After playing in three consecutive road home openers to start the 2021-22 season, the Blackhawks finally got a chance to play one with their own fans behind them on Tuesday at the United Center. They desperately needed the energy following a 0-2-1 start, and they certainly took advantage of it early on.
The Blackhawks recorded 27 shot attempts, 18 shots on goal and 13 scoring chances in the first period, according to Natural Stat Trick. They allowed 17 attempts, nine shots on goal and three scoring chances. It was a much better start, considering the Blackhawks were outscored 8-1 in the first period of their three-game road trip.
But despite all that, the Blackhawks found themselves trailing 1-0 through two periods and let the game completely slip away in the third period when the Islanders found the back of the net 48 seconds in and scored two more later on within a 2:15 span. The wheels came off too quickly, and it was unfortunate for the Blackhawks because they clearly outplayed the Islanders for most of the game.
"I think we probably didn't deserve to come out on top in any of the first three games," Jonathan Toews said following a 4-1 loss to the Islanders. "But today if a couple of those go our way early on we feel it's a different game."
The Blackhawks did everything but score in the first 40 minutes. They finished with a season-high 40 shots on goal, 17 of which came from the slot, per Sportlogiq. They generated 31 scoring chances and 13 high-danger chances. Any other night and that likely results in a win.
"Tonight’s frustrating because we played well," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "If we play that game over and over again, and certainly the first two periods, if we play that game over and over again, the results will tilt our way in the end."
Defensively, the Blackhawks played one of their best games in years, and that's no hyperbole. They allowed just four high-danger chances in all situations. It's only the second time since the start of the 2017-18 season they've held a team to fewer than five in a game.
That's something to build on.
"It’s good that we’re going through a little adversity as a team," Seth Jones said. "Every team throughout the year does it. I don’t care how perfect you are throughout the season, at some point you're going to face challenges. We have to look at the positives here.
"Four games in, we have one point, which is not very positive. But tonight we built on it. We played 50-something minutes of good hockey tonight."
On the flip side, the Blackhawks aren't exactly in the mood for moral victories. If this was in the middle of December, maybe they feel a little bit differently.
But not right now. Not after they emphasized getting off to a good start and are one of five NHL teams entering the second week of the season without a win. There's no time to waste for the Blackhawks.
"There’s an old saying that you can’t win the Stanley Cup in October but you can put yourself out of the race," Kirby Dach said. "We’ve got to figure it out quick and get back in the win column."