After a great performance against the defending Stanley Cup champions Pittsburgh Penguins, the Chicago Blackhawks travelled south of the Mason-Dixon line to do battle against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Blackhawks, who have spent the first quarter of the season seesaw-ing from good nights to bad nights, have been trending upward as of late. But they came Wednesday night against the hottest team in the league, boasting the top line of Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, who are currently numbers one and two respectively in the points race.
Patrick Kane gave the Blackhawks the early lead, scoring on an odd man break off of a pass from Artem Anisimov, who continues an impressive stretch of games. After killing off a double minor from John Hayden, which included a 45 second stretch where the Bolts had a two-man advantage, the Hawks converted on their own 5 on 3 powerplay, with Cody Franson finding Kane alone across the slot, and Kane burying his second of the night pass Andre Vasilevskiy, who leads the league in wins so far in the season.
The Bolts answered in the second frame, when a failed 3 on 1 by the Blackhawks on their powerplay became a shorthanded goal by Ondrej Palat. Chris Kunitz tied it for the home team in the third. Overtime saw some amazing chances by both teams, but Nick Schmaltz took a questionable penalty, and the Bolts capitalized by converting on the mad advantage, this time courtesy of Brayden Point.
Corey Crawford continues his stellar start to the season, despite taking the OT loss. He turned away 35 out of the 38 shots he faced. The Blackhawks fall to 10-8-3 to begin the second quarter of the season.
Special teams shine.
Despite the powerplay goal they gave up in overtime, the Blackhawks’ penalty kill has been tremendous. The powerplay has also been red hot as of late. They have now scored six powerplay goals in their last ten games. The passes have been quicker and crisper, and they have been turning in some very dangerous chances on the man advantage as of late.
On a night when former Blackhawks backup Scott Darling gave up a goal from center ice, the fact that we have Crawford as our starter is just plain amazing. Crawford turned in yet another masterful performance last night, making some incredible saves against the hottest team in the league. He entered the game sharing the league lead in save percentage, despite being left out once again on the NHL Network’s list for early contenders for the Vezina Trophy. Suffice it to say, Crawford stole a point from the top team in the league, and he deserves more respect than he gets.
The Blackhawks are off until Saturday, when they face the Florida Panthers. The Panthers have been struggling as of late, only winning eight of their first 21 games. This is not to say that they do not have some firepower. Their top center Vincent Trocheck is in the top 20 in the points race, and left wing Jonathan Huberdeau is always a threat.
My Three Stars
3. Brayden Point 1G
2. Patrick Kane 2G
1. Andrei Vasilevskiy 29 saves