The Chicago Blackhawks dropped their home opener to San Jose 5-4 on Thursday night in disappointing fashion.
After a discouraging loss in the regular-season opener in Prague, the Chicago Blackhawks had an opportunity to come home to the United Center and jump on a struggling San Jose Sharks team. Coming into Thursday’s game, the Sharks were 0-4-0 and failed to record a lead in any of those four games. Opponents had outscored San Jose 17-5, with the Sharks tallying more than one goal just once. With backup goaltender Aaron Dell in net, this was the perfect opportunity for the Blackhawks to pick up their first win of the season (spoiler alert: they don’t).
Just like in Prague, the Blackhawks got off to a hot start in the first period. The third line of Saad-Kampf-Kubalik came out firing, as Dominik Kubalik recorded three of the ‘Hawks first five shots on goal. Kubalik finally found the back of the net off a nifty feed from Saad for his first NHL goal.
The Blackhawks had all four lines rolling early, causing havoc in the San Jose zone. Unfortunately, the momentum didn’t last very long as Ryan Carpenter took the game’s first penalty.
Also, just like in Prague, the Blackhawks allowed the opponent to score on their first power-play opportunity of the night. Kevin LaBanc corralled the puck after Evander Kane hit the post and beat Crawford glove side from a sharp angle. It took the Sharks just nine seconds to convert with the man advantage.
Resiliently, the Blackhawks answered back less than two minutes later. It came from a familiar face in a familiar place, as Andrew Shaw found the puck off an Olli Maatta shot and stuffed one past Dell for his first goal of the season. Great to see Shaw rewarded for going to the front of the net, as that’s precisely why the Blackhawks reacquired him this offseason.
Just when it seemed like the Blackhawks were getting going, Patrick Kane took a terrible retaliation penalty on Brendan Dillon. Once again, the ‘Hawks penalty kill came up empty, as Patrick Marleau scored in his first game back with the Sharks off a skillful redirect. It was the third power-play goal the Blackhawks allowed in four periods to open the season.
The score was tied 2-2 heading into the first intermission. The Blackhawks had the advantage in shots on goal and high-danger chances, but the lackluster penalty kill kept the Sharks in the game.
The Blackhawks picked up right where they left off offensively, as Dominik Kubalik and Alex DeBrincat had breakaway opportunities early, but both players failed to find twine. In a game that was close until the end, chances like those are the ones that stand out.
About midway through the second period, the Blackhawks recaptured the lead as Andrew Shaw scored for the second time in his return home. Alex DeBrincat beautifully picked Erik Karlsson’s pocket to set up the goal, as Karlsson was a liability for the Sharks all night long.
The Sharks would answer right back just 33 seconds later though. Brent Burns received some help from Connor Murphy to pick up his 200th NHL goal, as the puck bounced off Murphy’s glove into the net. It was the second time in as many games that the Blackhawks had an own goal.
The offensive frenzy continued in Chicago, as Patrick Kane and Dylan Strome had some fun toying with the Sharks. After Corey Crawford made a big stop on Tomas Hertl, Patrick Kane found Dylan Strome with an outlet pass, and the two forwards executed a gorgeous give-and-go to regain the lead.
The Sharks defense was horrendous for the first half of the game, to put it bluntly. However, they managed to stay in the game due to the Blackhawks’ inability to deliver the knockout blow.
For the FOURTH time of the night, the Blackhawks blew a one-goal lead as Patrick Marleau struck for his second goal. The 40-year-old winger got position in front of the net over Olli Maatta, and he was able to tuck one past Crawford to tie the game at 4.
The Blackhawks had the lead four times through 40 minutes, and each time they allowed the Sharks to answer right back. Heading into the second intermission, this game had the feeling that it could slip out of the Blackhawks’ grasp.
Much of the talk after the Blackhawks season opener was about the team falling flat in the second half of the game. Well, not much changed even after six days off, because the Blackhawks came out flat as a pancake in the third period. The ‘Hawks spent the majority of the first few minutes in their zone, and that’s how the rest of the game would go as well.
With the Sharks dominating possession in the early going, it felt like it was only a matter of time until they took the lead. Just after the Blackhawks killed off an Andrew Shaw penalty, Barclay Goodrow did just that for San Jose, as he was somehow left wide open in front of the net. Both Erik Gustafsson and Alex Nylander decided to take Melker Karlsson in the corner, which left the front of the net unoccupied for Goodrow. David Kampf was also caught puck watching and failed to provide support for his defensemen.
The Blackhawks failed to generate much offensively after surrendering the lead. Brent Burns took a penalty to give the ‘Hawks a late powerplay, but even with a man advantage, the offense struggled to get anything going. The third period on Thursday was eerily similar to the third period in Prague, as was the entire game.
The Blackhawks went on to lose their home opener 5-4 after blowing four one-goal leads. To make matters worse, the previously winless San Jose Sharks had their backup goaltender in net. The cherry on top was 40-year-old Patrick Marleau getting off his couch and potting two goals in his first game back. Yikes.
5 Takeaways From The Game
- After a dominant first period, Jeremy Colliton decided to split up the Saad-Kampf-Kubalik trio to move Kubalik to the top line. Colliton stated he did this to try and get Toews and Kane going, which is certainly a questionable decision. All three forwards were relatively quiet after being split up.
- At 5-on-5, the Blackhawks had 14 scoring chances to the Sharks’ five in the first period. In the second and third periods, the Blackhawks were out-chanced 21 to seven. Jeremy Colliton has to figure out how to keep his team going for a full 60 minutes.
- Alex Nylander’s stat line for the game: 0 points, -2, 1 SOG, 1 block, 1 giveaway in 11:51. He very well could be a healthy scratch for Brendan Perlini on Saturday.
- Duncan Keith was a bit better Thursday night, but he still had four giveaways. The top pairing of Keith and Gustafsson has not been good through two games, and it might be time for a different look.
- Andrew Shaw was certainly excited to be back in Chicago. Shaw scored two goals and recorded five shots and seven hits in 16:53. It was a great homecoming for 65 in red.
The Blackhawks have their next six games at the United Center. The Winnipeg Jets will come to town Saturday night, as the Blackhawks look to pick up their first win of the season. Robin Lehner will likely make his Blackhawks debut, and if he’s healthy, 2019 3rd overall pick Kirby Dach could be in the lineup.
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