The Blackhawks blew another lead? Again? This team? Are you sure? Is this déjà vu?
It’s not déjà vu, friends. The Blackhawks have blown 7 of 9 total multi-goal leads since the beginning of February, which is a staggering, incomprehensible statistic. I’m trying to be positive down here because there are still some individual efforts by players to like. Alex DeBrincat’s third-year renaissance is relieving and exciting to watch. Kane is still scoring goals, or at least being an integral part of setting up the goals. Lankinen is making highlight-reel saves (and let’s be honest, he can’t save all of them). The young kids are simultaneously fun-yet-terrifying to watch. But there’s also obviously some not great going on here that you can’t just ignore. Let’s take a look at the bullets, shall we?
- Everyone’s adopted son Brandon Hagel showed up to this series, getting a goal in both games. Tonight’s goal kind of fell into his lap, but he was positioned well in front of the net to give the Hawks the 3-1 lead-that-once-was. Hagel is finally seeing production come out of his offensive flashes, and that should be good for his development. Screw it, keep throwing him out there.
- Speaking of development, one day Boqvist will be a defenseman who will be crushing it every night. But right now we have to take the good with the bad. He had one of the Hawks’ two goals on Saturday and did a great job breaking up a 2-on-1 Verhaeghe chance in the 1st on Saturday. He was also not looking good during the first Panthers goal on Saturday and had some dicey plays tonight, so he definitely has room for improvement. Overall, I like watching him and I know he will continue in that positive trajectory.
- The Hawks were able to be the first ones on the board on Saturday night with a beautiful Hagel/Kubalik passing play, where both were able to out-speed the speedy Panthers. However, the fun didn’t last long as the Panthers were able to score three goals in that same period. The first goal went off a Lankinen rebound, the second goal was a one-timer from beyond the circles, and the third was shot right in front of the net because Nikita Zadorov didn’t feel like playing defense, I guess. A valiant effort, everyone!
- Penaltypalooza Night Two happened tonight with a ridiculous 9 penalties all game. Once again, just like the last Tampa game, the opponents were able to capitalize on these powerplay opportunities (and one shorthanded opportunity) and the Hawks were not. Taking irredeemably stupid penalties over and over again and not being able to kill them is not a winning formula. It’s costing us games and points. Every time I mention the penalties I say, “please end it, thank you.” And they never do. So I give up here.
- The revolving door of centers for Kane and the Cat continued tonight, as it seems like every active center on this team now has tried out with them this series and nobody has really stuck. It shows our lack of depth at center with Toews and Dach still out. Hopefully Dach will be back soon and will be able to slot back in there for a dynamite line, if our playoff hopes are still alive by then.
The Blackhawks’ hellacious schedule doesn’t let up, as we are back to face the Tampa Bay Lightning through the weekend. Last series was incredibly entertaining, the definition of FUN hockey. Hopefully the Hawks’ confidence isn’t shot after this series and they will come in ready to play, and more of that FUN will ensue. Onward.