On Sunday afternoon, the Chicago Bears clinched an NFC North Division championship.
A few short hours later, the Blackhawks took the ice against the San Jose Sharks looking to build on a couple nice performances. After beating Pittsbugh and a better performance against Winnipeg, the Hawks had the opportunity to put together a stretch of improved hockey heading toward the NHL’s holiday trade deadline.
And it certainly looked like the Blackhawks were ready to play.
At 2:34 into the game, Alex DeBrincat fired home his 14th of the season to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead.
His buddy Dylan Strome scored 47 seconds later to give the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead.
Things looked good. Confidence was high.
But the only thing harder for this Blackhawks team than scoring first is holding onto a lead, and Chicago couldn’t handle prosperity on Sunday. Melker Karlsson and Marcus Sorensen scored 42 seconds apart in the middle of the period to quickly tie the game at two.
Were the wheels falling off?
Not quite. Two minutes after the Sorensen goal, Brendan Perlini scored his first in the Indian head to give the Blackhawks a lead once again.
It looked like we might be in for a high-scoring night at the United Center. San Jose yanked starter Martin Jones after the Perlini goal, putting Aaron Dell between the pipes for mop-up duty.
With 90 seconds left in the first period, the entire complexion of the game – and potentially the rest of the Blackhawks season – took a hard turn.
As players attacked the Chicago net, Strome slashed Logan Couture. But before that penalty could be called, Evander Kane slammed Strome into Corey Crawford. Crawford was rocked back and hit his head on the goalpost as the bodies crashed to the ice.
— Cristiano Simonetta (@CMS_74_) December 17, 2018
Kane was called for interference, but Crawford needing assistance off the ice and directly to the room is serious cause for concern. After almost reaching the anniversary of his last game of the 2017-18 season (he was 11 days away), Crawford appeared to have gotten his bell rung. As someone who has had a few concussions, you know it when you get “that feeling.” Crawford did not look good as he tried to right himself.
Colliton says Crawford has a concussion.
— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) December 17, 2018
The first period ended with both teams having their backup goaltenders on the ice and the Hawks holding onto a 3-2 lead despite being out-shot 8-5.
Reminder: on Sunday the Chicago Bears clinched an NFC North Division championship.
Over the final 40 minutes at the United Center the awful, ugly, unwatchable Blackhawks reappeared.
The Sharks out-shot the Blackhawks 35-15 over the final two periods.
The Sharks outscored the Blackhawks 5-0 over the final two periods.
Chicago’s “power play” continued to be brutal, and they were boo’d off the ice a couple times. The Hawks’ “power play” is now 3 for their last 41. Which is awful. Thankfully Barry is here to fix it, though. He’s a power play guru, after all.
Cam Ward did his best but the emotionless, seemingly-uninterested skaters in front of him did nothing to change the momentum of the game.
DeBrincat, Henri Jokiharju and David Kampf led Chicago with three shot son goal each. Three.
Strome scored for the fifth time since joining the Blackhawks. As the wheels fell off the dumpster, Jeremy Colliton relied more on his younger players. Strome skated 19:33 and won half of his 18 faceoffs. By comparison, Jonathan Toews skated 17:56 and won 13 of 21 at the dot.
Brent Seabrook was limited to 16:36 on the ice, only six seconds more than Connor Murphy for the lowest total on the blue line. Duncan Keith was the only defenseman to skate more than 19 minutes in the game.
#DaBears are NFC NORTH CHAMPS!
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) December 16, 2018