The Chicago Blackhawks entered their fifth preseason game against the Minnesota Wild on Oct. 6. It was their second matchup against them as they lost their previous meeting 3-0. The Blackhawks were looking to rebound from the loss to their division opponent but also try to work out some of the kinks plaguing them all preseason: lack of scoring and lack of chemistry. Unfortunately, those two things were glaring again in a 4-1 loss. Here are some takeaways from the game.
Colton Dach Impressed in Blackhawks’ Preseason Debut
Colton Dach is a prospect that the Blackhawks were looking forward to seeing at training camp. He had a pretty strong performance at the Tom Kurvers Prospect Showcase until he suffered a concussion during the first game on Sept. 17. Because of that, he had yet to play in a preseason game until Thursday night, and he did not disappoint. He was paired on the third line with MacKenzie Entwistle and Sam Lafferty, which was one of the most productive lines. They were able to generate some chances in the offensive zone, and Dach played a big part in that. He got 14 minutes of ice time and had three hits, five shots, and one takeaway. He played over three minutes on the second power play unit and thrived. All five shots came on the power play and were tied for best on the team with Andreas Athanasiou.
Dating back to his draft day in 2021, he was described as having a shoot-first mentality, which was on full display. Despite him only being in one game, he didn’t look out of place, and I believe he was the best player on the team all night. I’m sure the coaches and fans would like to see more of him, but unfortunately, he was just sent back to the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League (WHL). Nevertheless, his debut could not have gone any better, and he could be competing for a roster spot very soon.
Blackhawks’ Goaltending Not a Weakness
Something that stood out was the goaltending. Blackhawks’ goaltender Alex Stalock allowed four goals on 23 shots, which doesn’t look great, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Stalock was fine in net, and the goals were not entirely on him.
The first goal from the Wild came in the first period when forward Buddy Robinson accidentally lost the puck next to the net; in which Mats Zuccarello got the puck to Marco Rossi in the slot for an easy goal. The second one came 13 seconds later when Frederick Gaudreau scored off a rebound shot from Sam Steel. The third score came in the second period when the Hawks made a bad change and left Zuccarello alone to skate in front of the net and capitalize. The final dagger came when Jonathan Toews was forechecked by Steel, and he capitalized for a goal.
There isn’t much a goalie can do when their teammates leave pucks out in the open or players alone in front of the net. All those little mistakes ended up costing the Blackhawks big time. Although the goals-against doesn’t look pretty, the Wild had 16 shots on goal, 11 scoring chances, and five high-danger chances in the first period alone. So, it could have easily been 4-0 if it weren’t for Stalock. There were question marks about him going into the training camp because of the fact that he only played in one game last year due to his Myocarditis diagnosis. However, he had a solid showing during the preseason.
There were initial fears about goaltending going into the season, but with Petr Mrazek and Stalock, I don’t believe it will be the team’s most glaring issue.
Blackhawks Without Answers on Offense
The Blackhawks have played five preseason games and cannot figure the offense out. In five games, they scored six goals. They went scoreless in their last two games before facing the Wild. However, there was a revelation on offense when defenseman Jack Johnson scored a goal in the second period through traffic to make the score 2-1. Even though that was the only goal scored, they had their chances. After getting outshot by the Wild in the first period, the Hawks outshot them 22-8 the rest of the game. That was mainly because the Wild took six penalties, but Chicago could not take advantage. There was even a moment when they had a five-on-three power play for 15 seconds in the third period and fell short. Overall, the Blackhawks are 1-for-21 on the power play during the preseason, and it doesn’t look like the coaching staff is any closer to figuring out how to make the offense run smoothly.
Granted, not having Patrick Kane in the lineup hurt because he is the offensive engine on this team, but there is no reason they can’t score at least one power play goal on six opportunities. It would have been a different game if they could have even mustered two power play goals. Furthermore, the top six of Tyler Johnson, Toews, Kane, Athanasiou, Max Domi, and Taylor Raddysh have looked a bit disjointed on five-on-five play and haven’t really “clicked” throughout the last five games, which is a concern as well. However, Domi stated that he believes it is still early, and they will get there.
The Blackhawks’ defense has been quietly effective in the preseason going 12-for-15 on the penalty kill and limiting the shot count for the opposition, but it doesn’t mean much because they’re struggling to put pucks in the net. The regular season starts against the Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 12, and they are running out of time to find out what works for them on offense. It is only preseason, but these struggles look like they may possibly carry into the regular season, as it has shown little improvement. Luckily, head coach Luke Richardson and his staff still have one more chance to find solutions in the preseason before it starts to count.
Just a small town girl with Midwestern charm; combined with a love of dogs, writing, frappuccinos, Chicago-isms, sports, and a whole lot of Blackhawks hockey. Twitter: @brooke_lofo.