The Chicago Blackhawks opened the preseason with a 2-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night. Both teams rolled out shorthanded lineups with the World Cup of Hockey’s effects still being felt, and the Hawks’ prospect-filled group failed to get on the scoreboard.
The first period was Chicago’s best as the team came out firing and limited Pittsburgh to just three shots on goal. The tide quickly changed from there in the second period as the Penguins piled shots on Scott Darling, boosted by a four-minute penalty on Viktor Svedberg.
Chris Kunitz scored both goals for the Penguins in the third period. The first came on a power play just a couple minutes after the second intermission with Trevor Daley and David Warsofsky getting assists. The second came midway through the period off assists from Josh Archibald and Eric Fehr.
Pittsburgh held the shot advantage, 35-30. The Hawks had some good chances in a frantic final minute after pulling the goalie to go 6-on-5, but failed to get one past Tristan Jarry, who was the Pens’ second-round pick in 2013.
Beside the result, there were lots of positives to take away from the game, though. The players that you wanted to stand out on the ice for the Blackhawks did.
Nick Schmaltz and Vincent Hinostroza showed some chemistry on the first line, which was easily the team’s best in the game. Hinostroza was auditioning at center and struggled on the dot, going 6-of-14 on faceoffs, but he showed some skill next to Schmaltz and Richard Panik.
The other positives came on defense, where the young trio of Michal Kempny, Ville Pokka and Gustav Forsling got positive reviews.
Those two, Kempny, Pokka also look good particularly Kempny. Those two D why I think Forsling may have to play another season in Sweden. https://t.co/ca3BYmrlrH— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) September 29, 2016
The Blackhawks probably won’t be able to squeeze all three of these players on the roster to start the season, but it’s a good problem for the team to have. Kempny seems like a lock to make the NHL roster given his European Assignment Clause, while you could see Pokka pushing Trevor van Riemsdyk and Michal Rozsival for playing time in the final two spots on the roster.
Pokka struggled somewhat with Team Finland in the World Cup, but looked much better against the weaker competition on Wednesday. He’s a well-built defenseman who knows how to make smart plays and where to be on the ice. Even if his athleticism never impresses you, I think Pokka can still crack with it good hockey sense and skills.
Overall, not precisely what you wanted to see, but the Hawks showed flashes on Wednesday. You could see how Schmaltz, Hinostroza, Kempny, Forsling and Pokka are considered some of the best young talent in the organization. That’s pretty much an expectation when you’re playing in a game full of AHL talent, and those guys mostly came through. Besides the result, this was a good start for Chicago as it starts figuring out who will be a part of the opening night roster.