On Thursday night, the Chicago Blackhawks had two skaters make their team debuts. One was much more anticipated than the other, as Hawks top prospect Lukas Reichel got his first taste of NHL action. However, Sam Lafferty also played his first game in a Hawks jersey since coming over in a trade from the Pittsburgh Penguins.
After sitting out in COVID Protocol during his first week with his new team, Lafferty slotted into the fourth-line center role against the Canadiens. While he didn't crack the score sheet, the newcomer showed he can be a useful depth forward.
Sam Lafferty's First Blackhawks Game
Sam Lafferty logged 15:17 of ice time in his Blackhawks debut, including 3:28 on the penalty kill. The 26-year-old forward recorded two shots, both of them scoring chances with one being a high-danger chance. He also won two of his three faceoffs and doled out two hits.
When Lafferty was on the ice at 5-on-5, his lines fired off 10 shot attempts and allowed five while generating four scoring chances and allowing two.
As for the eye test, Lafferty showed a willingness to get to the front of the net. That determination helped him test Canadiens netminder Sam Montembeault with two scoring chances. He displayed a bit of creativity in the offensive zone, helping the Hawks' checking line spend more time in Montreal's end.
Furthermore, the Blackhawks locker room seems to be embracing Lafferty already. When entering the offensive zone near the end of the second period, Lafferty absorbed a massive hit from Habs defenseman Alexander Romanov. Attempting to collect the puck off a flip pass through the neutral zone, Lafferty got caught with his head down while crossing the blue line and Romanov sent him into the boards with authority.
Ryan Carpenter jumped in right away and dropped the gloves to defend his new teammate, resulting in an instigator game misconduct penalty.
Carpenter's decision is certainly open to external scrutiny seeing as Montreal took the lead on the ensuing power play. But the Blackhawks seemed to appreciate the response.
After the game, Calvin de Haan credited this incident as a turning point that helped motivate the Hawks amidst a lackluster second period. Say what you will about that mindset, but the results speak for themselves. The Blackhawks rallied to tie the game in the third period and won it in overtime after Carpenter stepped up for Lafferty.
Sam Lafferty may not be in Chicago long as he will become an unrestricted free agent after the season. But in the short term, the Blackhawks have a solid depth forward to supplement their bottom six. Having him in the mix instead of revolving appearances by Josiah Slavin, Mike Hardman, and Reese Johnson should offer the checking line more stability.
After falling out of favor in Pittsburgh, Lafferty should be in for a more consistent role in Chicago. Only time will tell, but the early returns are fairly promising. Meanwhile, Alex Nylander, who the Blackhawks sent the Penguins in exchange for Lafferty, remains a minor league project in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.