Turn Me Loose: Blackhawks 4, Flames 3
The Chicago Blackhawks won a hockey game for the first time since March 16 on Tuesday night, defeating the Calgary Flames 4-3 to snap an eight-game losing skid.
Chicago grabbed the lead early in this one, with some neat passing from Jonathan Toews and Lukas Reichel setting up a nice scoring chance for Andreas Athanasiou, who made no mistake:
That lead survived for about six minutes, until consecutive turnovers from Toews and Seth Jones in prime offensive real estate led to this goal from Tyler Toffoli:
But Chicago took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission thanks to this nifty backhand goal from Jujhar Khaira in the final minute of the opening period:
In the middle of the second period, Calgary tied the game at two by converting this Austin Wagner turnover at the Chicago blue line into a prime scoring chance for Noah Hanifin:
In about 90 seconds of the third period, though, the Blackhawks grabbed a 4-2 lead. First, Athanasiou scored again at the 1:42 mark of the third, but the real highlight is the outstanding pass from Lukas Reichel to set it up:
Then Austin Wagner sniped this one into the Calgary net:
Calgary pulled back within one at the 13:09 mark of the final period on this Mikael Backlund goal which was less about what he did and more about the positioning of Ian Mitchell's left skate:
But the Flames would get no closer, losing 4-3 in a game they desperately needed to remain the playoff chase.
Obviously, not the expected result. So let's get to some notes:
- First: Lukas Reichel did something cool in this game, and that's never going to be a bad thing. A pair of primary assists – with the second one worthy of another watch – is yet another solid outing.
- It's crazy how quickly Ian Mitchell has gone from a guy doing everything right in Rockford last season – with the Blackhawks seemingly pumping those tires in preparation for this season – to a guy who seems like he could be traded or allowed to walk in free agency over the summer. The final branch to be grasped at here is that Mitchell missed all of training camp with an injury and perhaps a healthy preseason in the fall helps turn things around. But, other than that ... yikes.
- At least take a moment to enjoy the high comedy that is the Calgary Flames potentially missing out on the Stanley Cup Playoffs this summer because they got swept by this version of the Blackhawks. Three games vs. Chicago and an 0-2-1 record for Calgary. Just hilarious stuff.
- Alex Vlasic had a few shifts in the final minutes of this game as the Hawks were clinging to that one-goal lead, which is good exposure for the youngster. Long, long way from here to being a reliable top-four defenseman but it does feel like a few steps forward have been taken this season between his NHL and AHL seasons.
- So this obviously doesn't help The Plan™:
And, as of this writing, the San Jose Sharks are down 3-1 to the Colorado Avalanche and it's fair to conclude that the defending Cup champions will close that one out [UPDATE: Colorado won, but it took overtime, so SJ got a point]. But the Blackhawks had already lost eight games in a row and they simply weren't going to lose 14 straight to end the season: that's just unsustainably bad, a term that's been applicable too many times this season. This game feels more of an indictment of the Flames' hockey abilities than anything related to the Blackhawks. Of Chicago's five remaining games, it's one against a Vancouver team that's beaten the Blackhawks rather convincingly twice this season already, three playoff teams and then the Philadelphia Flyers. It doesn't seem far-fetched that they could lose at least four of those games if not all five. So don't leap off of Mt. Bedard just yet.
- Only those five left and then, maybe, we get to hope for Blackhawks wins again. That'll be a nice change.
- Andreas Athansiou (CHI) – 2 goals
- Lukas Reichel (CHI) – 2 primary assists
- Noah Hanifin (CGY) – 1 goal, 1 assist
The Blackhawks head over to British Columbia to face the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night for a 9 p.m. start.