Saturday, May 28, 2022

Despite A Heartbreaking 3-2 Loss in OT, Blackhawks Prove Themselves vs. Defending Stanley Cup Champs


Sigh. Pain. The Chicago Blackhawks blew a 2-0 lead after two periods, losing to the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in overtime at the United Center on Thursday. To make matters worse, Tampa Bay snuck in the game-winning goal with under a second remaining in the extra period. The definition of the buzzer-beater.

“Frustrating result because I thought we played really, really well for 48, 50 minutes of the game,” Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said. “It’s tough because we don’t get paid off for how good we played. That hurts you.”

Look At The Positives, Look At The Positives

Yes, the Blackhawks squandered an enormous opportunity to take the first two points of this three-game series against an elite Lightning club, but there were still plenty of positive takeaways from Thursday’s contest.

First, for the opening 40 minutes, the Blackhawks were the better team and jumped out to a 2-0 lead during a dominant second period (shots on goal were 16-8 Chicago in the middle frame). Ryan Carpenter opened the scoring while the Hawks were shorthanded, ending Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy’s 220-plus minute shutout streak. Carpenter now has three goals in the last two games after recording just one through his first 14.

Then, less than seven minutes later, Patrick Kane fired a wrist shot on net from the blue line, and Alex DeBrincat redirected the puck past Vasilevskiy to extend his point streak to seven games. DeBrincat has 10 points (four goals, six assists) during the streak and a team-high 12 goals on the year.

While the final result was less than ideal, the Blackhawks learned a lot about themselves on Thursday. The kids proved that they already can hang with the big boys, which is certainly encouraging for a team supposedly in the rebuilding process. The future is bright in Chicago, ladies, and gentlemen.

Devastating Loss, But Another Point Picked Up

Of course, with a 2-0 lead heading into the third period, anything less than two points feels like a failure. Despite that unsettling feeling in your stomach right now, the Blackhawks at least earned another point in the standings, putting them at 29 points through 24 games. Currently, the Hawks sit in fourth place in the Discover NHL Central Division, which is four points ahead of the fifth-place Columbus Blue Jackets. Now, there is a long way to go in the season, but the Blackhawks cannot be upset in the slightest with their position in the standings at the moment.

More importantly, they are finding ways to stay competitive against the top teams in the division. According to Colliton, that’s all he is concerned with.

“I’m more focused on, ‘How are we going to compete with top teams?'” Colliton said. “‘How are we going to join that group?’ And we were right there for most of the night. I loved how our team was playing. But you’ve got to finish the job. There are a lot of positives, and we’ll take those. [But] we weren’t quite ready to do what it takes, the whole night.”

Lankinen Matched Vasilevskiy

Coming into Thursday, all the talk surrounding the goaltenders was about Vasilevskiy and his three-game shutout streak. While Vasilevskiy was deserving of the hype and played well once again to earn the victory, Kevin Lankinen was equally as good (maybe even better), especially in the dwindling minutes of the third period and in overtime. Lankinen stopped 31 of 34 shots faced and kept the Blackhawks alive while they were getting peppered late in the game. Without ‘Lanky’, the Hawks could have lost this game in regulation.

On a larger scale, Lankinen went toe-to-toe with the current favorite to win the Vezina Trophy and held his ground. Tampa was able to beat Lankinen three times, but two were redirects, and the other was a sneaky shot from sniper Steven Stamkos. Overall, pretty solid performance from a leading candidate for the Calder Trophy.

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