It was a slow start between Blackhawks and Blue Jackets at the United Center on Friday night. In the first period, the two teams combined for a total of seven shots. Neither side could sustain pressure in the offensive zone and everything was kept to the outside.
The only difference was a Columbus power-play goal. Oliver Bjorkstrand and the Blue Jackets capitalized on a Philipp Kurashev penalty, while the Blackhawks squandered their first man-advantage.
Quite honestly, it was boring hockey. But after a season in which the Blackhawks allowed the most shots in the league, maybe boring is good.
Chances Galore, Goals A Few
And then the teams woke up during the first intermission.
Three minutes into the second, Ian Mitchell had a grade-A chance but was unable to finish. The Blue Jackets went the other way and beat netminder Kevin Lankinen on a breakaway for the game’s first lead.
The rest of the middle frame featured some of the best hockey the Blackhawks have played this season. They recorded 27 shot attempts, 19 shots on goal, and ten high-danger chances. They got inside the Blue Jackets’ defense with creative entries and applied sustained pressure thanks to hard work along the boards. It was one of the few times this season the Blackhawks have dictated the play.
The Blackhawks finally got on the board at the halfway point of the game. Dylan Strome worked his way into the slot on the power play and buried a pass from Patrick Kane for his third tally of the season.
In the third period, both goalies continued to be outstanding. The Blackhawks’ offense generated chances, but to no avail. Lankinen made 13 of his 25 saves in the third period alone, including back-to-back robberies to keep his team within one.
With a team in a rebuild like the Blackhawks are in, you need goaltending to keep you in games. That’s exactly what Lankinen has done in his last three starts.
In the final minutes of the game, the Blackhawks put together one final push but couldn’t tie it. Ryan Carpenter had a great look but didn’t bury, Kane hit the post, and Carl Soderberg slid one under Korpisalo that went through the crease and skidded wide.
It will go down as a 2-1 loss, but a loss you can live with. The Blackhawks are now 2-4-3 on the season.
Dylan Strome has become a more complete player in his third season with the Blackhawks. Along with his three goals and three assists, Strome’s face-off percentage of 53.2% is 11th best in the NHL.
One knock on Strome’s game has always been his foot speed. At times last season, he looked a step behind and struggled to generate off the rush. This season he is moving well and is more involved in the play. He and Dominik Kubalik both have five points on the power play — a major reason for the unit’s success.
Defensively, the Blackhawks played their most complete game tonight. Yes, there were times when players were out of position, but as a whole, they reacted well and kept the Blue Jackets to the outside for the majority of the game. The Blackhawks allowed just eight high-danger chances tonight, which is better than their season average of ten high-danger chances against per 60 minutes.
What’s On Tap Next
The Blackhawks and Blue Jackets are back at it Sunday at 6:00 PM CT for the finale of their two-game series. Tune in to the Four Feathers Podcast for further postgame commentary.