It feels good to be reading about a Blackhawks win, doesn’t it? Certainly feels better to be writing about a victory. With three days off before Chicago’s next game, a loss against the Oilers would’ve made for an agonizing week of re-hashing everything the Blackhawks hadn’t done through the first four games.
Instead, let’s get to some positives!
Corey Crawford bounced back in a big way.
In his first two starts of the season, Crawford’s play wasn’t quite up to the level set by Chicago’s veteran netminder. But vintage Crawford resurfaced against the Oilers, with a late power play goal by James Neal the only blemish on Crawford’s record. Everything seemed right about Crawford in this one: his tracking of the puck, his control of rebounds and his knack for making clutch saves when the team needed it. The defensive performance in front of Crawford was better on Monday than it had been in the Blackhawks other three games. But whenever that coverage sprung a leak, Crawford was there to make the crucial save Chicago needed.
Making those key saves in big moments will be required of Crawford — and Robin Lehner — all season long.
Alex Nylander giveth, Alex Nylander taketh away
There will be a bright spotlight on Nylander all season long, given that he was traded for a former first-round pick of the Blackhawks and was a top-ten pick himself. And the first two-thirds of Monday’s game didn’t go well for Nylander. He had just three shifts in the first period and spent a good chunk of the second period on the bench as well, largely because he isn’t on any of Chicago’s special teams units. Late in the second period, on Nylander’s fifth shift of the game, he tried skating the puck through the neutral zone and had his pocket picked by Connor McDavid, who quickly turned that turnover into a goal that — fortunately for Chicago — was waved off due to goaltender interference.
Much to Nylander’s credit, though, he made amends in the third period by stripping McDavid of the puck, triggering a scoring chance that he finished for the eventual game-winning goal.
What the Blackhawks will like about this goal is it was Nylander being active in the neutral zone that caused a turnover and led to the scoring chance. pic.twitter.com/JzOmfhSNgX— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) October 15, 2019
Still, it’ll be curious to see how coach Jeremy Colliton handles Nylander going forward. For a player with immense talent, playing 8:20 on the Blackhawks fourth line doesn’t seem like the best way to help Nylander realize his potential. But with the top of the forward lines already jam-packed in Chicago, the only place where he may be able to get top-line minutes with some power play looks may be with the Rockford IceHogs. But plays like the one Nylander made in the third period suggest he may be able to contribute at the NHL level, too.
For the first time this season, Chicago consistently dominated possession for an entire 60 minutes. Even when Edmonton fell behind by two goals in the third period, Chicago still kept a healthy dose of possession that prevented the Oilers from tying the score.
Monday’s game was the first time that Chicago ended up in the positive in even-strength Corsi events and expected goals for this season, leading to no coincidence that it was also the Hawks’ first win. Bottling up the red-hot line of McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Zack Kassian, alone, deserves heaps of praise in the direction of the Chicago defense, especially for the D pairing of Connor Murphy and Duncan Keith combined with David Kampf’s forward line that was on the ice against McDavid’s line for much of the night.