Friday, June 2, 2023

Blackhawks Avoid Disaster, Best Blue Jackets 6-5 in Shootout


Despite blowing three leads in the contest, the Chicago Blackhawks managed to defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-5 in a shootout at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday. Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane recorded his 398th NHL goal and added three assists for his 15th career regular-season game with four or more points. Kane now has 30 points (nine goals, 21 assists) through the opening 20 games of the season, which is the second-most in his 14-year career.

“Nice to get two points, but would’ve been nice to give them nothing,” Kane said. “We have to learn in those situations to close it out. We can all be better [at] winning battles, getting the puck out, make sure they’re not getting any free chances.”

Following Tuesday’s win, the Blackhawks sit in fourth place in the Discover Central Division with points in 60 percent of their games this year. They are also 8-2-1 in their last 11 games and 10-3-3 since starting 0-3-1.

Lankinen Comes Up Clutch

While Blackhawks goaltender Kevin Lankinen uncharacteristically stopped just 20 of the 25 shots that Columbus put on net in regulation, the 25-year-old rookie was there when his team needed him down the stretch to close out the victory. Lankinen made five saves during overtime and stopped all three of the Jackets’ shootout attempts before Alex DeBrincat scored the lone shootout goal.

“Without his saves at the end in overtime, we don’t get to the shootout,” Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said. “He allowed us to stay alive long enough to come through and make the last play. I’m sure he wants to be better, but the fact is, he made the saves we needed.”

However, even though Lankinen was strong enough to get the job done on Tuesday, that’s two consecutive lackluster performances for the potential NHL rookie of the year. Look for Malcolm Subban to get a spot start in the second game of this mini-series on Thursday night.

Blackhawks PK Continues To Struggle

After finding their groove in the last few weeks, the Blackhawks penalty kill has been in a slump recently. On Friday, the Hawks killed off just two-of-four penalties against the Carolina Hurricanes, playing an enormous factor in their 5-3 loss. Both of Carolina’s power-play goals came in the third period to seal the deal.

Well, Tuesday was more of the same for the penalty kill, as Columbus struck for three goals on four chances, including two from right-handed sniper Patrik Laine in the second period. Blue Jackets forward Oliver Bjorkstrand also scored on the man advantage at the mid-way point of the third period to cut the Blackhawks lead to 5-4.

Due to their recent struggles, the Blackhawks penalty kill currently ranks 21st in the NHL at 76.6 percent. Less than a week ago, the Hawks PK sat inside the top-10 and was consistently keeping the puck out of their net. I would expect Colliton and his staff to make some tweaks before Thursday’s rematch against Columbus.

Soderberg’s Three-Point Night, Hagel’s First NHL Goal

Behind Kane’s tremendous four-point performance, forward Carl Soderberg also had his best game as a Blackhawk with three points (one goal, two assists) and a season-high 18:46 of ice time. Since tallying just one assist in his first 10 games of the season, Soderberg has points in four of the last five games, including two power-play goals. The 35-year-old Swede is up to seven points (three goals, four assists) in 15 games.

Another notable offensive effort came from forward Brandon Hagel on Tuesday. Hagel, 22, FINALLY struck for his first NHL goal in his 17th game of action. And who else to set it all up but the greatest American-born player of all-time in Kane.

“There are no words to describe this,” Hagel said, smiling from ear to ear. “I’ve dreamt of this my whole life. [There’s] no better feeling than getting a pass from a legend, as well.”

Final Thoughts

The Blackhawks were fortunate to come away with two points on Tuesday after blowing multiple leads, including a 5-3 lead with 10 minutes to play in the third period. In order to take both games of this two-game series vs. Columbus, Colliton’s squad must clean up their play in the defensive zone and on the penalty kill.

Also, if the Blackhawks happen to grab an early lead, then do not allow momentum to swing entirely in the opposition’s favor late in the game. Fortunately for Chicago, the Blue Jackets did not perform very well themselves on Tuesday, allowing the Blackhawks to take the series lead through the first five meetings in 2021 regardless of all their blunders.

Thursday’s game between the Blackhawks (10-6-4) and Blue Jackets (8-7-5) once again kicks off at 6:00 p.m. (CT) and will be broadcasted on NBCSCH and FS-O.

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