Blackhawks

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.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

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.”

NHL Draft Profile: D Noah Dobson

NHL Draft Profile: D Noah Dobson

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Noah Dobson

Position: Defenseman
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 180 pounds
Shoots: Right

Scouting report:

"A very effective two-way defenseman with good puck distribution and a strong shot from the points on the power play. He is a point-producer with size, who defends and utilizes strong positioning and a good stick in the defensive zone."

NHL player comparable: Brent Burns

Fit for Blackhawks:

The Blackhawks lacked defensemen that generated offense last year. They also lacked defenders than can ... defend. Dobson is a player who can do both, and if he slips past Vancouver at No. 7, the Blackhawks may have a difficult decision on their hands.

Dobson could solve some of those defensive issues, but it likely wouldn't be in time for the 2018-19 season. He needs time to develop properly.

The Blackhawks like to evaluate prospects based on what their ceiling is and where they're at in their development curve, and if they see major upside here, they'll go for it. It just depends if there's somebody available that they like better.

NHL Draft Profile: F Jesperi Kotkaniemi

NHL Draft Profile: F Jesperi Kotkaniemi

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Jesperi Kotkaniemi

Position: Center
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 189 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

"Kotkaniemi has been a top-six forward for his league team in Finland all season and had a very solid U18 season relative to his historical peers in the league. He has very good hands that are high-end, if not flashing elite. He can make very skilled plays off an entry, but what impresses me is how well he can control the puck and keep plays alive."

NHL player comparable:

Fit for Blackhawks:

There isn't a player that has climbed the rankings in such a short amount of time than Kotkaniemi, who was initially projected to go outside the top 10 but could go as high as No. 3 overall. It's likely because there aren't many high-end centers in this draft, and he's the top one.

If Kotkaniemi happens to slip to No. 8, it may be hard for the Blackhawks to pass up on him. He's versatile, too, which is always a bonus, especially when playing under Joel Quenneville. But if they view him as a center, here's how the Blackhawks would look down the middle: Jonathan Toews, Nick Schmaltz, Kotkaniemi and Artem Anisimov.

Um, yeah. That'll work.