Blackhawks pull off ‘roller-coaster’ road win: Observations

USATSI 22853312 1

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Chicago Blackhawks seemed to finally hit bottom.

In a season full of hockey woes, the Blackhawks were arguably at their most woeful state less than two minutes into the second period of Saturday’s game against the San Jose Sharks. The first two games of the Blackhawks’ California trip had gone poorly and resulted in lopsided losses. The Sharks, who entered the game with an eight-game losing streak and the worst record in the league, presented the best opportunity for the Blackhawks to feel better about themselves and close out the trip with a win.

But the Blackhawks were so far from that possibility 1:36 into the second period. They had played one of their worst first periods of the season, allowing the Sharks two goals and a 16-4 advantage in five-on-five scoring chances. The ever-so-calm Luke Richardson was so irate that he lit into his team before the period even ended. Ryan Donato described Richards as a “little scary.” But even that didn’t do the trick immediately. The Blackhawks gave up a third goal 16 seconds into the second period and a fourth goal not longer after that.

Bam, bottom.

And from there, the Blackhawks started slowly pulling themselves up. This was the Sharks, a team the Blackhawks had pulled off a slightly smaller comeback on in Chicago not too long ago.

They needed a goal to get them going, and Donato provided that with a backhand shot around the net at 6:45 of the second period. His celebration wasn’t muted either. He yelled in celebration as if it was the tying goal and not the first goal.

It was just the start for him and the Blackhawks. Later in the period, Donato drew a penalty behind the net, held on to the puck and found Tyler Johnson for a wide-open look at the net.

“I think a 4-0 game, you just need to get one and you can start to feel better about yourself, and you get two and you’re back in the game,” Donato said. “I think for us it was a tough start, but I like the way we managed it after.”

The Blackhawks’ third goal came on another delayed penalty. Seth Jones, who had committed multiple turnovers early in the game, cashed in on that goal and put the Blackhawks within one. To tie it, the Blackhawks pulled Petr Mrázek and brought on an extra attacker, and Philipp Kurashev put home a shot from around the net after multiple cracks at it with 47 seconds left in regulation.

And then finally, Jones scored 18 seconds into overtime to complete the comeback. The Blackhawks swarmed Jones against the glass and carried their party into the locker room.

“It was quite the roller coaster,” Jones said.

It might not have been the height of the Blackhawks’ season, but it wasn’t far off. For a team that struck such a low point earlier in the game and had won just five other road games this season, it’s a comeback performance they won’t soon forget.

“We definitely want to enjoy each win we get,” Jones said. “They haven’t come around too often. We can take lessons from each one we have, especially this one tonight. Not the greatest start. We’ve had a lot of bad starts this year. I think we started bad last week at home as well, down 2-0, and we came back both times. It’s a good lesson for us. We need to be ready at puck drop, myself included, whether it’s a veteran or young guy.”

Donato has come on over the last month. After having just one multi-point game through the first five months, he’s had three in March.

The interesting thing too is Donato has been doing that while constantly being asked to play various roles. He’s played every forward position and played on nearly every line. It was something we talked about after the Blackhawks’ morning skate Saturday.

“I think it’s definitely an acquired skill,” Donato said. “I think it took some time for me to kind of develop that and mentally be OK with whatever position I’m put in. But I think it’s something the coaches respect and my teammates respect as far as being ready and playing the same way, being the same player regardless of what position I’m put in.”

Richardson spoke to that in a way after the win.

“He’s a guy, an energy guy,” Richardson said. “He doesn’t really care what the situation is sometimes going on. He’s just going to give you his all, and that’s a good thing. I thought the guys awarded him with the team award at the end of the game tonight, which was very well deserved. He’s a guy who is ready to go at any moment on the bench, and he likes to be a good team guy. I think it was great for him to get us going on the board, and he just continued. He doesn’t just get his goal and then go away. He just continued to push all night. You saw it everywhere on the ice. It was great. I think it brings people along when you do that.”

Mrázek didn’t have his best game, but there was one save that ensured the Blackhawks would have a shot to complete the comeback. About halfway through the third period, Thomas Bordeleau, who already had two goals, delivered a point-blank backhander on net and Mrazek denied it as he stretched out with his glove.

“I think that was kind of like a motivator for our guys to reach out and get that tying goal for him,” Richardson said.

Saturday’s result probably locks the Blackhawks into 31st place for the season. The Sharks have a .286 points percentage through 70 games and the Blackhawks have a .317 points percentage through 71 games. The Sharks would have to win a bunch of games and the Blackhawks would have to lose a lot for that to change.

The Anaheim Ducks are 30th with a .364 points percentage after 70 games. The Blackhawks could possibly still catch them, but it’s unlikely.

The team that finishes in 32nd will enter the draft lottery with the best odds of winning the No. 1 pick. The prize in this year’s draft, of course, is Macklin Celebrini.

Celebrini is originally from the Vancouver area, but he moved to Northern California during his childhood when his father, Rick, took a job with the Golden State Warriors. Because of that and Connor Bedard being in town, there were a lot of questions about Celebrini put to Bedard after the Blackhawks’ morning skate.

Bedard played with him when they were younger in Vancouver, but it’s been some time since they’ve been on the ice together. Bedard has been keeping tabs on him.

“He’s a special player,” Bedard said. “What he’s doing this year is remarkable. I don’t know if it’s ever been done at his age, obviously going in as an underager. He’ll probably be a Hobey finalist, but I’m not too sure about that. I’m sure he’ll be up there, if not win it. It’s been exciting to watch a guy like him. The NHL is probably pretty excited about him coming here.”

Bedard was asked if he’d like to have him as a teammate next year, but Bedard didn’t bite. Bedard was willing to say what type of advice he’d give Celebrini entering the NHL with such high expectations.

“Don’t listen to you guys, I guess,” Bedard said with a smile. “No, I mean, just play the game, have fun. That’s kind of the main thing. There’s so much that goes on outside that’s outside, but, honestly, some of it isn’t that much fun, When you actually get on the ice and you’re just doing what you love, that’s the best part of your day. That’s kind of how I approach it, I’d say.”

Two of the Blackhawks’ other young promising centers, Frank Nazar and Ryan Greene, were in action Saturday and are getting closer to wrapping up their college seasons.

Nazar had two goals in Michigan’s overtime loss to Michigan State in the championship game of the Big Ten tournament. Greene had two assists in Boston University’s loss to Boston College in the Hockey East tournament championship game.

Nazar and Greene’s respective teams will be headed to the NCAA Tournament come next week. Whenever their seasons do end, whether that’s next week or in three weeks at the Frozen Four, the Blackhawks are expected to have discussions with both players about whether they want to turn pro.

(Photo: Robert Edwards / USA Today)

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top