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Running Up That Hill: Blue Jackets 4, Blackhawks 1

Any question about which team is the worst in the NHL was just put to bed (before midnight!).

Chicago Blackhawks v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Justin Berl/NHLI via Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks were thoroughly outplayed by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday afternoon at Nationwide Arena as they lost by a final score of 4-1.

The first big moment of the game seemed to bode well for the Blackhawks, as Alex Stalock and his stick absolutely robbed Johnny Gaudreau of a wide open net.

A minute after Stalock kept the game scoreless, Isaak Phillips made a nice read to keep the puck in the Columbus zone before tipping it to Andres Athanasiou, who sniped it past Joonas Korpisalo for Athanasiou’s eighth goal of the season. The assist was Phillips’ first NHL point.

Seth Jones took two bad penalties in the last seven minutes and the Blue Jackets tied it up with just over a minute remaining after Jason Dickinson’s stick broke while blocking an Adam Boqvist shot and Gaudreau found a wide open Emil Bemstrom with a cross-ice pass for a PP goal.

The second period started with Athanasiou utilizing his speed on the rush to draw two separate penalties for the Hawks. During their second power play, Jonathan Toews was stripped along the boards and the breakout led to a 2-on-2 where Jack Roslovic and Gustav Nyquist outworked Seth Jones and Max Domi to beat Stalock for a shorthanded goal.

Chicago continued to sit back on their heels in the second while failing to generate any sort of offensive pressure until a late penalty against Marcus Bjork gave them yet another power play. The top unit held an extended cycle and created some decent looks but confusion after the penalty was over led to a backbreaker of a goal. Gaudreau set up Kirill Marchenko with three seconds left while the Hawks only had four skaters on the ice.

Connor Murphy took a hooking penalty thirty seconds into the third period and the Hawks seemed to be a step behind, chasing Columbus for the rest of the final period.

Coach Luke Richardson pulled Stalock late when Chicago got another power play. The 6-on-4 sequence gave the Hawks a few good looks — including a Max Domi shot off the crossbar — but Nyquist sent home an empty-netter with 39 seconds left to end the game.

Notes

  • Possession numbers say the Hawks and Blue Jackets were basically even in the first period. Then the second period happened:
  • The Hawks were absolutely outplayed all second period and I honestly don’t know what’s more embarrassing: the 86 percent xGF% or giving up a goal in the last five seconds while only having four skaters on the ice.
  • The Hawks have now given up a goal in the final minute of the second period in four of their last six games.
  • Any positives to be taken from this game start and end with Isaak Phillips, Andreas Athanasiou and Alex Stalock.
  • If you’re going to be bad — which they just flat out are — you could at least be fun, and I really enjoy watching Stalock. Whether it was him hurling himself across the crease for the stick save on Gaudreau or the on-ice microphone picking him up as he told Johnny Hockey to go fuck himself, he definitely brought an element of chaos to an otherwise boring/bad game.
  • Athanasiou’s speed was evident all afternoon and I appreciate that he was ultimately rewarded with the Hawks lone goal. I’m pretty sure that everyone has said it before at some point, but what a weapon he would be for a contending team which could utilize him properly.
  • Phillips ended up with the Blackhawks’ highest individual game score. His quick tip up to Athanasiou on their only goal was equally as impressive as his read to keep the puck in Columbus’ offensive zone in the first place. I also loved that he hustled back to rag doll Gaudreau after he whiffed on a slap shot that sent the Blue Jackets back on a rush.
  • Richardson went with the nuclear option in the third and sent Max Domi out at left wing on a line with Toews and Kane, but ultimately it didn’t do much, as their line ended up with a 34 percent xGF%.
  • “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush had a weird pop culture rebirth this year after it was used in an episode of Stranger Things. It also wins the award for the song I’ve seen the most people listening to alone in their cars while openly weeping (three!) this year — and somehow that feels not only fitting but parallel to being a Chicago Blackhawks fan right now.
  • Happy New Year’s Eve everyone. Have fun. Stay safe.

Game Charts

Three Stars

  1. Johnny Gaudreau (CBJ) — 2 assists
  2. Gustav Nyquist (CBJ) — 2 goals, including the game-winner
  3. Emil Bemstrom (CBJ) — 1 goal, 6 shots

What’s Next

The Chicago Blackhawks head back home to the United Center to play the San Jose Sharks on Sunday at 6 p.m.