San Jose Sharks

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on losing end of another whacky home opener

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on losing end of another whacky home opener

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-4 loss to the San Jose Sharks at the United Center in Thursday's home opener:

1. Another whacky home opener

The Blackhawks' last two home openers have been wild. Two years ago they had a 10-goal explosion against the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Last year Patrick Kane and Auston Matthews had a celebration-off in a 14-goal outburst.

It would have been hard to top for the third year in a row, right? Well, it got close. 

The Blackhawks and Sharks combined for nine goals, with the home team taking four leads and the visiting team overcoming each of them to win their first game of the season after an 0-4-0 start. It was the first time all season that San Jose took the lead in a game and Thursday was its fifth of the season.

"We're not happy with how the game ended," Andrew Shaw said. "We did a lot of things right during the game, we just didn't do it all the time. We took some shifts off and ended up shooting ourselves in the foot with them."

2. Penalty kill struggles continue

The Blackhawks' penalty kill struggles have been well-documented. They were the 31st-ranked unit last season and had the worst percentage in 30 years.

And it hasn't gotten any better through two games.

The Blackhawks allowed two power-play goals in the first period, the first of which came nine seconds in. They finished the game 1-for-3 and are now 3-for-6 on the season for a success rate of 50 percent.

"They did a good job in 5-on-5 too of getting pucks to the net," Colliton said. "Getting pucks into the blue paint and finding those rebounds, getting their sticks on pucks and that's what they do. They're very good at it, they've been good at it a long time. They send it in there and they get pucks through from the top and they make sure they have people at the net and they win those battles.

"We needed to be better in that area. You know what, on another day you get a bounce and the puck stays out in a couple situations. But some days you don't get the bounces and we want to win anyway."

3. Decision to break up third line backfires

The best line of the game, no question, was the Blackhawks' third line of David Kampf, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad. In the first period alone, the trio had 14 shot attempts for and two against, 10 scoring chances for and one against, and eight high-danger chances for and zero against at 5-on-5, according to Natural Stat Trick. It also teamed up for a goal, which was Kubalik's first in the NHL.

But that was the last we saw of it.

Kubalik was rewarded for his strong first period in which he scored and recorded six shots on goal by being promoted to the top line with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, but the decision backfired as the Kubalik-Toews-Kane line generated only two shot attempts for and 12 against in 7:30 of 5-on-5 time together. 

"We're trying to get that other line going, Toews and Kane," Colliton said. "And so we thought he was the one who was really ... he was dynamic. I thought he was great, especially early on. We had a lot of momentum with the other line, too. I thought they were excellent, both Kampf and Saad. They were playing well. We'll see, that will be something we consider over the next day or so."

4. Welcome back, 65

The loudest ovation of the night came during introductions when Shaw was announced on the ice. Perhaps the second-loudest came when he scored in his first game back at the United Center in a Blackhawks sweater. And then again in the second period. 

The Mutt did what The Mutt always does, and that's park himself in front of the net and clean up his own rebound for his first goal of the season. His second goal came off a nice feed from Alex DeBrincat, who forced a turnover on two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson.

This is exactly what the Blackhawks had hoped for when they reacquired Shaw, who does the dirty work and brings some bite to the lineup.

"That's part of the reason we were so excited to get him," Colliton said. "He makes a lot of things happen. He goes to the dirty areas. He finishes his checks and gets on the forecheck. He creates loose pucks, wins puck battles, goes to the net and gets into the goalie's eyes. In this game, you get rewarded for that. We're a better team for that."

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Instant reaction: Sharks overcome four deficits as Blackhawks drop home opener

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USA Today

Instant reaction: Sharks overcome four deficits as Blackhawks drop home opener

FINAL SCORE:

Sharks 5, Blackhawks 4

Snap judgments:

— The Blackhawks took the lead four different times and the Sharks answered every one of them. And when they finally took the lead (their first of the season), they held onto it.

— The Blackhawks' penalty kill still needs work. They went 1-for-3 against the Sharks and moved to 3-for-6 on the season.

— Andrew Shaw made his presence felt in his first game back in Chicago. He scored two goals registered five shots on goal and led all skaters with seven hits in 16:53 of ice time. 

— Dominik Kubalik had a breakout performance. Not only did he score his first career NHL goal in his second game, but he led all Blackhawks skaters with 10 shot attempts (six on goal) and had five hits in 14:01 of ice time.

Three stars:

1. Sharks LW Patrick Marleau — Two goals, six shots on goal, five hits and one takeaway in 15:30 of ice time

2. Blackhawks RW Andrew Shaw — Two goals and five shots on goal in 16:41 of ice time

3. Sharks D Brent Burns — One goal, one assists, 13 shot attempts (five on goal) and a game-high 27:24 of ice time

Must-see highlights:

— Kubalik's first career NHL goal

— Shaw's first goal back in a Blackhawks sweater

— Kane and Strome team up for pretty goal

What's next:

The Blackhawks host the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday, Oct. 12 at 6 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago.

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Patrick Marleau's Iron Man streak to continue in season debut with Sharks vs. Blackhawks

Patrick Marleau's Iron Man streak to continue in season debut with Sharks vs. Blackhawks

After falling to 0-4-0, the San Jose Sharks announced Wednesday that they have signed the franchise's all-time leading point-getter and goal scorer Patrick Marleau to a one-year, $700,000 contract. 

Marleau was traded in the offseason from the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Carolina Hurricanes and later bought out, which made him an unrestricted free agent. He was always hoping for a homecoming with the Sharks, but it took until the first week of the regular season for both sides to feel comfortable about a reunion.

Marleau, who turned 40 in September, practiced with the Sharks at Fifth Third Arena in Chicago on Wednesday and skated on the first line with Logan Couture and Timo Meier. He's expected to make his season debut on Thursday against the Blackhawks.

Even though the Sharks revealed on Tuesday that Marleau would return to San Jose, the seven-time 30-goal scorer didn’t officially sign his contract until Wednesday, meaning his Iron Man streak will continue.

Marleau has appeared in 788 consecutive games, which ranks sixth in NHL history and third among active players. Only Keith Yandle (800), Andrew Cogliano (830), Steve Larmer (884), Garry Unger (914) and Doug Jarvis (964) are ahead of him.

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