The Blackhawks went with an actually serious lineup tonight, not just a collection of children and randos fighting for a spot. No, tonight’s roster was in theory an actual version of the team we’ll see this season…while their opponent was a collection of children and randos and, for some reason, also Charlie McAvoy. And that’s fine, the Bruins may have things to figure out and it’s still the stupid preseason, but it was a little concerning to see our supposedly legit lineup give up 41 shots and a short-handed goal to this flotsam. Let’s take a look:
–The Hawks looked good at the start of the game, for real. It was nearly halfway through the first before they gave up any shots, Dylan Strome scored on a power play, and they were still ahead in shots when that period ended, which felt like the first time they’ve done that in this preseason. Granted the PPG was as much luck as it was skill with Maxime Lagace fumbling it a bit which allowed Strome to sneak it in, but so what? Unfortunately the Hawks didn’t really keep that momentum going and whether it’s rust or unfamiliarity or just plain crappiness, there were plenty of mistakes to follow.
–What kinds of mistakes? Olli Maatta totally whiffing on a shot when the Hawks were setting up a play in the Bruins zone, Nylander with a shitty pass that Toews couldn’t corral which ended a 2-on-1 possibility, Slater Koekkoek watching pucks leap over his stick and dribbling into the neutral zone…there were plenty to go around. Individually none of them were drastic but in total they prevented the Hawks from creating or capitalizing on opportunities that may have kept this bunch of nobodies from even making it a game.
–Let’s also talk about Robin Lehner. First, he looked better than he did in the first half of whatever that game was that I watched a couple days ago. And he did make a number of impressive saves tonight. But, a lot of them were impressive because he wasn’t controlling rebounds. If you’re flailing in desperation it’s because you’re not in control, and yes it looks cool in the moment, but if he had been able to prevent rebounds he wouldn’t have had to make second and third saves that were highlight-reel-worthy. Again, I know it’s the preseason and there’s no reason to clutch pearls, but while Lehner’s positioning is excellent, if he’s giving up huge rebounds against real teams, not preseason jamokes, these multiple chances will become a problem.
–Kane basically scored the game-winner off his face. There are many, many jokes in that statement.
–Anton Wedin looked decent as the 3C, and he had what I will reluctantly call good chemistry with Brandon Saad. I say reluctantly because, chemistry? In one preseason game? It doesn’t seem reliable, but I don’t have a better way of describing it (I’ve been drinking, shut up). They had good puck movement and Saad’s goal was off textbook give-and-go passing from Wedin. I guess Kampf will have some competition for that third-line center role? It’s so hard to say; Wedin could crap the bed or they’ll send him down despite tonight’s performance—who knows. But if we’re going to have a herd of bottom-six guys, let’s at least find the least shitty options.
–There are still some serious issues with this defense. As I mentioned, giving up over 40 shots to a bunch of nobodies is concerning, and the tying short-handed goal was brought to you by Gustafsson misplaying it and getting burned by something named Par Lindholm. Gus and Keith managed only a 29 and 36 CF%, respectively. The rest of the defense was above water, but I kid you not at one point in the first period Connor Murphy was skating with Koekkoek like a service animal ensuring he was soothed and OK. It wasn’t nightmarish, but it wasn’t instilling much confidence, either.
But they beat a bunch of nobodies! Onto the Caps stateside this Wednesday and then their European adventure begins. Onward and upward…