There’s not much more to say right now about the state of the Chicago Blackhawks. They are officially rudderless, with a 0-5-1 record to start the 2021-22 campaign. Nobody seems to have any answers except to just keep plugging away. That’s not going to cut it much longer. Last week, I tried to put a positive spin on the Blackhawks’ first three losses. After three more losses this week, that’s even harder to do. Who are these Blackhawks, and how did it get this bad?! Let’s dive into yet another week of woes.
Blackhawks Game Results
Vs. New York Islanders, Tues. Oct. 19, Loss 4-1
Vs. Vancouver Canucks, Thurs. Oct. 21, Loss 4-1
Vs. Detroit Red Wings, Sun. Oct. 24, Loss, 6-3
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On the Wrong Side of History
After the Red Wings’ game on Sunday night, the Blackhawks have officially broken an NHL record by going 360:57 minutes without ever having the lead. Before this, the Washington Capitals went 350:25 without a lead way back in the 2000-01 season. This is a sad state of affairs indeed, and the scary part is the clock is still ticking the next time the Blackhawks take the ice.
The good people at @Sportradar were nice enough to look this up for me before the game. #Blackhawks up to 320:57 now. pic.twitter.com/cXuprp3xE4— Jay Cohen (@jcohenap) October 24, 2021
On top of all that, it was also announced Sunday night that the official attendance for the game was 19,042, ending the Blackhawks’ sellout streak at 535 games. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise when the team didn’t win their home-opener, didn’t win the night they honored Patrick Kane for 1000 games, and then didn’t beat the Red Wings who were on the tail end of back-to-back contests. Instead, the Blackhawks are being booed off the ice by the handful of fans still there at the end of these disappointing outings. It’s not a pretty picture.
In fairness to the Blackhawks, they’re dealing with a Covid outbreak. On Saturday it was announced that Kane, Ryan Carpenter and Erik Gustafsson would not practice due to Covid protocol. This was after assistant coach Tomas Mitell was out for the same reason.
Carpenter and Gustafsson were cleared Sunday and did suit up to play the Red Wings. But Kane was not cleared, and Jujhar Khaira, Riley Stillman and assistant coach Marc Crawford were also added to the Covid list. Goaltender coach Jimmy Waite was added to this list on Monday. Players Ian Mitchell and Reese Johnson were correspondingly called up from the Rockford IceHogs. The Blackhawks are already struggling to find chemistry and gel as a cohesive unit. Having to play with a depleted lineup and missing coaches certainly doesn’t help matters.
After the first three games of horrific defensive coverage leading to numerous odd-man rushes and goals against, the Blackhawks finally buckled down in that area for their fourth and fifth contests. Against the Islanders, the Blackhawks only gave up four high-danger chances the entire game. On Thursday against the Canucks, they allowed eight high-danger chances.
Unfortunately, the Blackhawks couldn’t find their offense is these two games. MacKenzie Entwistle scored the lone goal in the waning minute on Tuesday to break the Islanders’ shutout bid. And Alex DeBrincat scored a power play goal on Thursday for the Blackhawks only tally.
After two positive defensive efforts, the Blackhawks were up to their old tricks on Sunday. They allowed nine high-danger chances, 37 shots on goal (compared to 29 and 25 in the previous two games) and six goals. The opponent seems to have the Blackhawks’ number. Force them to break down defensively and then simply capitalize the other way. It doesn’t help that goaltenders Marc-Andre Fleury and Kevin Lankinen are sporting .839 and .883 save percentages, respectively. They aren’t getting much help in front of them, but neither is exactly consistently playing well.
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It sounds like a broken record, but the Blackhawks have to stick to their tight defensive game along with figuring out how to score some goals. They did have 40, 30 and 35 shots on goal in the last three games. At some point these have to start going in, right?
Speaking of which, the Blackhawks had some firsts this week. And unlike above, I’m talking about positive firsts. Some of these are simply inevitable, but let’s stop being nit-picky and just give some credit where it’s due.
We mentioned above that Entwistle scored on Tuesday night. It was his first goal of the season (second of his NHL career), and both Kirby Dach’s and Gustafsson’s first assists of the season. Forward Mike Hardman also made his season debut in this game. He recorded two shots on goal, two blocked shots and six hits in 9:54 minutes of ice time, but unfortunately left the game with after a rough hit in the third period.
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It took until the fifth game of the season, but Dylan Strome finally made his debut Thursday night against the Canucks. He was put on the third line with his partner in crime DeBrincat, and the two almost connected for a goal right at the onset of the game. Strome played pretty well, besides a penalty in the second period that unfortunately led to a goal against. But versus the Red Wings Strome provided the primary assist on Henrik Borgstrom’s first goal of the season. Adam Gaudette was credited with the secondary assist, also his first helper of the campaign.
It’s a step in the right direction to see the depth players starting to be rewarded for their efforts, instead of just the Kane’s (5 points), DeBrincat’s (3 points) and Dominik Kubalik’s (3 goals) of this world. Hopefully it’s a harbinger of good things to come.
Speaking of which, Tyler Johnson also earned his first goal on the season on Sunday night. It was a lovely effort, worth watching below! Jonathan Toews and Jake McCabe were both credited with their first assists on the play.
Toews got his second assist on a later Kubalik power play, and should’ve received his first goal of the season in this game as well. But for some reason the goal was called off due to goaltender interference. I didn’t see any interference, but I guess some calls just don’t go your way. Let’s hope the next one counts and is part of a win!
Other Blackhawks Tidbits
- The Blackhawks have only allowed two power play goals on 22 tries in the first six games, and one of those was a 5-on-3 situation. This is good for a 90.9% success rate, which is currently fourth in the league.
- Kubalik took Kane’s spot on the top power play unit Sunday night, and of course he scored a goal. The Blackhawks have tallied at least once on the man advantage in five of their first six games.
- Defenseman Seth Jones played over 27 minutes in the last two contests. Which begs the question; is he playing too much?
- Finally, Toews offered up these words after the Blackhawks’ sixth straight devastating defeat:
Toews: "Specifics of what's said in the locker room stays in the locker room, but you can imagine we're just trying to dig ourselves out of the hole we've kind of gotten ourselves in for six games. It's not a good feeling.— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) October 25, 2021
Not a good feeling indeed. Will it change any time soon? The Blackhawks host the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday before heading on the road to face the red-hot Carolina Hurricanes and St. Louis Blues in back-to-back tilts over the weekend. Quite honestly, if they can’t pull out a win on Wednesday, we could be staring down nine straight losses. Let’s hope for everyone’s sake that doesn’t become a reality.
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