Another Chicago Blackhawks game ended in a loss, as the New Jersey Devils walked into the United Center and left with a 6-3 win on Saturday night.
After a scorless first period, New Jersey scored about six minutes into the second period when a neat passing sequence ended with a perfect set-up for a Dougie Hamilton blast – and he didn't miss:
About 90 seconds later, though, Tyler Johnson picked up his third goal in as many games after a nifty pass from Taylor Raddysh, who was stationed behind the New Jersey net:
Chicago went ahead 2-1 about six minutes later when this Andreas Athanasiou wrist shot from the point was deflected in by Lukas Reichel:
The wild second period continued with a New Jersey goal just 93 seconds after the Reichel one:
And then Jesper "not Adam" Boqvist scored after some impressive work from Jack Hughes that sent the Devils to the second intermission with a 3-2 advantage:
Ryan Graves seemed to put the game out of reach with this goal at the 5:17 mark of the third:
But the Blackhawks pulled back within one after this great pass from Jonathan Toews set up Athanasiou with an easy tap-in goal:
But the Hawks would get no closer and Meier put the game away with this wraparound finish:
A Dawson Mercer empty-net goal provided the final point of the night.
- This entire season has been a never-ending battle in stifling the overwhelming cynicism generated by what the Blackhawks are doing with this race to the bottom of the standings. The best antidote for that cynicism, though, was seeing Toews back on the ice at the United Center for a few months after it didn't seem far-fetched to conclude that his hockey career may have been over. The effects of that antidote will probably be gone before midnight but at least it's something to point towards when there's not anything else around worth enjoying.
- Toews skated 14:00, had the assist on that Athanasiou goal, was credited with one shot on goal and won 8 of his 12 faceoffs. A perfectly acceptable performance, given the circumstances.
- Remain surprised that the Blackhawks didn't find a buyer for Athanasiou at the deadline. His speed is evident, as is his occasional-to-frequent inability to capitalize on the scoring chances he can create with that speed. He's an unrestricted free agent this summer and it seems like there's virtually no risk in bringing him back on another one year deal to see if he catches a GM's eye by the 2024 trade deadline.
- Worth mentioning again that Lukas Reichel is doing nothing to diminish his stock and it'll be fun to see what he does over an 82-game season in '23-24.
- With Ian Mitchell seemingly no longer part of any long-term plan here, it's been nice to see Wyatt Kaiser have some impressive moments in this brief stint. He appears exceptionally active with his stick on the defensive side of the ice and also has the confidence – and requisite skill – to skate himself out of trouble should the need arise. Could be an interesting debate on whether he starts next season in the AHL or in the NHL, although it certainly wouldn't hurt if he supported these anecdotal observations with better possession metrics.
- Speaking of possession: during 5-on-5 play in this game, New Jersey had advantage in shots on goal (39-16), scoring chances (34-10) and high-danger chances (14-4). The Devils had a 72.17 percent share of expected goals at 5-on-5. That seems horrific, but the Hawks have actually had EIGHT games with a lower expected goal share than that they did in this game (27.83).
- For an indication of the skill level difference between these two teams, go watch that Hamilton goal again and try to figure out the last time the Hawks had a quick, tic-tac-toe passing play like that which resulted in a goal. Feels like a loooooooooong time, doesn't it?
- Had a friend text me that they found tickets on the secondhand market this morning in the 200 level for $14. Cannot promise that the game will be all that entertaining but, if you've been meaning to get to the United Center for a game or introduce someone else to the sport, now's probably about as affordable of games are going to be. Just a pair of home games left, though, so better act fast.
- Jesper Boqvist (NJD) – 1 goal, 1 assist
- Dougie Hamilton (NJD) – 1 goal, 1 assist
- Andreas Athanasiou (CHI) – 1 goal, 1 assist
The Blackhawks hit the road for the final multi-game road trip of the season, starting off Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames.