The Blackhawks split a weekend back-to-back, defeating the Blue Jackets 4-1 on Saturday night in Columbus before returning home to a 6-3 loss to the Lightning on Sunday. Who’s trending up and trending down after that pair of games? Let’s take a look:
Let’s leave the Blackhawks goaltender at the top of this list, because the most encouraging sign around this team remains Crawford’s play. He played well in a loss against the Coyotes on Thursday and was even better against the Blue Jackets on Saturday, resulting in Chicago’s first regulation win this season.
After trending down late last week because of multiple wasted scoring opportunities, Fortin finally broke through on Sunday night, scoring his first career NHL goal. The goal itself was encouraging, but the manner in which he scored was even more impressive. Fortin recognized that a teammate was about to corral a loose puck and took off up ice, hauling in a perfect pass from Jan Rutta. He then displayed nifty handiwork with the puck, sliding it between the legs of Tampa Bay goalie Louis Domingue. That’s the kind of scoring touch he’d been unable to show off early in his career.
It feels strange to be complimenting a goalie after allowing five goals, but Cam Ward’s performance Sunday kept the Hawks from allowing seven or eight goals against the Lightning. So far, the only disastrous outing from Ward came when he played for the third time in four nights — a tough task for any NHL goalie. If Ward can maintain consistent performances like that, combined with Crawford’s typically excellent play, Chicago will have a chance to win every game it plays.
The aforementioned goalies have had to be excellent because the Blackhawks defense has been atrocious. It’s not just the defensemen, either. The Blackhawks forwards have been committing egregious turnovers that have led to odd-man rushes in the opposite direction. Those poor performances reached a crescendo in the second period Sunday, when the Lightning peppered Ward with 33 shots on goal, tying an NHL record.
Is Brandon Saad ever going to score again? He came painfully close on two shot attempts against Tampa Bay, hitting the post each time. It’s been the story of Saad’s entire second stint in Chicago: so close, but still shy of something better.
Jonathan Toews entered the weekend with at least one point in Chicago’s first six games, but was held off the scoresheet all weekend long. Alex DeBrincat’s point streak extended to seven games when he scored against Columbus, but he also went without a point against the Lightning, ending his scoring streak at seven games.