The Chicago Blackhawks struggled to get out of the gate when Patrice Bergeron scored 1 minute, 18 seconds into the game to lead the Boston Bruins to a 4-2 win over Chicago on the second night of a back-to-back for the Hawks Thursday at TD Garden.
Expecting consistency on a back to back is hard to do for any team, and for the Hawks -- a team trying to integrate new faces into the lineup -- even more so. With Corey Crawford resting, Scott Darling received the start, and he did not make the most of it. Darling allowed all four goals on 26 shots.
Bergeron and Brad Marchand each had a goal and assist, while Ryan Spooner and Loui Eriksson also scored and Tuukka Rask made 25 saves for the Bruins (36-23-6). The win moved Bruins coach Claude Julien into a tie with Art Ross for the most wins in franchise story at 387.
Jonathan Toews and Tomas Fleischmann scored for the Blackhawks (40-21-5). Chicago fell short in its attempt to compete a season road sweep of the other five Original Six teams for the first time since 1979-80, according to CSN Chicago's Christopher Kamka.
The first period saw the Blackhawks struggle with the Bruins' forecheck as Boston outshot the Hawks 12-5. Chicago was sloppy in handling the puck and Darling wasn't at his best either. Bergeron opened the scoring when he roofed a shot on Darling.
Chicago would begin to initiate its offense as the period came to an end. With just under six minutes remaining, a shot by Christian Ehrhoff created a rebound for Toews to slot the puck in to knot the game 1-1. It was Toews' 23rd goal of the season. Some poor play late boiled over in the last minute when Artemi Panarin dangled a bit too much for Marchand to steal it away. Marchand would rifle the puck past Darling to give the Bruins the 2-1 heading into the first intermission.
Coming back into the second frame, things calmed down for the Blackhawks, but the results were largely the same. A high sticking by Andrew Ladd on Jimmy Hayes gave the Bruins a power play a little more than two minutes in. Spooner then scored on a redirected shot from the point by Tory Krug to extend the Bruins' lead at 3-1. With about five minutes to go, some slick passing by Boston led to another redirection goal, this time by Eriksson, to make it 4-1 Bruins.
The Hawks would stay within themselves in the final minute, as Teuvo Teravainen fired a fantastic off hand pass to Fleischmann in the final minute, who scored his first goal as a Blackhawk to bring the deficit to 4-2. It was Teravainen's third straight game with a point, as he seems to be really comfortable with his new center role. This was a line with the newly-acquired Dale Weise, that had no trouble creating consistent offensive pressure all night. Perhaps it was the fresh legs most of the rest Hawks didn't seem to have.
Ultimately, despite a third period they controlled for the most part, the Blackhawks just couldn't finish the rally. Mark this one up and move on to the next game.
Scott Darling's struggles:
As mentioned, the Blackhawks didn't look fresh in any fashion. They may not have pulled out this game and rallied anyway, but Scott Darling didn't help much. Both of the Bruins' first two goals were saves that Darling probably should have made even with the horrendous play in front of him. It's part of the reason why Crawford is on pace to easily eclipse a career high in starts in the regular season. This night was just one of many where Scott Darling hasn't earned all of the trust by Joel Quenneville. The call to bring in Crawford by some after both on his rest night was also misguided as you can't justify putting your starter back in on his rest night. Crawford has already had a heavier workload this season due to Darling's struggles, so you can't weigh him down more. It'll be interesting to see how much Quenneville plays Darling down the stretch as we head towards the postseason where ideally you'd like Crawford to be as fresh as possible.
Christian Ehrhoff steal:
Not to jinx it or anything, but Ehrhoff has looked kind of good in his first two games with the Blackhawks. Quenneville certainly trusts him to play heavier minutes as well. He led Chicago in possession at 56 percent in Detroit playing a little more than 17 minutes and was again a net positive playing 21 minutes tonight. There was a concern with how Ehrhoff would be eased into the lineup given his earlier struggles with the Kings this season, but you haven't seen it yet. Ehrhoff is more of the kind of possession skating defenseman that fits well into what the Blackhawks like to do. It shouldn't be surprising that he's having early success, I just didn't think it would come so early. To think, this is still him getting into the swing of things. It's going to look more and more like Stan Bowman pulled off a coup in this trade.
Line-up Pieced Together
With Marian Hossa's likely return this upcoming Sunday, the Hawks will almost have their full compliment of players at forward sans Marcus Kruger. In games where they've been fresh without the two, they've looked quite good since the deadline. Factor in the additions of Fleischmann and Weise and the Chicago lineup is going to really start running on all cylinders. Expect the traditional two way domination by Hossa with Toews and Andrew Ladd. The Blackhawks will finally be rolling four lines and that newly formed first line is going to be scary. Strap in.
The Blackhawks have two days before they finish their season series against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday at 4 p.m. Ct at the United Center.
Robert Zeglinski is a staff writer and contributor for Second City Hockey and No Coast Bias. He is currently the sports editor at Aurora University. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski