Blackhawks: Highlights & Takeaways of First 4 Preseason Games

As of Sunday night, the Chicago Blackhawks have now competed in four preseason tilts. They dropped their first contest last Tuesday to the Saint Louis Blues, 4-1. Then the second-string players enjoyed a rowdy 4-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night. Alas, the Red Wings repaid the favor with a 3-0 shutout over the Hawks on Saturday. Finally, on Sunday the team faced the Minnesota Wild in a special home-away-from-home game in Milwaukee, WI. Another 3-0 shoutout didn’t exactly round out this stretch of exhibition games in a good way.

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But with three more days until the Blackhawks fifth exhibition contest against the Wild on Thursday (and then the preseason finale against the Blues on Saturday), this seems like a good time to discuss some of the highlights and themes from the preseason so far.

Blackhawks Vs. Blues, Loss 4-1; Kane’s Line & Korchinski

Probably the biggest takeaways from this game were the top line and 18-year-old prospect Kevin Korchinski. Since Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome were both traded away, one of the biggest question marks headed into the season was who would line up with Patrick Kane.

Patrick Kane Chicago Blackhawks
Who will be Patrick Kane’s linemates headed into the 2022-23 season? (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Head coach Luke Richardson indicated from the start he thought Max Domi and Kane would complement each other well. For this matchup, he also put the other newcomer Andreas Athanasiou on this line. While none of the three scored, they did rather well together.

Athanasiou’s speed was evident and Kane was typical Kane. Domi took the majority of the faceoffs for the team, and he went a respectable 12-for-17 for a 71% success rate. Now, we all know things didn’t go as well for this trio on Sunday night against the Wild. But I get ahead of myself. It will be interesting to see if these three continue to stay together moving forward.

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Moving on the Korchinski, the Blackhawks’ top defensive prospect it is also doing quite well for himself. In his unofficial Blackhawks debut, he lined up on the second pairing with Connor Murphy. He logged 19:02 minutes of ice time, including 2:33 quarterbacking the second power play unit. He registered two shots on goal, one blocked shot and one giveaway. All things considered, the youngster was quite impressive in this first outing.

More Blackhawks Takeaways From the 1st Preseason Game

Here are a few other bullet points from this contest:

  • Blackhawks 2022 third round pick Sam Savoie stood out as well. Lining up on the fourth line and the second power play unit, he logged 12:21 minutes of ice time and registered one shot on goal and a team-high five hits. He looked the part of his reputation, which is a feisty and hard-to-play against grinding depth forward.
  • Cole Guttman was the lone goal-scorer in this one, with fellow third line partners Buddy Robison and Colin Blackwell collecting the assists.

The 23-year-old was at the right place, right in front of the net, to knock it in. It was a nice positive for the night.

Blackhawks @ Red Wings, Win 4-2; The Kids Can Play!

Chicago’s second preseason contest was comprised mostly of prospects and second-string regulars. Forwards from last season such as Boris Katchouk, Philipp Kurashev, Jujhar Khaira, Sam Lafferty, MacKenzie Entwistle, Reese Johnson, along with defensemen Riley Stillman and Alec Regula all played in their first game. Korchinski and Savoie were the only two players that suited up from the previous contest. Besides numerous other prospects, goaltender Arvid Soderblom got the nod in net.

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Since the Blackhawks put up a four-spot in this matchup, we might as well highlight the goals!

The action started right off the bat when Dylan Sikura put the puck in the net just 11 seconds into the game. He was assisted by his linemates for the evening, Khaira and Lafferty. At 27 years old, Sikura was most likely brought back to the Blackhawks (he was drafted by them in 2014 and was with the team from 2017-2020) to be a veteran presence with the Rockford IceHogs. But it must have felt good for him to contribute while representing the Blackhawks.

The second goal was one that should give Blackhawks’ fans some hope for the future. Korchinski, playing in his second game in a row, provided a nifty up the ice pass that led to a goal by top prospect Lukas Reichel. Kurashev was credited with the secondary assist.

Khaira scored the only power play goal of all the matchups so far in this game. He was assisted by Regula and prospect Gavin Hayes. Hayes, by the way, was the first to be reassigned to his junior team, the OHL Flint Firebirds, the very next day. Like Sikura with his goal, I’m sure Hayes was happy with his helper.

Finally, Lafferty sealed the deal with an unassisted empty net goal late in the third, and this young group went home happy with their overall effort.

More Blackhawks Takeaways From the 2nd Preseason Game

Here are a few other bullet points from this contest:

  • Lafferty and Khaira were both credited with a goal and an assist in this game.
  • Reese Johnson did a nice job in the faceoff circle, going 9-of-14 for 64%. The rest of the centers, not so much. Lafferty was 5-of-13 for 38%, Reichel 1-of-6 for 17%, Khaira was 2-of-2 and Entwistle didn’t win even one of his five draws.
Reese Johnson Chicago Blackhawks
Reese Johnson provided solid faceoff numbers for the Chicago Blackhawks in their second preseason game. (Photo by Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images)
  • Goaltender Soderblom played well in this contest, stopping 31-of-33 shots and posting a .939 save percentage. He did have some trouble with his rebound control, but that’s all part of getting back into game shape.

