It is usually assumed that when a sports team of good standing such as the Chicago Blackhawks returns home to play, that a victory will be close at hand. Playing on one’s own home field is usual more comfortable; the fans are on your side, you don’t have to worry about getting lost on your way to the locker room, etc.
But on Sunday night, the Blackhawks were stumped. They skated hard and challenged the opposing goalie with upwards of 40 shots on goal. The Calgary Flames were tight in their own zones, but that should have in no way stymied the Hawks, who have been developing a solid offense over the last month.
So, what did stop the Hawks? The answer lies in the emergence of a fresh goalie in the net for Calgary who had never seen NHL play before: Reto Berra.
But just because this was his first start as a netminder doesn’t make him any less impressive. It didn’t make him any less unfamiliar to one of the Hawks’ star players, Patrick Kane, either. During the lockout last season, Kane played for the ECH where he played with Berra.
Should the Hawks have lost at home despite the presence of the impressive Berra? The new goaltender was no doubt feeling his confidence building up as he continued to block shots from the Hawks’ offense. But should the wise and seasoned Blackhawks have been able to take advantage of that NHL innocence and score more?
Me, I’m not sure. Sunday was the Hawks’ second game in a row and usually, that is when they start to show signs of weariness. Being at home in the United Center might have served to elevate their spirits, but a fresh face in the net who seems almost impenetrable would understandably serve to weaken those once-buoyed spirits.
So, as for an explanation of the Hawks’ loss, I think it comes down to a collection of issues. The new netminder with his enthusiasm for NHL ice time, along with a second night of game play for the Hawks, all combined with the simple fact that Calgary really had their act together was something I think Chicago did not expect.
The Blackhawks’ streak has been discontinued for now, and the team has a busy week ahead of them, including a visit to the White House on Monday. Knowing the Hawks, though, I’m sure they will pull through and rally the momentum they are capable of generating when they take to the ice against the Winnipeg Jets for the second time this season on Wednesday night.