The Blackhawks looked better on Friday night. But “better” still wasn’t enough to overcome the defending Stanley Cup champions, with the Lightning winning 5-2 in the finale of this season-opening back-to-back.
It was a much better start, though, with the Blackhawks owning advantages in shots (11-7), scoring chances (14-11) and high-danger chances (5-3) in the first 20 minutes, according to Natural Stat Trick. Chicago continued its strong start into the second period before a series of blunders by goaltender Collin Delia:
Tampa added two more goals in the next six minutes, taking a 3-0 advantage that revived memories of Wednesday’s blowout.
But the Blackhawks rallied.
First, Alex DeBrincat scored his first goal of the season with this power play one-timer set up by Dylan Strome:
DeBrincat wasn’t done. About two minutes later, DeBrincat set up Kane for another Chicago goal:
Chicago got no closer, though. Late in the third period, goals from Yanni Gourde and Steven Stamkos put the game out of reach.
- That was a vintage DeBrincat goal. A one-timer just under the bar was one of the sharpest tools in DeBrincat’s arsenal during his first two seasons. One goal doesn’t signal the end of the slump that plagued him last season but it’s a heckuva start.
- The power play, in general, looked pretty good on Friday night. One of the biggest gripes in the recent past was the consistently failed strategy of giving the puck to Kane along the wall on the right side with four stationary players looking at him, waiting for something to happen. Through the first two games, the puck and the Blackhawks players have been in motion much more often and that should lead to continued scoring chances and, hopefully, goals.
- Delia’s gaffe turned the game in the second period, although he did stop multiple breakaways and can be credited for righting the ship after that miscue. It’s still early in the season, neither Delia nor Subban have a ton of experience, so these things are probably going to keep happening. Whichever goalie can eliminate those mistakes first will be the one that earns more playing time.
- Let’s talk about that Gourde goal, which effectively ended the game. For those listening to Pat and Eddie on the Blackhawks’ home broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago, there was a quick scapegoat for that goal. I have serious issues with that designation:
Ideally that pass to Gourde doesn't go through Boqvist's skates but can't just pin that on 27. Also, DeBrincat covered for Boqvist nicely and was back in the D zone.— Second City Hockey (@2ndCityHockey) January 16, 2021
There was someone else that could probably be blamed here:
See if you can spot the guy who probably could've done more to stop this breakout before it even started:https://t.co/LB1HfKipIU— Second City Hockey (@2ndCityHockey) January 16, 2021
Don’t wanna blame Kane for that one? Fine. But there’s also no justification for pinning that one on Boqvist. Jumping into the play in the third period of a game that his team is trailing by one goal is exactly the kind of thing Boqvist should be doing.
- Credit the Blackhawks for coming back after falling behind 3-0, because it would’ve been easy to pack it in for the evening. It’s hard to evaluate the young players when games get out of hand in a hurry like they did on Wednesday. The only way development is going to happen is if they get to play in games that are being contested and Friday’s presented those opportunities.
- Speaking of young players: Ian Mitchell was on the ice for 14 shot attempts with just five against, a 73.68 CF%. He did start in the offensive zone 100 percent of the time, so the minutes are easier than others. But that’s a good start.
- Tampa is off the schedule until March. Easier opponents await and then we can really learn more about this team.
- Steven Stamkos (TBL) — 1 goal, 1 assist
- Alex DeBrincat (CHI) — 1 goal, 1 assist
- Blake Coleman (TBL) — 1 goal, 1 assist
The Blackhawks will stay in Florida but will head to Sunrise for a pair of games against former coach Joel Quenneville and the Panthers starting on Sunday night.