Blackhawks Vs. Red Wings, Loss 3-0, Stalock Shakes off the Rust

The Blackhawks faced the Red Wings again on Saturday. They actually deployed 10 of the same players from the previous contest, along with a top line of Jonathan Toews, Tyler Johnson and Taylor Raddysh. I’m guessing these three played in the contest to appease the United Center crowd with some starters to watch.

The Blackhawks never got much offense going, with only 21 shots on net and zero goals. But a feel-good story for the night was the strong play of goaltender Alex Stalock. The 35-year-old relieved Petr Mrazek in the first exhibition game against the Blues, manning the crease for the second half of the game. In 29:42 minutes of ice time, he allowed three goals off 12 shots, and finished the night with a .750 save percentage. Not a good way to start with a new team.

Minnesota Wild goalie Alex Stalock
Former Minnesota Wild goalie Alex Stalock is looking to get a fresh start with the Chicago Blackhawks. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

Saturday night was better. Yes, he gave up three goals again. But he also stopped 32-of-35 shots faced, for a .914 save percentage. Coach Richardson gave credit where it was due after the game.

He (Stalock) played great. He was just lights out in the second period. He gave us a chance, and, unfortunately, we wasted so much energy in the D-zone because of turnovers that we didn’t have any pop for ourselves in the third. He hasn’t played a lot in the last year, so I’m sure that was a confidence builder.

(from ‘Three Hawks Hits: Stalock Solid, aggressive PK & a trio of Johnsons’, CHGO – 10/2/22)

There’s something to be said for playing the whole game, and Stalock took advantage of this to find his rhythm again after only suiting up for one NHL game in the last two seasons. Hopefully he can build on this moving forward.  

More Blackhawks Takeaways From the 3rd Preseason Game

Here are a few other bullet points from this contest:

  • Last year’s recipient of the Stanley Cup, defenseman Jack Johnson made his first unofficial start with the Blackhawks in this game. The 35-year-old veteran registered a shot on goal, one blocked shot, and two hits in a healthy 21:42 minutes of ice time.
  • The Blackhawks are working on a more aggressive penalty kill, and they executed it perfectly on this kill early in the game.
  • Shout-out to 23-year-old Josiah Slavin (No. 36 in the above clip). He was one of the hardest workers on the PK, and he also won 6-of-8 faceoffs (75%) while playing on the fourth line.

Blackhawks Vs. Wild, Loss 3-0; Laying an Egg in Milwaukee

We established that the Blackhawks weren’t able to generate any offense on Saturday against the Red Wings. Well, most of the starters suited up for the home-away-from-home matchup in Milwaukee against the Wild on Sunday. It was expected they would make up for things with some goals. That said, 12 shots on net isn’t exactly ideal. This is not a typo, the Blackhawks only generated 12 shots on goal and lost the game 3-0. They also went 0-for-5 on the power play, while giving up two short-handed goals. Just a sloppy, sloppy night.

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Kane, Domi and Athanasiou didn’t have any of the chemistry from their first night together. And nobody else seemed to have any answers either. Sure, it’s the preseason, but no goals in two straight games isn’t encouraging.

I guess we’ll just have to placate ourselves with Richardson’s words post-game:

There were some opportunities there, so I’m not totally discouraged with that. We’re going to sharpen up… We might not be quite as deep as some teams right now, so when we put our full lineup together, it’s going to make a bigger difference than some of these other teams.

He does make a good point. The team has been evaluating their scrubs and prospects this whole time. Many cuts will be made in the coming days, and the look of the opening night roster will come together. Hopefully, the final two preseason games won’t be so ugly.

Blackhawks Injury Report

Let’s finish with some injury updates.

  • Defenseman Connor Murphy hasn’t been practicing or participating in games since last Wednesday due to back soreness. Richardson is hopeful Murphy will be available for the final preseason game this Saturday.
  • Forward Boris Katchouk will be out 4-6 weeks with a left ankle sprain he sustained against the Red Wings on Saturday night.
Boris Katchouk Chicago Blackhawks
The injury bug has already hit Boris Katchouk of the Chicago Blackhawks. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
  • Forward Jujhar Khaira is day-to-day with a right ankle injury. Khairi dealt with numerous injuries last season, so hopefully this isn’t serious.
  • Defenseman Caleb Jones left Sunday’s game with an apparent right shoulder injury. He will be evaluated further on Monday.

Injuries are a part of the game, and they open up opportunities for other players to step in. We will see how this all plays out for those that might otherwise be on the bubble.

The next few days will be very important for the Blackhawks as they prepare to face the Wild on Thursday and the Blues on Saturday. Opening night looms on Oct. 12 versus the Colorado Avalanche. So much has transpired in these first four exhibition games, but many more decisions remain to round out the roster.

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