests has been more than adequate from Alex Stalock and Petr Mrazek for long stretches of the games, but their efforts were met with zero goals in six periods of play. Going 0-for-6 on the powerplay tonight and 0-for-3 on Saturday doesn’t help either. I’m not asking these Blackhawks to be winning every game, but you have to put the puck in the net some times.
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