On Stan Mikita night, I guess it’s fitting that the Blackhawks-Maple Leafs game ended in such a fashion. For a night commemorating someone who scored 541 goals and 1,467 points, it only made sense that today’s game had to be so high scoring. Too bad the Hawks’ ended up on the wrong side of it.
The Blackhawks started right where they left off yesterday against the St. Louis Blues scoring two quick goals in the opening frame. Just nine minutes into the first period, Jonathan Toews continued his hot streak to open the season, displaying his hand-eye coordination by batting down Dominik Kahun‘s wrister past Elmhurst native Garret Sparks for his fifth goal of the season.
Then, three minutes later, Alex DeBrincat doubled the Hawks’ lead with an easy tap-in after a phenomenal tic-tac-toe play from Toews, Keith, and finally Dominik Cahun, for DeBrincat’s second goal of the season.
However, the Maple Leafs immediately responded after Auston Matthews flipped a perfect pass to forward Kasperi Kapanen, allowing Kapanen to beat Blackhawks goaltender Cam Ward glove-side on a breakaway strike.
This goal marked a momentum change in the period; until this point, the Blackhawks spent long periods of time in their offensive zone continuously putting pucks on net. However, after this goal, Hawks’ offense took their feet off the gas, and as a result, put their defense under more pressure. And since their defense is as inexperienced as they are, mental lapses like these entail consequences.
Nearly 40 seconds later, The Leafs tied the game up after Kapanen returned the favor to Matthews, this time setting him up for his first point of the game and second point overall.
The second frame was almost as hectic as the first. After both teams traded goals from John Tavares and John Hayden, The game sat tied at three goals apiece. However, almost halfway through the period, John Tavares, once again, broke the tie by deflecting Mitch Marner‘s wrister past Cam Ward.
The problem that lead to this goal haunted them all of last season as well: net-front presence. In this case, both Duncan Keith and Jan Rutta lose track of John Tavares and essentially allow him to roam the front of the net unmarked. When Chicago has the goaltender situation they do, with Crawford out, it is imperative that the Hawks’ protect their goaltender, and establish a physical presence in front of the net.
Halfway through the period, Leafs winger Andreas Johnsson received a double penalty after he drew blood while high-sticking Erik Gustafsson. During this power play, the Blackhawks powerplay woes were further emphasized.
The Blackhawks seemed reluctant to dump the puck into their offensive zone and chase it. Instead they tried to be too cute, and as a result, endured many failed entries. Even when they were able to enter the zone successfully, they still were unable to get shots off on goal, as a result of passing the puck too much. Sometimes, it is necessary to just throw the puck in front of the net, and let your offense do the work.
In the final frame, Hawks defenseman Brandon Manning tied the game once again, unleashing a slap shot from the left point off the post for his first goal of the season and 12th overall. John Tavares once again put his team ahead, and in the process, recorded his ninth career hat trick.
However, the final two minutes of the third is where the drama started. With the Blackhawks down 5-4, Patrick Kane received a pass from 19-year-old defenseman Henri Jokiharju and sniped a shot past Garret Sparks to tie the game.
Just 22 seconds later, Auston Matthews found the puck on his stick, open in front of the net. He easily wristed the puck top shelf to put the Leafs ahead. Once again, Patrick Kane temporarily saved the day for the Blackhawks. He blasted a one-timer from Jokiharju past Sparks to put the Hawks’ up for the final time today.
The Blackhawks will look to bounce back against the Minnesota Wild on October 11th. Puck drops at 7 PM CT at XCEL Energy Center in Minnesota.
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