For most hockey fans, seeing a matchup between an 0-3-1 team and a team that finished 31st last season is nothing to get excited about. But for Blackhawks fans, the home opener against the Detroit Red Wings felt different, more important somehow.
After scoring just nine goals in their first four games, the Blackhawks desperately needed to generate more offense. Just three of those goals came at 5v5, while the power play was producing at an impressive rate of 41.7%.
Defensively, the Blackhawks had allowed 20 goals in their first four games. This game against the Red Wings was a chance to change the course of the season, and at least for one night, the Blackhawks showed they had more to give.
First Goal of Game Leads to First Win
In Friday’s 4-1 win over the Red Wings, the Blackhawks scored the game’s first goal, something they had yet to do this season. The power play kept rolling and converted early in the first period. Dylan Strome threw a puck on net which ended up on the stick of Patrick Kane, who doesn’t miss from that close.
Kane now has five points on the season, getting on the scoresheet in four of the team’s five games. For over a decade, Blackhawks fans have been spoiled getting to watch Kane play, and this season could be his most important one yet.
With the absences of both Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach, Kane is left carrying the brunt of the load upfront. He will be relied on more than ever to lead the way offensively. There is no doubt he is capable of carrying the team, at least for the time being, but the Blackhawks need other players to chip in for long-term success.
Blackhawks’ Depth Scoring
Nearly halfway through the second period, Calvin de Haan scored his first goal of the season to extend the Blackhawks’ lead to two. Rookie Ian Mitchell picked up his first career point on the play by joining the cycle in the offensive zone. Mitchell dished the puck off to Strome standing on the goal line who then fed de Haan at the point. This tally marked de Haan’s second goal as a member of the Blackhawks and just the 15th of his eight-year NHL career.
In the third period, the Blackhawks’ power play kept humming and scored a beauty of a goal to make 3-0. Andrew Shaw finished off a great passing play where all five players on the ice touched the puck, and Kane found him backdoor for an easy tap in.
Shaw missed the majority of last season and there were concerns about whether or not he would be ready to start this season. He has played in all five games, bringing his physicality and a nose for the net to a team that is otherwise soft. Shaw’s ten hits are the most by a forward and second on the team behind newly-acquired blue-liner Nikita Zadorov, who has 20.
Kevin Lankinen made his second consecutive start for the Blackhawks and looked tremendous. He kept the Red Wings off the board until the 7:30 mark of the third period and finished the game with a save percentage of .968, stopping 30 of 31 shots he faced. Lankinen may not have been the frontrunner to take over the Blackhawks’ net to start the season, but this game solidifies him as the team’s starter for the time being.
The Blackhawks’ power play went 2-for-5 in the game and is now 7-for-17 on the season. Eight players have registered two or more points on the man advantage, while Alex DeBrincat’s four power-play points are tied for second-most in the league. In an otherwise drab season ahead, the power play’s ability to convert will allow the Blackhawks to hang around in games and maybe even steal a few.
What’s On Tap Next
The Blackhawks will be back on United Center ice against the Red Wings on Sunday at 11:30 AM CT. The game will be a nationally televised broadcast on NBC. After wrapping up their weekend set against Detroit, the Hawks will head to Nashville for two games against the Predators in the middle of next week.
Tune in to the Four Feathers Podcast all season for Blackhawks postgame shows and further updates, analysis, and commentary.