In a season in which they’re expected to right the ship and get back on track after missing the playoffs two seasons in a row, it has been a rough start for the Chicago Blackhawks. After losing their season opener 4-3 to the Philadelphia Flyers in Prague, they had a six-day wait before their next contest.
This past week, Chicago had their first two home games. They lost to the San Jose Sharks 5-4 after committing 12 turnovers and putting forth a poor defensive effort, and then they took a tough 3-2 overtime loss against the Winnipeg Jets to gain their first point after blowing a two-goal lead.
Despite the 0-2-1 start and a week that has seen its fair share of disappointments, there were also a few bright spots for Chicago during last week’s games. Here’s a look at my three stars of the week for the Chicago Blackhawks.
3rd Star – Dominik Kubalik
The newly acquired Kubalik has been a strong addition to the team. Kubalik had a standout game against the Sharks with his linemates Brandon Saad and David Kampf. Kubalik scored his first career NHL goal, assisted by Saad, fired six shots on goal, and had five hits in the game. In addition to his individual stats, his line absolutely dominated the first period against the Sharks.
Kubalik also added a helper on Brent Seabrook’s powerplay goal in the first period against the Jets.
I’m going to give an honorable mention to Saad, who scored a shorthanded goal against the Jets to kick off the scoring in the first period and give the Blackhawks an early lead. Kubalik and Saad’s efficiency together on the third line has been one of the few positives for the Blackhawks thus far.
Kubalik was being touted as a potential hidden gem in the offseason, and last week he definitely showed some glimpses of living up to the hype earning himself my No. 3 star of the week.
2nd Star – Robin Lehner
The newly acquired Lehner made his Blackhawks debut in the overtime loss to the Jets. While the result wasn’t ideal, he looked good in the net making several big stops to keep Chicago on top, including this point-blank save against Mark Scheifele.
Lehner turned aside 30 shots in regulation for a .938 save percentage (SV%), including a .962 SV% in 5-on-5 situations. Those are very encouraging numbers for a goalie who was brought in to shore up the goalie situation behind Corey Crawford. Despite the loss, Lehner found some positives to build off of.
“I felt good,” Lehner said. “I felt like I saw the puck well. I thought rebound control was good. Again, the first one is unfortunate, it squeaks through. But I was where I wanted to be in position and somehow it goes in. Gotta try to clean that up. And the third goal, it just dove on me. He missed his shot. It’s unfortunate. But I thought I made some good saves and felt comfortable. We got a point, which is something, but should’ve gotten a win today.”
For the time being, Crawford is still the guy, but Lehner definitely played his way into some more opportunities and earned my No. 2 star of the week.
1st Star – Andrew Shaw
Shaw netted two goals against the Sharks, his first assisted by Olli Maatta and Dylan Strome, and his second with help from Alex Debrincat. On the night, Shaw took five shots from high-danger areas and led the team with seven hits. His impact, however, goes far beyond the scoring sheet.
One of the reasons Shaw was re-acquired was that he brings an element of toughness and protection to the ice that has been lacking in the Blackhawks’ game since he left. He proved his value in that department during the Sharks game when Patrick Kane took a bad hit from defenseman Brenden Dillon and Shaw went after Dillon, drawing a penalty while doing so.
Fans were excited when it was announced that the Blackhawks got Shaw back for a multitude of reasons, but head coach Jeremy Colliton is excited for a much more simple reason.
Shaw brings much-needed energy to the ice no matter the role, and he certainly brought it against the Sharks. He excels in all three zones, is a pest to the opposition, and he will be heavily relied upon to be that spark all season long. In two games last week, Shaw provided that spark and scored two goals on nine shots with eight hits and one block, earning himself my No. 1 star of the week.