From the first shot, a Mikael Backlund goal, the message was clear: It was going to be one of those games for the Chicago Blackhawks. Facing a Calgary Flames team which had already led the Blackhawks 2-1 in the third period of both their earlier contests, the defending Stanley Cup Champions were once again down to a team they dominated in talent and depth.
Things only got stranger for the Blackhawks as Antti Raanta played arguably the worst game of his young NHL career. In 30:25 of ice time, Raanta allowed four goals on 15 shots and was pulled. As a result, Corey Crawford inherited the Blackhawks’ poor defensive effort and was asked to preserve the team’s two-goal deficit.
While Crawford certainly did his part, it’s disconcerting to know the Blackhawks goalie, amid concern of overwork earlier in the season, will likely play 90-plus minutes within 30 hours as the Blackhawks embark on a long west coast road trip.
The question now remains if the Blackhawks are going to be able to rebound after another disappointing overtime loss which pushes their backs further against the wall. The Blackhawks have captured two points in their last four games while the St. Louis Blues are now in command of the central division.
The Blackhawks are 8-1-2 in the second game of back-to-back series so far this season, and it is unclear if coach Joel Quenneville will make any changes before the puck drops on Wednesday night. Even tonight, Quenneville was reluctant, making minimal changes aside from inserting Brandon Pirri into the lineup. Pirri contributed nothing to the lineup, missing the net once and registering one hit per the box score in addition to being a dreary 4-for-7 at the faceoff dot.
Bryan Bickell once again saw the least amount of shifts on the team and ended the night with a disappointing minus-one rating. Andrew Shaw, demoted to the third line, ended up a minus-two and only saw three more shifts than Bickell.
On Wednesday it is likely Quenneville reinserts Michal Handzus to the third line while Sheldon Brookbank should replace Michal Rozsival as the Blackhawks’ sixth defenseman. Rozsival had an awful game himself, but the Blackhawks defenseman can be spared the brunt of the blame for this loss.
If anyone deserves blame it should be Blackhawks forwards, especially the centers. All night, the Blackhawks’ passing attack was discombobulated and unnecessary for the situation of the game. In addition, the Blackhawks were even as a team in face-offs, despite Calgary ranking 28th in the league at 46.2 percent. Defensively, the Blackhawks often found themselves in odd-man situations leading to multiple Calgary chances and goals.
The center acts as the leader of the line, having to read plays and move to the puck more than any other player on the ice. Aside from Jonathan Toews, nobody on the Blackhawks transitioned quickly, and Calgary benefited immensely even against a fast Blackhawks team. Toews is a great leader and will ideally lead the Blackhawks to a stronger performance on Wednesday, but in the meantime, the Blackhawks continue to trend downward and leave valuable points on the table.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486