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So This is the New Year: Flames 5, Blackhawks 1

It’s a four-game losing streak now.

Calgary Flames v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks are off to a dreadful start in 2022, dropping their second game in as many nights and fourth in a row overall in a 5-1 loss to the Calgary Flames on Sunday night at the United Center.

The first goal of the game came from the Blackhawks, though, when Henrik Borgstrom won a board battle and moved the puck to Patrick Kane, who found an open Alex DeBrincat in the slot for a one-timer and goal:

That lead didn’t last long, though. About three-and-a-half minutes later, Matthew Tkachuk scored when he redirected a Noah Hanifin pass into the Chicago net on a bang-bang play:

The first period ended in a 1-1 tie. Everything went south for the Blackhawks in the second.

First, a pretty soft call gave Calgary a power play. Neither Kane nor DeBrincat were thrilled:

Elias Lindholm scored for Calgary, finding a soft spot in the Chicago zone to one-time a Johnny Gaudreau pass by Arvid Soderblom.

Calgary had a few more power-play chances that did not convert before the Blackhawks were awarded a power play of their own. But it was the Flames who converted during that power play, with Trevor Lewis scoring after an Erik Gustafsson turnover.

Chicago mustered some push in the third period, with Kane hitting two posts in one shift. But the Blackhawks got no closer on the scoreboard while Calgary added an empty-net goal and a garbage-time tally from Gaudreau for the final margin of victory.

Let’s talk about it some more because misery loves company:

Notes

  • The special teams are an absolute disaster. The penalty kill isn’t stopping anyone, the power play isn’t scoring and it even took a turn for the worse by allowing a shorthanded goal against Calgary. The Blackhawks haven’t been all that bad during 5-on-5 play in the last handful of games, but the special teams have made it impossible to win games with their dreadful performances.
  • When Erik Gustafsson signed with the Blackhawks back in October, it was an understandable move borne out of desperation due to a rash of injuries within the team. Three months later, those issues are pretty much gone. Why Gustafsson is in the lineup every single night remains a mystery. He sure as hell doesn’t need to be on the top power-play unit anymore. Just put Seth Jones out there with the PP1 group and leave him. Jones is the one who leads the team in assists, after all.
  • The Blackhawks were outshot 26-9 in the second period. Holy shit, man. At 5-on-5 play it was only a 10-8 shot advantage for Calgary, but that’s indicative of how garbage the penalty kill has been: the Flames had 14 power-play shots on goal during the second period (the other two came while Calgary was shorthanded).
  • Strong showing from Soderblom. He didn’t allow any goals which could be considered “soft” and made several saves in key moments that kept the Blackhawks in the game. He gave his team a chance to win, which is all that can be asked of a 22-year-old goalie in his first NHL debut.
  • Just don’t get too carried away with Soderblom because goalies often take a long time to develop. For example: Corey Crawford made his first start during the 2007-08 2005-06 season. He didn’t become the full-time starter until 2010-11. A positive step for Soderblom, but the best place for him in the short-term is in the No. 1 role for the Rockford IceHogs.
  • John Dietz of the Daily Herald accurately summed up one of the Blackhawks biggest issues this season:
  • It’s now a four-game losing streak. This team still has 51 games to go but it’s hard to muster any sort of optimism about the prospects for the rest of this season so I’m not going to try. Just feels awfully bleak around these parts, doesn’t it?

Game Charts

Three stars

  1. Johnny Gaudreau (CGY) — 1 G, 2 A
  2. Matthew Tkachuk (CGY) — 1 G, 1 A
  3. Jacob Markstrom (CGY) — 30 saves on 31 shots

What’s next

The Blackhawks remain at home and welcome the Colorado Avalanche to the United Center on Tuesday night for a 7:30 p.m. start. And an early heads-up that the game will not be broadcast on any traditional cable outlets but streamed online at ESPN+/Hulu.