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I Want It That Way: Blackhawks 4, Stars 2

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Chicago delivered on my one desire: a Blackhawks’ victory Sunday night.

Dallas Stars v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Neither Blackhawks nor the Stars are going to be in the playoffs, but both teams entered the United Center seeking some positive closure to otherwise disappointing ends to the season. It was the Blackhawks who delivered Sunday night, defeating the Stars 4-2 with their youngest lineup to date.

Before the game started, a welcome back video narrated by Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw played as fans were inside the United Center for the first time in over a year. This, combined with The Anthem cheer, made me somewhat emotional, not going to lie.

The first period started with the Blackhawks on their heels early, going down 7-1 in shots before the four-minute mark. Kevin Lankinen was steady enough to allow the Blackhawks to settle, and they eventually opened the scoring with MacKenzie Entwistle’s first NHL goal. Off the rush, Mike Hardman passed along the crease to Entwistle, who tapped it home to put the Blackhawks up 1-0.

The Stars would even the score just over three minutes later by winning a puck battle along the boards behind the net, allowing Dennis Gurianov to cash in off a rebound from a Jamie Benn shot.

The goals from young players didn’t stop there as Brandon Hagel scored just over halfway through the first to put the Blackhawks up 2-1. Dominik Kubalik passed to a streaking Hagel, who used his speed to get separation from the Stars defenders and fired a shot that ricocheted up after hitting the crossbar and then bounced into the net after hitting the ice. Obviously a lucky bounce, but the Blackhawks will take it.

Before the period closed, the Blackhawks extended their lead to 3-1 on the power play with 1:36 remaining in the period. The Blackhawks won a puck battle in the corner, Hagel moved the puck to Patrick Kane alone in the high slot who then set up Alex DeBrincat for his 30th goal of the season.

The second period was scoreless. Some stuff happened but it wasn’t exactly riveting hockey. It was more interesting to jam to DeBrincat’s goal again instead.

The third period opened with a strong push from the Stars, and the inevitable happened as Mark Pysyk scored off a rebound from a shot by Radek Faksa to cut the Blackhawks lead to 3-2 with 17:44 left in the game.

After the Stars goal, the Blackhawks responded with some good momentum the other way. Khudobin had to weather some grade-A chances from the Blackhawks, including this robbery of DeBrincat.

Unfortunately for Khudobin, DeBrincat would not be deterred and scored his second goal of the game and 31st of the season after Khudobin kicked a rebound from a Pius Suter shot right to DeBrincat who made no mistake, extending the Blackhawks lead to 4-2 with 3:12 remaining in the game.

And that’s how the score remained as the Blackhawks defeated the Stars 4-2 in regulation.

Notes

  • This wasn’t a pretty game for the Blackhawks but it was fun. The Stars clearly had the advantage in zone time and scoring chances, but the Blackhawks did a good job of keeping those to one or two chances at a time and not letting them pile up all at once. The Blackhawks also felt dangerous every time they rushed in with the puck, which makes sense seeing as almost 60% of their scoring chances were high-danger.
  • Speaking of Hagel, the phrase “he did everything but score” is often applied to him this season, so he was bound to get a lucky bounce eventually to make up for how often he’s been robbed. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were quite a lot of Hagel jerseys at the United Center next season.
  • Entwistle became the eighth Blackhawks rookie to score his first NHL goal this season. The work he put into his skating over the last couple of seasons has been noticeable.
  • Lankinen had an excellent bounce back game . The Blackhawks allowed 39 shots against and 17 high-danger scoring chances against, both tied for top five most for the season, and Lankinen stood his ground well. It’s great that he got a win in front of the fans, too.
  • Fun fact: 10 of the 20 Blackhawks players on the ice tonight were rookies, 13 of them were 25 or younger, and the average age of the roster was 24.15.
  • With two assists tonight, Kane has 50 now on the season for the seventh time in his career, tying with Doug Weight for the most of any American-born player in league history.
  • We’re pretty much out of words for how great DeBrincat has been this season. He’s scored eight goals in his last six games and is on pace for 50 goals in a normal 82-game season. DeBrincat is also third in the league in goals with 31, behind only Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid. So, yeah, DeBrincat: good at scoring.
  • This season didn’t end how many of us wanted and there is a lot of improvement still needed at the team level, but as I said in the game preview, there is genuine optimism for the future that has been lacking in recent seasons. Even through the ups and downs, I enjoyed the ride with everyone at SCH and hopefully we’ll all be cheering more regularly come next season.
  • Please enjoy the last Blackhawks’ Win Eliza in a game recap for this season:

Game Charts

Three stars

  1. Kevin Lankinen (CHI) — 37 saves on 39 shots
  2. Alex DeBrincat (CHI) — 2 goals
  3. MacKenzie Entwistle (CHI) — first NHL goal

What’s next

The Blackhawks face the Stars again on Monday night at the United Center for a 7 p.m. start in the final game of the season.