Generally when a team with a four-game losing streak plays a team with a seven-game winning streak, it’s not going to end well. Especially when the team has one of the best scorers in NHL history in Alex Ovechkin. The Hawks were outplayed on defense in the first period and they just struggled to put pucks in the net on Wednesday night, out-shooting the Caps’ 39-25, yet being outscored 6-2.
In the first period, aside from an occasional possession in their offensive zone, the Blackhawks spent most of their time in their own zone. After a continued possession by the Capitals in the Hawks defensive zone, marked by Hawks’ turnovers and failures to clear the puck, the Capitals finally struck first, almost 12 minutes into the first period. Capitalizing off a Duncan Keith turnover, followed by two nifty passes by Tom Wilson and Alex Ovechkin which allowed Niklas Backstrom put the puck past Blackhawks goal tender Anton Forsberg for his fourth goal of the season and first since October 14, ending his 21 game goal drought.
The Blackhawks did not correct their play and paid for it dearly. After an icing penalty, the tired Blackhawks defensemen were forced to go up against the the Capitals top offensive line. After a face-off win by Niklas Backstrom against Hawks center Nick Schmaltz, the puck rolled to defensemen Christian Djoos who passed it to Tom Wilson. The Capitals right winger then found the back of the net from a sharp angle off the left boards with a shot that should have been saved by Forsberg, who was expecting a cross-ice pass. Plays like these make the Hawks really miss Corey Crawford; simple mistakes can cost teams the win, especially against elite teams like the Capitals.
Just 29 seconds later, the Capitals extended their lead with Alexander Ovechkin burying a rebound off of a Tom Wilson shot. Though blemishing Anton Forsberg’s stats, this goal was not his fault as he stopped the original breakaway; unfortunately for him all three Hawks defenders were in bad positions for the rebound, leading to an easy goal for Ovechkin, the 21st of the season for the league leader in goals.
This goal forced Hawks coach Joel Quenneville to bench Forsberg in favor of J.F. Berube in order to stop the bleeding. Anton Forsberg went out with seven saves after facing 10 shots on goal in 15:22 minutes on the ice.
Late in the period, the Blackhawks got one goal back with a Lance Bouma (3) tally off a Connor Murphy (4) assist with Alex DeBrincat (9) getting a secondary assist. DeBrincat has been doing a bulk of his scoring with seven of his 20 total points coming in the last six games for Chicago.
The second period was a much better period from the Blackhawks. For the first 13 minutes of the period, the Hawks limited the Capitals to zero shots on goal, and just six in the period, adding 16 shots of their own. However, Caps’ goaltender Braden Holtby stood strong, stopping the Hawks offense in its tracks and preserving his team’s lead.
One of those six shots proved costly for the Blackhawks, a goal from Brent Connolly (5) on the power-play following a turnover by the Hawks defense, assisted by Alex Ovechkin(10) and Niklas Backstrom (19), extending the score to 4-1 Washington.
The third period was an average period for the Caps and the Hawks, with mistakes being made by both teams. The Caps struck again 10:23 into the period when Ovechkin laid a beautiful pass to Evgeny Kuznetsov (10) who scored top shelf-stick side to put the game beyond all doubts.
Six minutes later, Jonathan Toews took advantage of a miscommunication between Alex Ovechkin and Niklas Backstrom and scored 5-hole on a breakaway for his eighth goal of the season to make it a 5-2 game. Though irrelevant to the outcome of the game, it is encouraging that Toews has broken out of his slump and has started to produce, scoring three points in his last three games.
Tom Wilson added a late short-handed, empty-net goal to make the final score 6-2 Capitals, handing the Blackhawks their fifth consecutive loss and their sixth in their last eight contests.
- This game made me realize just how much the Hawks will miss Corey Crawford during the next few weeks. The only reason the Hawks were able to stay close late in games this season against elite teams was because Crawford would often bail out his defense and make spectacular saves. Don’t get me wrong: Anton Forsberg is a fine goaltender. I just don’t think he will provide the extraordinary saves that Crawford made to keep games close, especially against teams like the Capitals.
- The Blackhawks defense needs to limit turnovers in their defensive zone to get the pressure off their goaltender and to get the puck to their offense. Turnovers directly contributed to two goals today, and against elite teams that will simply not cut it.
- Speaking of the offense, they continue to be lackluster. Despite severely out-shooting the Capitals, they were unable to put pucks in the net. Though this could be a product of good goaltending by Holtby, it has been a trend for the Blackhawks who rank 8th in shots/game, yet (in recent games) have struggled to put goals on the board.
The Hawks look to break out of this five game losing streak against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. Puck drops at the United Center at 7:30 pm (CT).
Three Stars of the Game
Third Star: Niklas Backstrom 1G, 2A
Second Star: Alex Ovechkin 1G, 3A
First Star: Tom Wilson 2 G, 2A