When you looked up and down the Central Division before the season and predicted what teams would actually give the Chicago Blackhawks fits this season, the likely answers would have gone straight to St. Louis, Nashville, Minnesota, and even Dallas. The answer most certainly wouldn't have been the Winnipeg Jets. Yet, as we sit here now in the middle of January, it's become clear that this Winnipeg team isn't going away, which was evident in yet another Hawks loss to the Jets on Friday night.
Responsible for exactly half of the Blackhawks' regulation losses at home, the Jets are just two points back of the Hawks and currently sit in fifth in the Western Conference. It's becoming more and more evident that this is not a team that the Hawks would want to meet in the playoffs. Not because they couldn't take a seven-game series, but between their suffocating system and the fact that Michael Hutchinson turns into Dominek Hasek when he plays the Blackhawks, it would be difficult.
The loss comes despite the fact that the Blackhawks led in the Corsi department throughout the night, taking the overall count by a 62-51 count. They were outshot 35-33 on the night, though 16 of Winnipeg's shots came in the first period. When Brandon Saad got the scoring started just a minute into the game, it looked like the Hawks might finally solve this team and, more importantly, get something going against Michael Hutchinson.
Yet the Jets evened things up halfway through the period, courtesy of Zach Bogosian, and went on to outshoot the home team by a 16-12 count in the opening frame overall. Of course, there was plenty of other action to keep the fans occupied, as both Bryan Bickell and Brent Seabrook dropped the gloves, with Anthony Peluso and Jim Slater, respectively. Those two incidents in particular definitely provide some insight as to how physical a game this was.
After going through the second scoreless, the teams combined for four goals in the third period. The problem was that three of those goals came on the side of the Jets. Halfway through the period, Bryan Little scored on the power play, courtesy of a foolish hold by Andrew Shaw. Less than 30 seconds later, the Jets notched another one and the Hawks were unable to recover. They attempted to get back into it with a goal off the stick of Teuvo Teravainen, but an empty net dagger from Andrew Ladd sealed their fate.
There weren't a lot of positives to go around for the Blackhawks, but Teuvo's first career goal (and point) certainly represents one. It's amazing what he can accomplish when he's playing with actual skilled hockey players and not the likes of Shaw or (though I'm a fan) Ben Smith. Teuvo's goal came when he was playing between Bryan Bickell and Patrick Kane, something Joel Quenneville should continue riding out for a bit.
Next up, the Blackhawks will try to recover against the Stars, who they came back against several times in their most recent meeting. We'll see if they can rediscover that magic on Sunday. Onto the stars..
Three Stars of the Night
3. Brent Seabrook
Without a clear-cut choice here, we'll throw ol' Nachos into the mix. He had a very nice game, in terms of possession, as his 67 percent CF% was second on the team and first among Blackhawks d-men. Not as important, but still of note, Seabrook squared off with Jim Slater after Slater took a run at Patrick Kane. While fighting in certain instances is obnoxious and unnecessary, it's good to see at least someone on the Hawks is willing to deter the opposition from taking runs at their top players. Since apparently the Blackhawks don't employ Dan Carcillo to do that.
2. Brandon Saad
Brandon Saad has been such a pleasure to watch lately, and that's probably a dramatic understatement. His game is on another level right now, mostly due to his speed. His goal in the first minute of the game came on a wicked backhand from quite a ways out. You really can't say enough positive things about what has transpired on that first line throughout the year. Saad finished the night with a CF% right at 70, tops on the team.
1. Teuvo Teravainen
Seriously, who else did you think we'd put here? Teuvo's game has been coming along in an extremely noticeable fashion in his short stint with the Blackhawks to this point, and it was only a matter of time before it started paying off on the stat sheet. He scored his first career goal in the third period, and while it ended up being somewhat meaningless in terms of the outcome, it has to be a confidence boost for him, especially having already served as a healthy scratch. He was fourth among Blackhawk forwards in Corsi on the night.