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Hotline Bling: Blackhawks at Maple Leafs

Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

The Blackhawks head to Toronto on Monday night, looking to get back back into the win column while at at Scotiabank Arena after dropping their last two games. Their first few opponents haven’t been easy to start the season so far — faced off against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins, Brad Marchand and the Boston Bruins, and a “Hockey Night in Canada” game against the Montreal Canadiens — and that continues with them taking on Auston Matthews and the Maple Leafs.

The Maple Leafs have managed to win their first two games, but it’s been a loose performance from them so far. They started the season with a wild 6-5 shootout win over the Montreal Canadiens last Wednesday in which they allowed the Habs to score three goals in the first half of the third period to take a 5-3 lead. Luckily, Matthews put on his superhero cape and scored twice in the final five minutes to push it to overtime and ultimately a shootout win on a Mitch Marner goal. Their second game against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday was also a high-scoring affair, a 7-4 outing in which the Wild did get within one goal midway through the second period before the Leafs pulled away with three goals in about three minutes of the third period.

The usual suspects are definitely out in force offensively so far for Toronto. Matthews has two hat tricks, William Nylander has three goals and two assists, and John Tavares has five assists. From the back end, Morgan Reilly and John Klingberg both have three assists. Matthews is chasing a bit of history as well: if he gets another hat trick against the Blackhawks, he’d be the only player with three consecutive games with at least three goals at any point in a season. Currently, he’s already just the fifth player in NHL history to start a season with back-to-back hat tricks.

The Blackhawks will also see a familiar face in Max Domi, who spent last season with the Blackhawks before being traded to the Dallas Stars for a second-round pick in the 2025 NHL Entry Draft. He signed a one-year deal with Toronto in early July.

Lines for the Maple Leafs seemed to be holding steady from their previous game. They’re a top-heavy roster, but their lower lines can hold their own: the third line has the Leafs’ top forward prospect in Matthew Knies and the aforementioned Domi, who the Blackhawks know firsthand can be a contributor. Their bottom line is lead by another former Blackhawk, David Kampf, who continues to be a strong defensive presence whenever on the ice. The defense core has a lot of big names — including yet another former Blackhawk in Jake McCabe — but they’ve definitely been working out kinks defensively in the first couple of games.

After an entertaining come-from-behind win in their first game against Pittsburgh, the Blackhawks have managed to lose their last two games against the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens. The Boston game was somewhat expected: despite losing veteran leadership in players like Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins are still expected to be a playoff team in the East. The Blackhawks played the Bruins decently close for the most part, and Connor Bedard scored his first goal of the season, so there were positives about that performance. The Canadiens game, though, was a lackluster affair in which the young roster from Montreal seemed to skate circles around the Blackhawks. The 3-2 score made it seem closer than it was, thanks in part to a late gritty goal by Tyler Johnson, but the Blackhawks looked more lost defensively than in either of the previous games.

The Blackhawks are not expected to win a lot this season, which is fine, but there is hope that the effort will be there more consistently than in years past. One out of three games being unwatchable for 40 minutes isn’t ideal. The Blackhawks will need to be at their best to keep up with a fast, highly offensive team like the Maple Leafs. It’s especially a good barometer for the young players like Bedard, Lukas Reichel, Kevin Korchinski, and others as they adjust fully to the NHL. Bedard, in particular, is looking forward to this match up thanks to facing Auston Matthews:

The main thing that came out of Blackhawks practice Sunday was the expectation that Taylor Hall was going to play against the Maple Leafs. Hall has been out with an upper-body injury (shoulder) since a hit from Brandon Carlo took him out of the Boston game last week. He was originally listed as week-to-week, but his status was updated to day-to-day Friday, and Hall wants to play Monday despite not being 100%.

With Hall back in the lineup, the Blackhawks lines shuffled again. Taylor Raddysh was pushed back to the second line and Andreas Athanasiou was demoted down to the fourth line in place of Reese Johnson. Cole Guttman may sit for his first game of the season in favor of MacKenzie Entwistle. The grossest thing about the lines from Sunday was that Nikita Zaisev took rushes half the time with Tinordi, possibility indicating he’s going in and Wyatt Kaiser is coming out. There isn’t usually an issue with sitting younger players to give them rest, but it’s still a bit vomit-inducing to think of a pylon pairing of Tinordi and Zaitsev together.

How to watch

When: 6 p.m. CT

Where: Scotiabank Centre, Toronto

TV: NBC Sports Chicago, NHL Network

Webstream: ESPN+/Hulu

Radio: WGN 720

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