Penalties cost Blackhawks in season-opening loss to Blues

Penalties cost Blackhawks in season-opening loss to Blues

Ryan Hartman’s goal drew a big cheer from the United Center crowd, and at that moment the Blackhawks looked like they were making the most out of what had otherwise been a lackluster second period.

But not long after that things started to go wrong. Penalties were called, one after the other. And a few penalty kills – or lack thereof – later, the Blackhawks lost the lead, the momentum and eventually the game.

Hartman scored the first goal of his NHL career but the St. Louis Blues scored three power-play goals en route to a 5-2 victory over the Blackhawks on Wednesday night. It was a frustrating season opener for the Blackhawks, who were working in a lot of new faces and missing Niklas Hjalmarsson (suspended for the opener) and Andrew Desjardins (out 4-6 weeks with a lower-body injury).

The Blackhawks missed those two players on the penalty kill, which struggled in giving up one 5-on-3 and two 5-on-4 goals. Kevin Shattenkirk and Paul Stastny each had a goal and two assists for the Blues.

Thanks to the penalties and goals allowed, those final few minutes of the second and first few minutes of the third were forgettable. 

“Yeah, you get two 5-on-3s in a short amount of time, give away the momentum of the game,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We put ourselves in a tough spot. The first you could say, OK. The second one was marginal. Then we take one and we’ve got to start the third period with fresh ice. Tie hockey game and we’re hoping to get through it and we didn’t.”

The Blackhawks were expecting some bumps in these first few games, considering the youth installed in the lineup. Veterans played a bulk of the minutes; fourth liners Vinnie Hinostroza, Nick Schmaltz and Jordin Tootoo played anywhere from four to nine minutes total – Tootoo played just 4:26. Part of that was how the game went, and the Blackhawks either trying to kill off penalties or get their top offensive guys out there to aid in a comeback.

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But overall, the Blackhawks weren’t happy with this one. They managed just 19 shots on goal, being outshot 15-3 in the second period.

“We didn’t do a whole lot of what we wanted to. Just our energy, speed and work ethic wasn’t quite there,” Jonathan Toews said. “So we have to regroup, try to come with that energy in the next one and obviously play a little bit smarter too. We didn’t manage the puck well and if you’re not firing on all cylinders and playing at the highest speed, winning your races, winning your battles, eventually you’re going to take penalties and eventually give up scoring chances. we did a lot of that tonight.”

This is going to be a work in progress for the Blackhawks. Young guys will have to adjust. The penalty kill has to improve. So does the overall game.

“There’s no split in our team that’s young guys and veteran players. It’s everybody together,” Toews said. “As a group we weren’t good enough tonight.”

Four takeaways: Standouts from Blackhawks first preseason win against Red Wings

Four takeaways: Standouts from Blackhawks first preseason win against Red Wings

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-1 preseason win over the Detroit Red Wings at the United Center on Wednesday:

1. Alex Nylander gets a shot on the top line

After having a goal and an assist in his preseason debut on Monday, Nylander was rewarded by the Blackhawks coaching staff by starting on the first line with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. And he certainly didn't look out of place.

The trio logged 14:28 of ice time together at 5-on-5 and generated 18 shots for and only five against, according to Natural Stat Trick. They also teamed up on Duncan Keith's eventual game-winning goal in the second period.

Nylander finished with a secondary assist, three shot attempts (two on goal) and one takeaway in 20:44 of action. He’s going to give the Blackhawks management something to think about.

"I thought he was good," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Again, we're looking for his play without the puck. We know he's going to do a lot with the puck. It's their first time playing together so there's always going to be some kinks you're working out as far as the plays they're making and what not but he had a great net drive on Dunc's goal. Those are the things that people don't notice but opens up ice.

"We want to open up ice for those skill guys he's playing with. I thought he had a couple really good tracks. He was forechecking, he was skating. That's what we're looking for and if he continues to do that then he can be effective at this level no matter who he's playing with."

2. Individual standouts

— Dominik Kubalik was given a top-six role again after his two-goal night in his preseason debut on Tuesday in Detroit. And he was noticeable. He recorded three shot attempts (one on goal) and had a game-high four takeaways in 14:29 of action.

— The Olli Maatta and Brent Seabrook pairing turned in a strong showing together. They were on the ice for 20 shot attempts for and seven against and eight scoring chances for and two against in 13:28 of 5-on-5 ice time.

— Brandon Hagel was named the second star of the game after scoring a goal and tying Keith with a game-high four shots on goal. He also logged 11:58 of ice time and won both of his faceoffs.

— Adam Boqvist showed why he was drafted No. 8 overall in 2018. He's flashy and has elite offensive skill, which you can see in the video below. He also earned some praise from his head coach for his defensive play, which is the part of his game that's going to be a constant work in progress.

3. Penalty kill still ironing out some kinks

The top priority for the Blackhawks this summer was to shore up their defensive issues, and that included the penalty kill. And even though we shouldn't put too much stock into overall team performance and results in the preseason, the Blackhawks have given up at least one power-play goal in each of their first three games.

Fortunately for the Blackhawks, these games and stats don't count, but it obviously would be nice to head into the regular season with some positive momentum. Once the Blackhawks start to finalize their 23-man roster we should get a pretty good idea of what the special teams units could look like on Opening Night and beyond, and more chemistry will develop among the everyday players.

4. Roster cuts looming

In the last four days, the Blackhawks hosted their team scrimmage at the United Center and followed that up with three consecutive preseason contests. That was a significant evaluation period for the coaching staff and management.

Colliton said the Blackhawks are expected to make their first wave of roster cuts between now and Saturday, which is when their next preseason tilt is. The 23-man roster should start to take shape in the coming few days.

"We’re going to start," he said. "I don’t know exactly the timeline and how many and which day, but I can tell you it won’t all be in one day. And we’ll sort of work up to the game Saturday and we’ll have a tighter group, and especially for next week."

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Five Blackhawks make top 100 prospect list


Five Blackhawks make top 100 prospect list

After missing the playoffs for two straight seasons, the Blackhawks are in a transition period coming off the team’s long run as a Stanley Cup contender. There is hope for a relatively quick return to contention with a number of highly-regarded prospects.

ESPN ranked the top 100 NHL prospects on Wednesday and the Blackhawks have five skaters on the list.

Leading the way for Blackhawks prospects is Kirby Dach, who was the third pick in this year’s draft. He is ranked No. 6 overall. The top two picks from that draft, Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, are the top two prospects in the rankings.

Adam Boqvist is the second Blackhawks prospect, coming in at No. 29 overall. The defenseman was the No. 8 overall pick in the 2018 draft.

Defensemen Ian Mitchell (No. 68) and Nicolas Beaudin (No. 82) and right winger Alexander Nylander (No. 88) round out Blackhawks prospects in the top 100. Mitchell opted to return to the University of Denver for his junior year. Beaudin was the Blackhawks’ second first-round pick in 2018, picked No. 27. Nylander was acquired in the offseason in exchange for young defenseman Henri Jokiharju.

With five prospects on the list the Blackhawks had more than most teams. The Los Angeles Kings had the most prospects on the list with seven while the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers each had six.

ESPN also ranked the Blackhawks pool of prospects as ninth-best in the NHL.


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