The Chicago Blackhawks not only played their best second period to date – but also their most complete game all year – to notch their first win of the season against the undefeated Edmonton Oilers.
Instead of speed and finesse, they did it with a physicality that Stan Bowman was desperate to improve upon this off-season. Led by Andrew Shaw, Calvin De Haan, Brent Seabrook, and Connor Murphy, the Blackhawks outhit the Oilers 36-31 en route to a 3-1 victory.
“It’s both to give our team energy, but also to keep the other team honest,” Hawks Coach Jeremy Colliton said. “We’re going to go through you.”
Shaw would do exactly that to Oilers defenseman Joel Persson in the second period – a period in which the Hawks had struggled all season.
“That was the message today from the coaches was how much better we need to be in the second,” Connor Murphy said. “I think we were just better at staying on our toes and we drew some penalties and got on the forecheck quick and kept their goalie from being able to make plays and for them to be able to come up ice.”
The Hawks would outshoot the Oilers 17-6 in the second period alone, which was by far their strongest period to date, against an opponent that held a 5-0 record heading into last night’s tilt.
After a scoreless first period, Patrick Kane would break the ice by scoring his second goal of the year, snapping a wrister off a face-off win by Dylan Strome. Alex Nylander made it 2-0 when goaltender Mike Smith went to play the puck, only for Nylander to arrive first.
The Blackhawks may have finally found the right line combinations, both upfront and on the back end.
The first defensive tandem of Duncan Keith and Connor Murphy – along with arguably the best Hawks forward line thus far of Brandon Saad, David Kampf, and Dominik Kubalik – neutralized one of the most dangerous players in the league in Connor McDavid. Both Murphy and De Haan dished out body checks on McDavid, with the latter causing a late scrum between both teams. Although De Haan turned the puck over to Leon Draisaitl for an Edmonton break-away in the first period, his physicality was on display throughout.
James Neal would continue his red-hot start to the year by cutting the Hawk’s lead to one late in the third, scoring a power-play goal on a two-man advantage – only for Brandon Saad to seal the win with an empty net goal. It was a fitting end for Saad, who had hit two posts earlier and looked dangerous the entire night.
In addition to McDavid, Alex Debrincat was noticeably quiet for the Blackhawks this game. That shouldn’t stop the coach from keeping his lines intact.
“We played really well,” Corey Crawford said. “I think everyone was going. Guys were coming back to help out defensively, and just a good team effort. The PK was strong, even though we gave up that one [late], it was strong early in the game. Just nice to win the first one.”