Seven days ago the Chicago Blackhawks started a crucial five-game road trip that many believed would play a significant role in the team’s approach to the trade deadline.
The Blackhawks started the trip with a terrific first period in Winnipeg. They lost that game 5-2. And lost the two subsequent games at Edmonton and Vancouver by scores of 5-3 amd 3-0, respectively. The trip was turning into a bon fire with any hope for the postseason serving as kindling to a beautiful, long burn.
Then the Hawks went into Calgary and hung eight on the Flames on Saturday night. Almost enough goals to make the gross scoring for the trip look respectable.
In the six days between games in Winnipeg the Jets lost both of their games – both home games against the struggling Rangers and Sharks.
Chicago got into Winnipeg at about 3 AM local. The Blackhawks had an opportunity to right the wrong they suffered to start the trip in the same barn where it began seven days ago. But the quick turnaround would likely make for a tired Blackhawks team.
After a rough night in Calgary, rookie defenseman Adam Boqvist got to watch Sunday night’s game from the press box. Veteran Nick Seeler, who made his Blackhawks debut in Winnipeg last Sunday, took his place in the lineup. Seeler picked up an assist and seven penalty minutes in the game against the Jets to start the trip.
So how would a tired Blackhawks team look at the end of a long trip?
Actually pretty good in the first period. The Hawks skated well and were physical in the game’s opening 15 minutes. It took almost 16 minutes for one of the teams to get on the board and it was Chicago making the first mark as Ryan Carpenter redirected a shot by Patrick Kane into the net.
Kane had nine points in seven games in February coming into Sunday night’s game; has had three multi-point games in the month. He picked up his 47th assist of the season on the Carpenter goal. Olli Maatta was also credited with an assist on the goal.
After one period Winnipeg had a 14-10 shot advantage but the Blackhawks were winning by one. After heading to the penalty box six times last Sunday against the Jets, the Hawks avoided being short-handed in the opening 20 minutes and looked terrific until the final couple minutes when the Jets started to crank up the pressure.
Kirby Dach came out of the gates well. He led all Blackhawks skaters with three shots on net in the first period while skating five shifts. Jonathan Toews won five of seven faceoffs in the first period as well.
Seven days ago the Blackhawks took a 2-0 lead in the first period and then gave up the next five goals. How would this weekend’s matchup play out?
Early in the second period the Jets dominated the puck. There were a couple shifts that saw the puck in the Blackhawks’ zone for well over a minute but the Hawks did a good job breaking up passes, blocking shots and keeping traffic away from Corey Crawford.
Crawford made a magnificent save 6:30 into the second period but the rebound made its way back to the blue line where Nathan Beaulieu was waiting. He unloaded and Mason Appleton got a piece of the puck on the way in. It beat Crawford and the game was tied.
Nine minutes into the period Kyle Connor appeared to tuck the puck into the corner of the net. However, he did it with his right elbow. Connor pretty clearly tucked the arm in as he made contact. The NHL asked the officials to put the headsets on for a moment as they considered the legality of the goal.
The league saw what fans at home did – the goal was not legal. What could have been Connor’s 30th of the season was taken off the board and the game remained tied.
Winnipeg kept bringing it and eventually took the lead. Jack Roslovic scored his 12th of the year at 15:37 to put the Jets up 2-1.
With 52 seconds left in the second period Toews and Kane got together on a special scoring play that tied the game and made a little history in the process.
Kane’s 27th goal of the season is the 1,012th of his career, moving him into a tie with Blackhawks icon Steve Larmer for 87th place in NHL history in career regular season points. The Blackhawks, of course, still have not done the right thing and retired Larmer’s number 28. That’s two decades overdue.
Toews and Dominik Kubalik were credited with the assists on Kane’s tying goal.
The second came to an end with the score tied at two. Winnipeg out-shot the Blackhawks 15-14 in the second period but the Kane goal erased a period that was completely dominated by the Jets. Chicago now had the opportunity to take some momentum into the third period with what were likely dead legs at the end of a long road trip.
Dach failed to put a shot on net in the second period but after 40 minutes he and Carpenter were tied for the team lead with three each. Toews continued to dominate at the dot, winning 10 of 14 total draws in the first two periods.
Seven days ago the Blackhawks allowed four unanswered goals in the third period against the Jets. How would this Sunday evening turn out?
The Jets took the lead back 96 seconds into the third period. A Beaulieu shot was tipped by Alex DeBrincat and slipped past Crawford to give the Jets a 3-2 advantage.
Chicago clearly had no legs in the third period but credit the Hawks for continuing to work hard and do their best to pressure the puck. The Hawks were able to keep the score 3-2 until Crawford went ot the bench with 1:45 left in regulation for the extra attacker.
The Hawks kept the puck in the zone for 70 seconds with Crawford on the bench but couldn’t get a good shot on net. Blake Wheeler cleared the zone with seven seconds left in regulation and the game ended with the Blackhawks suffering a one-goal loss to finish their road trip.
Crawford made 35 saves to keep his team close.
Erik Gustafsson skated 24:04 and led Chicago with four shots on net. Maatta led the Hawks with six blocked shots and Seeler was credited with a team-high five hits.
Kane was terrific on both ends of the ice. He was credited with a team-leading three takeaways in 20:45 and had two points. Toews was also credited with three takeaways and won 12 of 19 faceoffs in 19:39.
Dylan Strome and David Kampf where the only two Blackhawks forwards who failed to put a shot on net. Strome lost seven of 12 faceoffs in 13:46 and was minus-one in the game.