By Thomas Gibbons
The Chicago Blackhawks fall to the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 to open up the 2019-2020 campaign. Here are some of my notes from the season opener.
Despite giving up four goals, Corey Crawford was pretty sharp. He kept the Blackhawks in the game and made some great saves. Remember, one goal went off Slater Koekkoek and another was a turnover and an absolute snipe from Travis Konecny.
Crawford’s health will be the only thing that sets him back this season. He is still a great goalie and arguably one of the best in the NHL when he is on top of his game. The Blackhawks noticeably missed Crawford last season and you could argue if he stayed healthy the Blackhawks could have snuck into the playoff picture. Speaking of the playoffs, it hangs in the balance of Crawford’s health. He is one of the most important players on this team and the Blackhawks need him healthy if they want to get back to the postseason.
I liked what I saw from the Jonathan Toews line, including a goal from Alex Nylander.
If Nylander takes off offensively like the Blackhawks hope, it will become a very good line for the Blackhawks. The Blackhawks could stack their top six, moving Brandon Saad up to the top line to play with Toews and Patrick Kane, but then your bottom six does not look so good. Saad may get another chance to skate on the top line but Nylander at the top gives you balance to the lines. And who says him and Saad cannot switch from time to time? That is certainly a possibility if Nylander holds his own and produces consistently.
It was a rough game at the face-off circle for David Kampf, winning just thirty percent of his draws.
An interesting note on Kampf besides the face-off numbers is he did have four shots, three coming in the first period. He has some offensive skill, one reason he made the team, and I think he is a solid player. But I do not think he’s your third line center if he continues to struggle at the dots.
Stan Bowman mentioned to the media this week that when they think rookie Kirby Dach is ready to go, he deserves a shot in the lineup. Dach in, Kampf out. A line of Saad-Dach-Kubalik is intriguing. I would even consider a Saad-Dach-Shaw line too. Lot of combinations when you add Dach to the lineup.
One thing I want to see all the time from Saad is taking the puck to the front of the net. He had a great chance in the first period and was close to putting it home. That aggressiveness will lead to goals.
Brent Seabrook and Olli Maatta were the only Blackhawks defensemen with a positive +/- rating of 1. Their chemistry from the preseason has carried over and it is not crazy to say it can be one of Colliton’s most reliable pairing this season.
The defense was not at full strength and it did hurt the Blackhawks. Once Calvin de Haan and Connor Murphy join the lineup, the backend will be in a better place.
Alex DeBrincat scored on the power play and it was a snipe.
The Blackhawks power play last season almost secured them a playoff spot. With the offensive playmakers on this team, their power play unit has the potential to be one of the best in the league.