Nicolas Beaudin and Brandon Hagel made their NHL debuts on Wednesday night as the Blackhawks took the ice with fans in the seats at the United Center.
How many more times they Hawks will be able to do that during the regular season is a question that may be answered in the next 48 hours, but on this evening the Chicago faithful were “treated” to a battle between Blackhawks and Sharks teams that are nine and 16 points out of the second wild card spot, respectively, entering the game.
Beaudin joined fellow rookie Lucas Carlsson on the Hawks blue line. Carlsson returned from concussion protocol.
Hagel was slotted on a line with two other rookies – Dominik Kubalik and Kirby Dach – to start the night.
Beaudin and Hagel were on the ice for the opening faceoff.
At 8:55 into the first, Dylan Strome went to the box. In the 15 seconds between Strome taking a seat and Ryan Carpenter getting clipped for a high stick on Joe Thornton, the Sharks should have been called for a penalty. But they weren’t.
That was not called on Aaron Dell, but Carpenter went to the box to give San Jose a two-man advantage. Evander Kane scored with only a few seconds left in the 5-on-3 to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead.
Both goaltenders were sharp in the first. Corey Crawford stopped 14 of 15 in the first while Dell stopped all 14 he faced in a first period that had pretty good pace.
How did the rookies look? In the first period of their NHL careers, Beaudin skated 5:43 and put two shots on net while Hagel put one shot on net in 4:09.
Four minutes into the second period Antti Suomela found himself seated alone in the penalty box for San Jose. And Chicago took advantage. With a terrific screen in front of the net from Kirby Dach, Duncan Keith tied the game at one.
Jonathan Toews and Alex DeBrincat were credited with the assists on Keith’s goal.
Evander Kane took a seat in the penalty box 92 seconds after Keith’s goal to give Chicago a second power play early in the second period. San Jose was able to survive the second penalty, however.
Brent Burns went to the box to give the Blackhawks a third power play of the period after unloading on Hagel, who was having a terrific period. Chicago took advantage of the power play for a second time in the period. This time it was Patrick Kane on the business end.
DeBrincat and Keith picked up their second points of the night with assists on Kane’s 32nd of the season.
The Blackhawks kept the pressure on the Sharks. Brandon Saad scored 85 seconds after Kane’s goal to extend Chicago’s lead to 3-1.
DeBrincat picked up his third assist of the night on Saad’s goal; Toews was credited with an assist as well.
In real time as Saad was scoring, the NBA announced the league is suspending their season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. The entire league schedule after Wednesday night’s games have been indefinitely postponed.
Mark Cuban when he found out the NBA was suspending the season was pretty much my reactionpic.twitter.com/xCmy2ThJQe— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) March 12, 2020
The second period came to a close in Chicago with the Blackhawks having out-shot the Sharks 17-10 in the second period. The Hawks scored three times in the second period and had good jump. Hagel’s play stood out in the second.
On the NBC SportsNet broadcast during the second intermission, Darren Dreger intimated that the NHL would release a statement on Wednesday night regarding the future of the 2019-20 season. In light of the NBA’s announcement, nobody doubted the NHL could/would suspend play as well.
Through two periods, Beaudin had two blocked shots and two shots on net in 10:50. Hagel had three shots on net, one blocked shot and one hit in 7:44.
Chicago stayed on the attack to open the third period. Strome patiently waited for Alex Nylander to join the rush and Nylander unloaded, finding the back of the net for his 10th of the season at 91 seconds into the third.
Strome was credited with the only assist on the Nylander goal.
DeBrincat followed his three-assist second period with a penalty 3:47 into the third period. San Jose scored on one of their two power plays in the first period. Chicago killed this penalty as well and the Hawks lead stayed at three.
However, less than one minute after the penalty expired the Sharks scored. Timo Meier found a loose puck right off a faceoff and rifled a shot past Corey Crawford to cut the Blackhawks lead to two.
As play continued in the third period, the NHL released a statement saying they will not suspend games – yet.
With 3:41 left in regulation, Nylander streaked into the offensive zone and Slater Koekkoek made a pretty pass to Kane who scored his second of the night to make Chicago’s lead 5-2.
Kane’s 33rd of the season came on the Hawks’ 42nd shot on goal. Nylander and Koekkoek picked up the assists.
With two minutes left in regulation, Dach patiently entered the zone and waited for Kubalik to trail the play. Dach put it on a tee and Kubalik unloaded for his 30th of the season. Chicago now led 6-2.
When the final horn sounded, Crawford had made 34 saves against 36 shots and the Blackhawks were victorious in what might be the last game fans watch at the United Center until October.
Beaudin skated 17:01 with two hits, two blocked shots and one shot on net. He looked comfortable in his NHL debut.
Hagel skated 11:48 with four shots on net, one blocked shot and one hit. He, too, looked good in his first taste of the NHL.
Dach lost his first six faceoffs but finished winning six of 17 total draws in 16:32 on the ice. He spent 2:20 on the ice on the power play and 62 seconds in penalty killing duty.
Toews won 10 of 14 assists and had two assists in 17:40.
Kane put a game-high 11 shots on net in 18:03 and scored twice.
Nylander had one goal and one assist in 14:30 and was active. He didn’t make any awful mistakes and looked confident offensively.
DeBrincat had three assists in the second period and added two takeaways in 16:06.
Carlsson returned to the lineup and had two hits, two blocked shots and two shots on net in 18:08.