For a game that wasn’t a blowout in any sense of the word, it certainly didn’t feel like this was ever the Blackhawks’ game.
The Columbus Blue Jackets, looking for their first win of the season, pressured the Blackhawks early and often. Brandon Saad came out in full force against his old team, registering an astounding seven shots on goal. Many of those were prime chances, on breakaways or otherwise alone against Corey Crawford.
The Blackhawks cut down on penalties this game; they were only whistled for minor penalties twice. So the discipline was better, but the penalty kill? That’s still garbage, as it failed both times. Rookie defenseman Zach Werenski opened up scoring on the powerplay halfway into the first with a laser of a shot. While Tyler Motte cashed in on a rebound early in the second to tie the game, another penalty left the Blackhawks shorthanded just a minute later.
And — surprise! The Blue Jackets took the lead again, with Nick Foligno shoveling home a shot from — you guessed it — Zach Werenski. Columbus extended their lead to three when William Karlsson directed in a shot from defenseman David Savard midway through the second.
Richard Panik gave the Blackhawks some hope when he batted in a bouncing puck early in the third. Despite a late power play for the Blackhawks — giving them a 6-on-4 advantage after pulling Crawford — they weren’t able to find the equalizer, giving the Blue Jackets the win.
- The drama over whether Brian Campbell would be a healthy scratch and end a 300+ game playing streak ended early. Quenneville revealed that they would play seven defenseman and go a forward short. Marian Hossa was out due to injury and Vinnie Hinostroza was a healthy scratch for reasons no one appeared to feel compelled to investigate. With the line juggling going on, nothing made much sense. Patrick Kane played nearly 30 minutes. Brian Campbell found himself being used as a forward, sometimes. This kind of chaos surely couldn’t have helped the team gel very much.
- The seven defenseman issue was resolved in unfortunate fashion in the second, when Trevor van Riemsdyk went crashing into the net. He left the game with an arm injury and is now expected to miss at least a month. For as much of a scapegoat as van Riemsdyk’s been for his performance, you don’t want to see anyone get injured.
- Once again it’s been role players and rookies propping the game up and the veterans who haven’t stepped up. Marcus Kruger, who’s getting paid a ton of money to be the team’s defensive shutdown center and PK specialist, was on the ice for both goals allowed by the PK units. You can’t blame the rookies for this one, either; the only rookies to see significant PK time are Tyler Motte and Michal Kempny.
- The PK is bad. It’s so bad. It’s so bad that I want to stop calling it the PK, because I don’t want to sully the good initials-name of PK Subban.
- At least last season when the penalty kill ailed, the power play was there to pick up slack, but even that is getting off to a slow start this year. The Blackhawks essentially had four minutes with the man advantage when the Blue Jackets took two overlapping penalties. They got off a handful of shots but nothing significantly dangerous, and seemed to look to want to pass far too often. With penalties being an inevitable part of the game, special teams need to be better all around.
The Toronto Maple Leafs come to the United Center tonight, providing Blackhawks fans the opportunity to see their new young core. Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander should make for an exciting game, if you’re into appreciating what other teams have. This game should be winnable, but at this point, I’m not putting anything past this version of the Blackhawks.
(Photo: Sarah Avampato)