1. Robin Lehner had a very solid debut.
Lehner’s 30 save performance Saturday should excite the organization and fanbase. There isn’t a team in the NHL that has a ‘backup’ that was a Vezina Trophy finalist. Throughout the game he made a number of challenging saves through screens and wide-open backdoor attempts look easy, including stops on Mark Scheifele and Jack Roslovic in the second period. Check out this sequence from Lehner:
Lehner’s movement from post to post was a lot quicker than expected, he pushed the majority of his rebounds away from the danger areas and picked up where he left off last season with the Islanders. It was unfortunate that Sheifele’s one-timer in overtime dipped on him.
Lehner on GWG: "The third goal, it just dove on me. He missed his shot. It’s unfortunate. But I thought I made some good saves and felt comfortable. We got a point, which is something, but should’ve got a win today."— Tracey Myers (@Tramyers_NHL) October 13, 2019
2. Connor Murphy and Duncan Keith pairing was a positive
For most of last season and in the first two games this season, head coach Jeremy Colliton has stuck Keith with an offensive-minded partner in Erik Gustafsson. In Friday’s practice, the top pairing was switched up and Murphy, a more defensive-minded defenseman, joined Keith. They played 18:09-minutes together at 5-on-5 with a 60 Corsi-For rating, a 57.1 defensive zone start ratio and gave up zero scoring chances in 2:07 minutes of shorthanded time together.
Murphy, who is becoming a skilled shot blocker, dove across the slot and smothered a high-danger opportunity during the chaotic second period. He finished the game with three hits, two blocks, a plus-1 rating and drew the penalties on both of Chicago’s power play attempts. Getting Murphy and Calvin de Haan back in the lineup will be huge for the Blackhawks. Expect Colliton to give the Murphy-Keith pairing another look Monday against the Oilers, since they were the best pairing Saturday.
3. Forward line combinations still need tinkering.
Blackhawks need to figure out a way to ignite Jonathan Toews, or find him the right linemates. His offense hasn't been there, and Copp was his man on the game-tying goal late in the third.— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) October 13, 2019
In three games, Jonathan Toews has zero points, six shots and a 47.7 faceoff winning percentage. If Toews isn’t producing, the Blackhawks have no chance at the playoffs.
The fourth line of Zack Smith - Ryan Carpenter - Alexander Nylander/Brendan Perlini and third line of Brandon Saad - David Kampf - Dominik Kubalik look to be set in stone until top prospect Kirby Dach finishes his conditioning stint with the IceHogs in the AHL. However, the top six needs changes.
There’s no reason to break up the chemistry between Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat, so they should link back up on the second line with Andrew Shaw. Patrick Kane looked invisible with Strome and Shaw and should be placed with Toews. Drake Caggiula, who hustles every shift, wins puck battles, finishes checks and gets to the front of the net should get a chance to resurrect the top line that did major damage last season.
Top lines across the NHL are dangerous because they are stable. Each member of the line, like in Boston with Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak, knows their role and where the others will be when one of them gets the puck because they spend every practice together. It’s time to stop experimenting and give Kane and Toews a linemate that doesn’t change every game.