The Chicago Blackhawks hosted the Edmonton Oilers in the first of two games against them this week.
After a string of Oilers’ penalties throughout the first period, the Hawks had a momentary two-man advantage. Looking to capitalize, Brent Seabrook set up a smart play in which he passed to Patrick Kane and continued to move into a better position on the other side of the net. This put him in the perfect spot to get a one-timer on Kane’s pass back to him, resulting in a nice, clean goal to open up the scoring. Marking Seabrook’s second goal of the season, this also extended Kane’s current point streak to six games.
Seabrook commented, “It was a nice pass by Kaner, it was something I just tried to do. Get open there and a little bit free and try to get the puck in the net.”
But the Hawks were unable to hold the lead through the end of the period. The Oilers tied up the game with less than two minutes left on the clock.
Come the second period, Marcus Kruger made his regular visit to the penalty box. A recurring criticism of Kruger, this is the second consecutive game that he’s collected avoidable penalty minutes. He really needs to focus on staying out of the box, as the penalty kill without Kruger seems to always put the Hawks in precarious situations.
Cam Ward continued to hold down the fort, even in the face of a dangerous Edmonton offense. Making miraculous saves on the likes of Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, just moments apart, Ward kept the Hawks in the game.
This penalty kill was cut short by another Oilers penalty, resulting in a minute of 4-on-4 and a minute of Chicago power play. Goaltending all around seemed to be in good form tonight because Cam Talbot held his own just as well. The Hawks had a few brilliant chances, but they were simply stolen by Talbot.
Heading into the third, Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen shared that “speed is key for us going into the third period.” The Hawks took this to heart and came back harder and faster than the first forty minutes.
Overall, the Hawks offense dominated in this period, spending a lot more time in the offensive zone and finding continuous scoring opportunities. But despite the Hawks’ best efforts, it wasn’t enough to finish off the game in regulation.
Overtime did not last long before Connor McDavid snatched the game-winning goal for the Edmonton Oilers.
Although the Hawks lost this game, the defense looked relatively good. Rare to see this season, the defense was able to prevent key scoring chances from the Oilers’ top offense. In one notable play, Duncan Keith made a beautiful defensive move that prevented a McDavid breakaway late in the third.
Rookie Henri Jokiharju continued to impress in making key defensive moves, including stops against the Oilers’ top line. He played an impressive and well-deserved 24:14 total time on ice.
Seabrook also played one of his strongest games this season, registering a solid four shots on goal. A breath of fresh air, the defense did well and was not the reason for tonight’s loss. For that, we can look at the power play instead.
The power play problems are far from new, but it’s a pressing problem that gets worse and worse the longer it goes unadjusted. In five power plays, the Hawks only registered a pitiful two shots on goal. Possession is rough, positioning is rough, the strategy is rough. The Hawks especially need more movement and a better overall strategy.
A key component of hockey is utilizing power plays as elevated scoring chances. When the Hawks can’t capitalize in this area, they miss out on crucial scoring, thus giving up points in games that they really should not be losing; this one included.
While the Blackhawks will meet the Oilers for a rematch on Thursday night, they will kick off their Western Canada road trip in Vancouver at 9:00 pm on Wednesday evening.
Follow Jacqueline on Twitter–Featured Photo Credit: Jim Young/Associated Press