In an all-important game against a Western Conference foe and in the second game of their four-game homestand, the Chicago Blackhawks fell to the Calgary Flames by a score of 2-1 last night. As deflating as the loss was, it didn’t hold a candle to the departure of Dylan Strome, who left the game after suffering an ankle injury in the second period.
With less than a minute to go in the opening frame, Dominik Kubalik would get the Hawks on the board first, setting up shop in front of Flames goalie Cam Talbot to deflect rookie Adam Boqvist’s shot from the point. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane — who had been split up by Coach Jeremy Colliton the majority of the season — were instrumental on the goal, with Toews shielding the puck along the boards over Kane, who weaved across the zone to set up Boqvist. Both Kubalik and Boqvist extended their point streaks to three games with the goal; with Kubalik especially hot, registering 10 points in the last 9 games.
Break on through to the other side [of the goalie] ⚫️
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) January 8, 2020
Down 1-0 entering the period, Calgary wasted no time netting the equalizer in the second. After winning the opening faceoff and chipping the puck into the Hawks’ zone, Calgary’s forecheck went to work. Duncan Keith was able to chip the puck around the boards to Kubalik, who then made an ill-advised backhand pass to Jonathan Toews. Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk took advantage of the turnover, setting up Lindholm on the doorstep.
After killing the first of two 5-on-3 Calgary power plays in the game, another ill-advised backhand pass would haunt the Blackhawks. As Patrick Kane tried to set up Dach to exit the Hawk zone, Matthew Tkachuk intercepted the pass and would once again connect with Lindholm, who blasted a one-timer for the eventual game-winning goal.
It's got some heat on it, folks. pic.twitter.com/mFFWNMV9Vw
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) January 8, 2020
Zack Smith committed both penalties that allowed two 5-on-3 power plays for Calgary. Both power plays were over a minute long, but were nullified by the Hawks’ penalty kill, which has been a bright spot for Chicago this year. In addition to the Hawks’ penalty kill, goalie Corey Crawford kept the Blackhawks in the game, making multiple Grade-A saves.
“It was just a close game, tough one to lose,” Crawford said. “It was a good game. It was there for us to take and I just couldn’t come up with it.”
Crawford made his second consecutive start, with Robin Lehner currently day-to-day with a knee injury. In addition to Lehner, the Blackhawks have suffered a string of injuries to their roster, including Dylan Strome during last night’s loss. Strome left the game after tripping over Calgary defender Oliver Kylington, who was lying prone on the ice after breaking up Strome’s 2-on-1 with Kirby Dach.
Don't like to see this. Dylan Strome headed to the locker room after this play. pic.twitter.com/jXgZfGhf0h
— Blackhawks Talk (@NBCSBlackhawks) January 8, 2020
In addition to Lehner, Strome joins a long list of Blackhawks currently injured, including Calvin de Haan, Brent Seabrook, Andrew Shaw, Drake Caggiula, and Brandon Saad. Seabrook (shoulder, hips) and de Haan (shoulder) are both out for the remainder of the year; and Shaw and Caggiula have been placed on long-term injured reserve while dealing with concussions. Brandon Saad is also listed on regular injured reserve with an ankle injury.
The loss now puts the Blackhawks 6 points out of a playoff spot and 7 points behind Calgary, who occupies the first Wild Card spot. As of today, there are four teams in which the Blackhawks would have to surpass in order to make the playoffs — one of which is the Hawks’ next opponent in the Nashville Predators, who are one point above them in the standings. Last night, the Predators lost their first game after firing coach Peter Laviolette, who was replaced by ex-New Jersey Devil coach John Hynes.
“I think everyone’s aware of [the standings], but it doesn’t do a lot of good,” Colliton said. “We’ve just got to focus on the game in front of us and having a good effort, starting on time. I think we’ve been playing better. Our habits are better. We’re giving ourselves a chance to win for the most part most nights and we’ll need to continue to do that.”