The Blackhawks are now 0-2-1 to start the season thanks to a 5-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday night.
Penguins opened the scoring just 15 seconds into the first period when Teddy Blueger’s centering pass went off a sliding Seth Jones’ and in the net. Not a great start, obviously.
NHL Video Highlight - Teddy Blueger scores against the Chicago Blackhawks to make it 1-0. pic.twitter.com/pFq9e9y7gQ— Chicago Blackhawks Bot (@BHawksGameBot) October 16, 2021
A turnover by Marc-André Fleury behind the net ended up with Drew O’Connor putting the Penguins up 2-0 just over five minutes later.
NHL Video Highlight - Drew O'Connor scores against the Chicago Blackhawks to make it 2-0. pic.twitter.com/62ZSUDPmaV— Chicago Blackhawks Bot (@BHawksGameBot) October 16, 2021
The pain just kept coming as the Penguins scored twice more in 26 seconds midway through the period to go up 4-0.
First, the Blackhawks allowed yet another odd-man rush against which leads to a Brock McGinn goal.
Second, Danton Heinen was left open in the slot for a point blank shot that beat Fleury.
After that goal, Kevin Lankinen replaced Fleury in the net. The Blackhawks weathered the rest of the first period but entered the second with the Penguins having more goals (4) than the Blackhawks had shots on goal (3).
The second period had a better start: the Blackhawks scored a power play goal after a one-timer from Patrick Kane finds the back of the net.
However, the Penguins regained their four-goal lead before the period ended. Jason Zucker jammed home a bad rebound into a yawning net as Lankinen lost his crease to put the Penguins up 5-1 with 2:05 left in the middle frame.
NHL Video Highlight - Jason Zucker scores a shorthanded goal against the Chicago Blackhawks to make it 5-1. pic.twitter.com/qDf9hw4qb9— Chicago Blackhawks Bot (@BHawksGameBot) October 17, 2021
The Blackhawks managed a late third-period goal coursey of Kirby Dach after a pretty pass from Brandon Hagel, but unfortunately they were unable muster up any more of a comeback than that.
So Penguins defeat the Blackhawks 5-2, leaving the latter team still searching for their first win of the season.
- Let’s start with some good news: after being arguably the Blackhawks best forward in the first two games, Dach was elevated to center DeBrincat and Kane from the start of the game, and they were the best line of the night. The trio finished with 63.64 percent of the shot share and 70.74 percent of the expected goals share when on the ice together in 9:22 at 5-on-5. More of that please. They did get broken up in the third period, but that was more about the other lines’ issues than them as a unit.
- Hagel continued to impress, with and without the puck. He didn’t attempt any shots, but he was forechecking like a machine all night and consistently trying to set his linemates up. He got moved to play with Dach and Kane for the third period and assisted on Dach’s goal. His playmaking isn’t necessarily creative, but it can be effective.
- The power play was solid again tonight, even in the instances when the players didn’t get a goal. If the Blackhawks can learn to score at 5-on-5 while maintaining the power play prowess, they could be a formidable team — at least offensively.
- Moving on to the bad news ... Fleury wasn’t his best tonight, but he also was the recipient of bad luck and the team in front of him playing like crap. He reportedly was so angry after being pulled, that he was slamming things in the visitor hallway. At some point, the team in front has to give the goaltenders a fighting chance and not dig themselves into an early grave. Murphy and Kane acknowledged post-game that the team let Fleury down in a major way:
Connor Murphy:— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) October 17, 2021
"Poor Flower. The guy’s an All-Star and we just leave him two of those games with those great opportunities right off the bat. He deserves a lot better from us."
Patrick Kane: "Obviously we feel bad leaving Flower out to dry, especially him coming back to Pittsburgh. To perform like that in front of him in the first period is unacceptable." #Blackhawks— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) October 17, 2021
- Lankinen did well in relief, stopping 15 of 16 shots for a save percentage of .938, but he also had a lot more help from the team in front of him than Fleury did. Also, the Penguins weren’t playing as hard in the final two periods, which is something a team can afford when up by four goals.
- Colliton has opted to have more of an energy fourth line combination of Khaira, Entwistle, and Gaudette these last couple of games, and they’ve been fine in that role. The issue is that with no other defensive line, Jonathan Toews is back to getting the heaviest assignments the entire game, which just isn’t ideal.
- There are slow starts and then there’s whatever the fuck happened tonight. Yeah, the first goal against was a bad bounce break, but it doesn’t happen if the Blackhawks could even slightly limit rushes against. One of the other three goals in the first period were also off an odd-man rush. The Blackhawks have been outscored 8-1 and outshot 38-17 in first periods so far. Beyond disappointing.
- The Blackhawks also left the slot wide open several time, which resulted in a goal against, and struggled mightily to generate anything of merit on the cycle, which stifles goal generation. It’s so very déjà vu, it’s exhausting at this point, and we’re only three games into the season.
- Normally a three-game sample isn’t much to read into, but these are not new negative trends — they’ve been around for years now. It’s absolutely concerning when the personnel is supposedly talented enough to at least be competitive. It feels a lot like the Blackhawks are just running in circles at this point.
- Kane was admirably optimistic that the Blackhawks could right the ship, but it’s going to need to happen sooner rather than later or they’ll have taken on too much water to get anywhere in the season. If the Blackhawks lose their home opener on Tuesday, it feels like something will need to be done ... whatever that might be.
Patrick Kane: "I don't think there's any need or room to panic, especially when we haven't even had a home game yet. We're going to find a way to turn this around." #Blackhawks— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) October 17, 2021
- Brock McGinn (PIT) — 2 points, 1 goal
- Drew O’Connor (PIT) — 2 points, 1 goal
- Kirby Dach (CHI) — 1 goal
The Blackhawks face the New York Islanders for their home opener at the United Center Tuesday night at 7:00 pm.