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Defense Optional: Hawks Lose to the Wild 5-4

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The Hawks drop the 2nd of a road back-to-back with an uneven effort.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Still searching for the right mix, Blackhawks’ Coach Joel Quenneville sent out a lineup featuring the NHL debut of defenseman Erik Gustafsson and the season debut of forward Ryan Hartman. The Hawks had only scored 3 goals in the last 3 games, and with plenty of new faces to develop in his system, Coach Q hoped some of the changes would do the trick.

18 seconds in though, Wild winger Jason Zucker scored on a turnaround shot from below the right circle, putting the Hawks behind early. Just three minutes later, the Hawks were on the penalty kill, but the Hawks were able to put the pressure on Minnesota goalie Devan Dubnyk.

After Ryan Garbutt was denied on a shorthanded breakaway chance, the Hawks kept possession and Jonathan Toews cashed in on a give-and-go pass from Marian Hossa. With 9:27 left in the 1st period, the Hawks took the lead on a power play when a Brent Seabrook blast from the top of the slot was redirected in off a Wild defenseman, extending Seabrook’s 5-game point scoring streak.

Then with 5:03 left in the 1st, Ryan Carter grabbed a takeaway in his defensive zone, leading to an odd man rush the other way, and Carter tying the game for the Wild. Charlie Coyle would tip in a shot from the point by Marco Scandella with 11 seconds left, and the Wild finished the 1st period up 3-2.

Three minutes into the 2nd period, the Wild scored on a Jared Spurgeon power play tally to make the score 4-2. Andrew Desjardins went knee-on-knee with Justin Fontaine and received a tripping minor, but in this blogger’s opinion it was accidental. Fontaine went back to the locker room with what looked like an ugly lower body injury.

With 9:13 left in the 2nd, the Captain struck again. Scott Darling kicked out a long rebound, Garbutt tapped it forward, and Toews beat Dubnyk with a wrister from the low right circle on a 3-on-1. Three minutes later, Gustafsson earned his 1st NHL assist with a sweet, 100 ft. pass to a streaking Artem Anisimov up the middle to tie the game at 4. About 30 seconds later, Tanner Kero was denied by an early whistle during a scrum in front of the net, and the period eventually finished even.

The Wild started the 3rd period by jumping out ahead early again. This time, Nino Niederreiter shelved a loose puck off a rebound 32 seconds in. With Marian Hossa out with a lower body injury, the Hawks couldn’t get much going after that. Anisimov had a couple more good chances, but Dubnyk shut out the Hawks in the 3rd, sending them to their 2nd road loss in as many nights.

ONE, TWO, TREE THOUGHTS

1. Hopefully Hoss’ injury isn’t too serious. The Hawks are going to experience enough growing pains this season; they can ill-afford to lose another veteran for an extended stretch of time.

2. Scott Darling was meh. He was also meh in his last start, a 4-1 loss at Washington, at the end of another road back-to-back. Maybe Quenneville flip-flops his goalies next time? Sure, the defense isn’t doing Darling any favors, but he has to be better. Coach Q might be forced to start riding his #1 tender for some heavier minutes than planned. Hope Stan Bowman didn’t trade the wrong goalie.

3. That's what the stat heads would call "positive regression" on offense. But the Hawks still look like they’re trying to develop some chemistry together. Lots of d-pairings and forward lines that aren’t used to playing together led to poor coverage and odd-man rushes the other way. It’s a long season and I’m confident they’ll get it together, but right now they look out of sorts at times on defense.

The Blackhawks welcome the LA Kings to the United Center on Monday.