The Blackhawks, for the second time in two nights, could not hold a lead heading into the 3rd period in tonight’s 5-3 loss to Winnipeg. The Blackhawks head into the All-Star Break ailing with a plethora of issues, starting on the blue line. Coach Quenneville will need to iron out some of these issues in order to get the Hawks back on track for the remainder of the season. Let’s break it down.
The Blackhawks started the game relatively strong, peppering goaltender Connor Hellebuyck with shots early on. Hellebuyck looked very sharp, however, and did not allow many second-chance scoring opportunities to Chicago. Later on in the frame, Richard Panik took a goaltender interference penalty which slowed the Blackhawks’ momentum down. The Jets capitalized on the power-play when Bryan Little found Patrik Laine in the slot for a one-timer goal. Nikolaj Ehlers got the secondary assist at 6:16. Just 42 seconds later, Jacob Trouba ripped a slapshot from the point that deflected off of the skate of defenseman Brian Campbell, right onto the goal-line behind Scott Darling. Shawn Matthias tapped it home to give Winnipeg the wondrous, yet dangerous 2-0 lead. There was no secondary assist on the goal. Despite leading Winnipeg in shots on goal and overall play at the time, the Hawks found themselves in a two-goal deficit early in the 1st period. After a couple of good shifts, things finally began to pay off for the Blackhawks. At 13:02, Brent Seabrook was hooked by Nic Petan and Chicago would have its first power-play of the night. They made quick work on that power-play, as on the ensuing faceoff, Artem Anisimov won the puck back to Brent Seabrook who then made a pass along the blue line to Duncan Keith who fired a shot past Hellebuyck to cut the Jets’ lead in half at 13:07. The period would finish 2-1 in favor of Winnipeg, but the Blackhawks definitely outplayed their opposition for the majority of the period. Shot totals after the first 20 minutes were 18-8 Chicago.
The Blackhawks have a 32-20 shot lead over Winnipeg after two periods, but more importantly a 3-2 lead as well. The Hawks put plenty of pressure on Hellebuyck and the rest of the Jets team throughout the period, and the results of that pressure were exceptional. At 4:00, Nick Schmaltz picked the puck up in the offensive zone to the left of Hellebuyck, looked to pass, and then fired a short-side wrister over the shoulder of the Jets’ netminder to tie the game up at 2-2. A huge goal for Schmaltz, who has improved quite a bit since after being demoted to Rockford earlier in the season. The Hawks continued to play at a comfortable pace, yielding occasional scoring chances to Winnipeg that Scott Darling took care of. The game was entirely in their hands, though. After a lucky bounce off of a linesman, a beautiful executed give-and-go by Tanner Kero and Patrick Kane near the right face-off circle led to Kero putting the Blackhawks up 3-2 with 3:23 remaining in the period. Assists to Kane and van Riemsdyk on the play. The period would finish 3-2 in favor of Chicago, with only 20 minutes left to go in the game. Both teams took three minor penalties in the period, though at the 20:00 mark, Blake Wheeler was called for goalie interference that will allow the Blackhawks to start the 3rd period with a 1:40 power-play. Shot totals from the 2nd period were 14-12 Chicago.
In what seemed like such a promising game for the Blackhawks, another 3rd period lead has disappeared, and has costed the Blackhawks two points. Goals were scored at 15:57, 16:29, and 17:57 by Andrew Copp, Bryan Little, and Mark Scheifele (EN) respectively. The Blackhawks chose to sit back and play defensive hockey towards the end of the game which costed them again tonight. Outside of a Jonathan Toews breakaway attempt that was stopped, the Hawks produced close to nothing in the final frame of tonight’s contest. Winnipeg wins a big game, and their fourth in a row against Chicago.
Another highly disappointing finish, and plenty of head frustration to go around. The Blackhawks need to improve now, if they want to make noise come playoff time. A tough one to shake off, no doubt.
Enjoy the All-Star Weekend.