Saturday night’s rematch between the Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning was not going to be anything like their last meeting in June.
Obviously the stakes are nowhere near as high. At the same time it’s the early season, when every team is trying to gobble up as many points as possible to make their lives easier in March and April. For the Blackhawks, couple that with trying to accumulate points without Duncan Keith. That they did for the second consecutive game, once again blanking the Lightning.
As we wrap up another night at the United Center, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 1-0 victory over Tampa Bay.
1. Defense first does it again. The Blackhawks allowed the Florida Panthers just 18 shots on Thursday. They allowed the Lightning, who averaged 27.8 shots per game entering this one, just 21 shots on Saturday. The Lightning didn’t have a lot of prime scoring opportunities on Saturday, either. The Blackhawks wanted to keep the priority on defense, especially without Keith, and they’ve done that so far.
2. Great game for Ryan Garbutt. The forward, part of the deal that sent Patrick Sharp to Dallas, had his best outing since joining the Blackhawks. Garbutt had a game-high six shots on goal, including two short-handed attempts. He also had four hits. His work, especially on the penalty kill, gave the Blackhawks a boost.
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3. Jonathan Toews breaks through. A few days ago Toews said he was trying not to think too much about not having any goals yet. But he’s the captain, and not contributing in some fashion is always going to be on his mind. Well he finally got that first goal on Saturday night in game-winning form. Toews said, “I was just hoping something would go in. I think there was going to be a bounce like that at some point.”
4. Big body, big blocks. Niklas Hjalmarsson is getting some help in the blocked shots department. Fellow Swedish defenseman Viktor Svedberg recorded a game-high five for the Blackhawks on Saturday. Hey, when you’re 6-foot-8, you can cover a lot of ground and block a lot of pucks.
5. Patience proves pivotal. The Blackhawks’ mental fortitude has been strong for a while. They’ve usually been very good about taking what teams give them and not forcing any issues. Mistakes can happen when they do. And on Saturday they once again took what was there and it led to a much-needed, early season victory.