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Beneath This Mask I Am Wearing A Frown: Panthers 4, Blackhawks 2

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The Blackhawks are the loser again for the third time out of their last four games.

Chicago Blackhawks v Florida Panthers Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

The Blackhawks entered Saturday's game with the Panthers hoping to regain their February form, but it wasn’t in the cards, unfortunately, as the Blackhawks lost 4-2 after allowing a three-goal outburst in the second period.

The game started with a scoreless first period, but it was one of the best periods for the Blackhawks this season as they had 68.24 percent of the shot attempts and 72.78 percent of expected goals at 5-on-5. The offense did everything but score that period.

The highlight of the period, though, was on defense: Adam Boqvist made like a sliding Brent Seabrook to break up a shot on goal.

Brandon Hagel opened the scoring less than 30 seconds into the middle frame off a beautiful give-and-go passing play with Dominik Kubalik. This was only Hagel’s second goal of the season despite consistent top-tier effort.

After the Hagel goal, the Panthers came on strong, outshooting the Blackhawks 12-4 at 5-on-5, until the the Panthers broke out for a three-goal outburst in just a 4:33 span.

First, Aleksander Barkov tied the game by cashing in off his own rebound. Anthony Duclair assisted with a slick pass between the legs of Duncan Keith.

Next, Carter Verhaeghe scored his 10th goal of the season to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead with nine minutes to play in the second. The puck appeared to deflect off Philipp Kurashev, but it felt like it was only a matter of time before Verhaeghe was rewarded for his play.

Last, Frank Vatrano extended the Panther’s lead with a shot in-close after a behind the net pass from Owen Tippett.

The Blackhawks were lucky to be only down 3-1 at the end of the period considering how overwhelming the Panthers were on the ice.

The third period opened with the Panthers continuing to dominate, and it felt like the Blackhawks were just trying to stem the bleeding at that point. Unfortunately, they couldn’t do that completely as Barkov scored his second of the game off another assist from Duclair.

Boqvist would get one back for the Blackhawks in the waning minutes of the game. The seeing-eye shot went through heavy traffic in front, and was Boqvist’s second of the season. The Blackhawks trailed by two with 1:32 left to play in the game.

But the Blackhawks didn’t get a shot on net in the remaining time and fell 4-2 to the Panthers.

Notes

  • The first period was as good as the Blackhawks have been this season, but it was all Panthers after that. The Blackhawks were outshot 29 to 15 and had only around a 38 percent expected goals share. Credit Coach Q, who blended his lines and dictated matchups to have his team break out, but the Blackhawks should have had some kind of response that wasn’t, “Stop, stop, we’re already dead.”
  • The Debrincat-Kane line was especially hounded by Ekblad-Weegar and Barkov. Kane was still able to generate four scoring chances at 5-on-5, but the Panthers stifled the usual otherworldly connection between Cat and Kane.
  • Now that goaltending has been good but not elite, the Blackhawks are starting to bleed goals in addition to shots again. They allowed six unanswered goals to the Tampa Bay Lighting, four unanswered to the Dallas Stars, and almost had four unanswered goals to the Panthers if not for the late Boqvist goal.
  • Good news is the kids are still giving us reason to watch in even the most lopsided of losses as Hagel and Boqvist both scored for their second goals of the season. The give-and-go between Hagel and Kubalik was a beaut and Boqvist also had a stellar overall game on top of his goal, even with a miscue here or there.
  • The last handful of games could be the wake-up call the Blackhawks needed because — and let’s be completely honest — they’re not what their record makes them appear to be. There is so much potential in this group, and they’ve obviously been missing some vital players all season, but there definitely needs to be more emphasis on sustainable performances on the ice.
  • Even these cringe-worthy games are good learning experiences for the young Blackhawks, which is still what this season is all about. Adversity, perseverance, and adaptability are just as valuable lessons as resiliency.

Game Charts

Three stars

  1. Aleksander Barkov (FLA) — 2 goals, 25:08 time on ice
  2. Anthony Duclair (FLA) — 3 assists
  3. Carter Verhaeghe (FLA) — 1 goal, 1 assist

What’s next

The Blackhawks face the Panthers again on Monday at BB&T Center for a 6 p.m. start.