Game 46: Hawks 2, Preds 5
If there's an instance of a game where a team deserved to lose, last night's 5-2 defeat at the hands of the rival Predators was a shining example as the Blackhawks lacked execution, played sloppy, and lost battles all game.
While there's still the opportunity to take the next pair of games at home and actually pull ahead of Nashville in the standings, the poor effort in the first game of the 3-game series wasn't a good omen for things to come.
The game was a loss in itself, of course, but the Hawks also lost one of its most promising players in blueliner Wyatt Kalynuk who departed the game early due to sustaining a hip injury after taking a hit along the boards.
The starting lineup saw Calvin de Haan's return plus Adam Gaudette's debut in a Blackhawks sweater as Brandon Hagel was a last-minute scratch due to COVID precautions:
And the starters for the opening shift:
1st Goal: Duchene (0-1)
After play concentrated down low behind the net, the Predators stretched out the Chicago defense before Matt Benning fired the puck from the point that Erik Haula and Matt Duchene both tipped.
2nd Goal: DeBrincat (1-1) PP
The Hawks moved the puck right to left as Patrick Kane directed a puck on net from the bottom of the right circle where Pius Suter redirected it over to Alex DeBrincat in the left slot to bang in the PP marker.
3rd Goal: Jarnkrok (1-2)
Nikita Zadorov exhibited no sense of urgency to protect the slot allowing the Preds to exploit the Hawks as Mikael Granlund set up behind the net to connect with Calle Jarnkrok who scored uncontested.
4th Goal: Ekholm (1-3)
After Duncan Keith made a boneheaded play by backhanding an area pass to nobody in particular, Ryan Johansen easily picked up the loose puck and sent Mattias Ekholm off to the races for a breakaway goal.
5th Goal: Kampf (2-3)
David Kampf and Gaudette generated multiple scoring chances after working the puck from the right wall to the slot. Gaudette had a few whacks at the puck before Kampf registered his first of the season.
6th Goal: Jeannot (2-4)
An untimely mandated vacating of the ice by Connor Murphy after losing his helmet in a board scrum granted Tanner Jeannot and Yakov Trenin an open path to the net where Jeannot converted Ryan Ellis' pass.
7th Goal: Kunin (2-5)
Luke Kunin was all by his lonesome in the slot to tuck in Granlund's centering feed as Keith cheated too high in the zone then slipped. Due to a lost stick, Calvin de Haan also wasn't able to contain Granlund.
Poor Defensive Basics
From the opening shift when Colton Sissons was wide open in the slot, the Hawks showed poor defensive basics all game by not managing gaps, not protecting the net, and not gaining inside positioning.
Unforced Errors & Lost Battles
Sloppy play from start to finish resulted in unforced errors in all zones. Even when the Hawks weren't sloppy, they constantly lost battles for the puck and for positioning up and down the ice.
For the first time this season head coach Jeremy Colliton performed a goalie switch as Malcolm Subban subbed in for a struggling Kevin Lankinen. Subban made 8 saves and allowed none in relief.
While DeBrincat was the only one to capitalize on 1-of-5 power plays, the penalty kill was a perfect 5-for-5. The game could have amassed more penalties as things got rather chippy towards the end.
In one of his worst games of the season, Keith lost battles all night in his end especially against Kunin as they frequently sparred.
Overall in his team debut Gaudette played fairly conservatively and could flex his muscles more to exert the heavy style he is known for.
Barely noticeable, Dylan Strome made zero impact at any point during the game. His TOI was 10:40 (Gaudette was lowest at 7:39).
Still finding his groove, one area that Kirby Dach needs to improve upon is using his size to win the physical wars all over the ice.
If Hagel continues to remain in COVID protocol, Gaudette should continue to suit up for the Hawks. Rookie college free agent Mike Hardman could also get a look-see as well.
Assuming Kalynuk is out for a game or longer, Ian Mitchell or Nicolas Beaudin has a chance to slot back in. Both could grace the lineup simultaneously if either Riley Stillman or Zadorov sit, too.
See you on the boards!