The Chicago Blackhawks handed the Detroit Red Wings their first loss this preseason, scoring three third period goals to earn a 4-2 victory Thursday night.
Neither team tallied a goal in the first period, but the Red Wings did draw first blood in the second period, courtesy of Michael Rasmussen, their first round pick in this year’s draft. Richard Panik did tie things up six minutes into the frame, burying a pass from Jonathan Toews past Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek. Red Wings defenseman Libor Sulak did break the tie 108 seconds later, capitalizing on a odd-man rush to let one slip by Blackhawks netminder Anton Forsberg. The Blackhawks didn’t have to wait long to tie up the game again in the third period, as Tommy Wingels one-timed a beautiful pass from Vinnie Hinostroza pass Mrazek. Training camp sensation, and Michigan native, Alex DeBrincat broke the tie, scoring a power-play goal off of a pass from Cody Franson that was meant for Toews. Center Laurent Dauphin added the insurance goal late in the fourth, tallying an empty-net goal that he shot from center ice. The Blackhawks ended the night outshooting the Red Wings 40-34.
Goalie tandem set
Forsberg was once again solid on net, repelling 32 out of 34 shots that actually ended up on goal. I don’t think there was any doubt that he would end up the backup job behind Corey Crawford, but last night’s performance, compounded by his 6-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets during the first game of the preseason, in my opinion cemented his position as the number 2 goalie behind Crawford.
Hockey decisions vs. business decisions
At the beginning of training camp, consensus among those who care about these things was that there were going to be three forwards positions that were really going to be up for grabs, and that the Hawks brass will have a hard time deciding who makes it and who doesn’t.
At one end, you have the veterans. Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels were both signed by Chicago during free agency this summer. Jordin Tootoo was re-signed this summer by the club. Tomas Jurco was acquired last trade deadline from the Red Wings. All four are character guys, for sure. But they are also veterans who, and especially in the cases of Bouma and Wingels, were recruited and sold on opportunities to play here in Chicago. Both Bouma and Wingels, and Tootoo for that matter, play the high-tempo, energetic, in your face type of game that Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman spoke of last July in his post-mortem press conference. On Jurco’s side, the organization gave up a third round pick to get him here. Just to point out in comparison, the Blackhawks gave up a second round pick to acquire defenseman David Rundblad from the then Phoenix Coyotes back in 2014. It took the organization two years and 63 games to realize that Rundblad is not a good defenseman, finally ending that experiment by buying out the last year of his contract on July 1, 2016.
But on the other end, you have the kids. Alex DeBrincat, in four preseason games, has two goals, one assist, and has created a ton of chances whenever he is on the ice. Whether he is placed in the first line, the second, or the third, the kid plays for keeps. He has the hockey sense to be on the right point on the ice to create terrific scoring chances. He doesn’t have dynamic speed, but he makes up for it in sheer chemistry with his line mates. Vinnie Hinostroza, on the other hand, has the speed. But, unlike last year, when he seemed to be always playing like his hair is on fire, he has been using that speed smartly. He has been more adept in changing speeds mid-skate, allowing him to exert more pressure on his forecheck. He has also been more responsible in his own zone, limiting the number of turnovers that he allows, which was a point of contention on his playing style last year. And last but not least, John Hayden, as I have previously stated in previous post-game analyses, has proven that he can proficiently use his size, strength and physicality to generate plays, whether it’s 5 on 5 or on the special teams.
Head coach Joel Quenneville has always been vocal about mitigating the effects the business side of hockey can have on a roster that he is creating, but I think this year will be a special case. What I can definitely say though is that, if the young guns continue to make the case on staying with their play, Q and his staff would be hard-pressed to not let them.
Third Star: Vinnie Hinostroza – 1A
Second Star: Anton Forsnerg – 32 saves
First Star: Alex DeBrincat – 1 G, 1 A