The Blackhawks wanted to take advantage of seven straight games at the United Center after kicking off the 2019-20 campaign in Prague, but it hasn't exactly gone according to plan.
They're 2-2-2 through the first six home games as they prepare to host Philadelphia on Thursday for the final tilt of the homestand, but the Blackhawks feel like they've left points on the table. The last two games especially, the feeling around the locker room is that the two losses aren't reflective of the overall performance.
After dominating the Washington Capitals in every aspect but the scoresheet on Sunday, the Blackhawks were 1:33 away from shutting out one of the most dangerous Western Conference teams in Vegas before falling 2-1 in a shootout. That's one point out of a possible four when it easily could've been four out of four for the Blackhawks.
Robin Lehner was fantastic against the Golden Knights, turning aside 33 of 34 shots for .971 save percentage. And he was very honest about his assessment of the team after the game and had an optimistic but realistic viewpoint.
"When I chose to sign with this team, it’s because I really believe in this team," Lehner said. "There’s a lot of great hockey players on this club and we’ve seen it in spurts in the beginning of the season. I think the last few games have been really really good. Small, small details and we’re going to be very dangerous. I’m really liking what I’m seeing from a lot of the guys. A lot of the young guys are playing great and the core guys here, maybe it looks far away but it’s really close. It really is.
"Washington is a good team, Vegas is a good team, and at times we were totally dominating. It should have been 4-0 after two. Couple of posts were in the way, couple of missed bounces. That’s hockey sometimes. If we just keep playing like we’re going, we’re going to get good results and we’re going to have a good season."
Lehner is coming from a New York Islanders team that allowed the fewest goals against last season, and the fact the Blackhawks gave up only three high-danger chances at even strength and were 5-for-5 on the penalty kill against a Vegas team who had a top-five power play going into Tuesday's matchup is encouraging.
Lehner is as candid as they come and he legitimately believes the Blackhawks are trending in the right direction, despite what the results may show. And if the Blackhawks can play like they have the last two games, the points will even out over time.
"There’s a lot of new guys to this team," Lehner said. "Great core players, a lot of new guys. They’re still trying to implement the system and we’re getting better and better at it. Again, I think we’ve seen it really well in spurts when we manage the puck and when we stick to our details. Such an offensive-talented team. If we just can keep going like this, we’re going to be successful. It really is.
"Honestly right now, I don’t even care about the standings, because we’re going to start getting wins. We’ve played some good teams and I think we’ve dominated them at times and are these small mistakes and we just gotta keep pushing the pace like the third today, we just got to keep pushing. We’ve got to keep pushing. We’ve got to keep attacking."