For the first time in 2022, the Blackhawks were victorious! They snapped a six-game losing streak by defeating the Vegas Golden Knights 2-1 on Saturday night.
The game was also Marc-André Fleury’s homecoming to Vegas, where the team showed him much love with an opening video tribute and a standing ovation from the fans:
Unfortunately, the feel-good mood didn’t last long as Vegas took a 1-0 lead just 5:17 into the first period. Ben Hutton scored his first goal as a Golden Knight with a perfectly placed shot through traffic.
Luckily, the second period started much better for the Blackhawks: Jujhar Khaira scored to tie the game with a quick wrist shot goal while on a 2-on-1.
Then Riley Stillman put the Blackhawks up 2-1 with 5:39 left in the period when his long shot deflected off Brett Howden past Robin Lehner.
The Knights would dominate the third period, but Fleury stopped all 10 shots faced in the period to propel the Blackhawks to a 2-1 victory.
- The slow starts for the Blackhawks continued tonight: they allowed a goal just over five minutes into the game and had only four shots on goal in the first period, with none coming after the 6:59 mark. Not ideal, especially considering they had a powerplay.
- The second period was a solid bounce back for the Blackhawks and they were rewarded with two goals for their effort. The second period used to be one of pain for the Blackhawks, but they’ve been good there as of late: they’ve outscored opponents 5-1 in their last three games.
- The only negative — outside of the first period — was that Ian Mitchell skated only 7:24, which is almost pointless. Either Mitchell should get regular third-pairing minutes or he should be back in Rockford getting top-pair minutes. There was nothing in his short time that suggested he couldn’t have played more and done well at it.
- Fleury was great in his Vegas homecoming: he stopped 30 of 31 shots faced for a .968 save-percentage. Especially early in the game, a lot of the shots Fleury faced were high quality and he earned the high marks for the game.
- It was great that the Blackhawks were finally able to win a game in the new year, but it was also special that Fleury got the W in Vegas, especially after the team did him dirty in Pittsburgh earlier in the season. And the fans in Vegas sure do love Flower:
Such a cool moment. Loudest cheer of the night goes to Fleury as he leaves the ice pic.twitter.com/aVciJX9p1H— David Stepanian (@davidstepanian_) January 9, 2022
- And Fleury has respect for the fans and the game as a whole too. It’s just really hard not to cheer for this guy:
Fleury: "To do what I love and to have the respect of my teammates and fans, people in the community, that means a lot to me. It's something I want when I leave the game: To not just be known as a hockey player. That's why it's something emotional for me to have those nights."— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) January 9, 2022
- Fleury doesn’t get all the credit: the team in front did an admirable job helping out their netminder to close out the third. There was still a lot of good chances against, but the Blackhawks did well at sweeping away second opportunities and disrupting the Knights’ cycle.
- Despite not getting a point, Jonathan Toews had another extremely effective game and led both teams with 0.35 expected goals. It’s great to see the captain really finding his groove.
- The playoffs are out of the picture for the Blackhawks obviously, but the chances of winning the lottery are slim as well, so I’d personally rather see the team do as well as they can for the rest of the season. Ending on a positive note would be better than nothing.
(Natural Stat Trick’s website remains down this evening, so those charts were not available)
- Marc-Andre Fleury (CHI) — 30 saves on 31 shots, .968 save-percentage
- Jujhar Khaira (CHI) — 1 goal
- Riley Stillman (CHI) — 1 goal
The Blackhawks face the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Tuesday for a 6 p.m. start.