The Chicago Blackhawks suffered their first regulation loss of the season Thursday night, falling 4-1 to the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center. It was the first start in nearly 10 months for No. 1 goaltender Corey Crawford, who showed flashes of his old self in a solid start to his 2018-19 season.
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He’s probably furious about the three goals he did surrender, because that’s just Crawford’s nature. But his defense did him no favors, one coming after a 2-on-1 and another on an uncontested breakaway from the blue line. Crawford made every save he was expected to and a few others that he probably shouldn’t have. It really was a vintage Crawford performance. Even in the locker room, postgame:
I asked Crawford if he could still see the bigger picture even in a loss. "I don’t know if there’s a bigger picture than winning hockey games. That’s our goal every time we go out there."— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) October 19, 2018
That's midseason form Corey Crawford right there.
He was all over the ice in the offensive zone but still defensively responsible enough to break up a 2-on-1 with a brilliant dive and swing of his stick that kept the Blackhawks within reach on the scoreboard. He and defensive partner Brent Seabrook were on the positive side of the possession ledger (again). Oh, and Gustafsson scored his first goal of the season after a brilliant series of passes. Gustafsson is continuing the strong play that he displayed in the second half of the 2017-18 after being recalled from Rockford.
Jonathan Toews and Alex DeBrincat
Another game, another highlight-reel play involving these two, resulting in the aforementioned goal for Gustafsson. Even without scoring, these two players found a way to be involved in Chicago’s offensive attack, an occurrence in each one of the Blackhawks six games this season.
Credit can be given to Fortin for consistently working his way into scoring opportunities, utilizing his blazing speed. But, at some point, those chances have to translate into goals. The hope is that one goal triggers an avalanche of scoring behind it — and soon, before coach Joel Quenneville opts to use someone else on that line with Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane. Fortin is still looking for his first NHL goal, and he may not get a better chance than this one:
One minor criticism here: slowly drifting away from the net eliminates the scoring angles available to Fortin and made this difficult save a little easier on Raanta.
Through six games, Schmaltz has four assists and no goals. He also has just eight shots on goal. It’s easy to see the problem here: anyone skating on a line with Kane for six games should be averaging far, far more than 1.33 shots per game — Kane is going to create scoring chances. But Schmaltz has been opting to pass the puck too often, resulting in a litany of “SHOOT THE PUCK” calls on social media and from those inside the United Center. Schmaltz has an effective shot. He needs to use it more.
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Chris Kunitz made a brutal turnover in the third period, setting up Arizona’s Clayton Keller for the goal that put the game out of reach. Brandon Manning was on the ice for the other two goals the Coyotes scored and has been on the ice for seven of the 14 even-strength goals surrendered by Chicago this year. Kunitz has been closer to a solid performance in a bottom-six forward role, but Manning’s name consistently comes up when discussing what went wrong among the Chicago defense. Brandon Davidson has to be drawing into the lineup soon.