Nick Leddy (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
After the Chicago Blackhawks’ 4-2 loss at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night, the Hawks are left to reflect and asset the damage. They are now only three points ahead of the Ducks for first place in the West, but besides that, what else can we take away from this contest?
Hockey Karma is a Cruel Mistress
The first period of this game was a bad one by just about any standard. The Hawks couldn’t complete a single pass, the Ducks were going tape-to-tape on everything, and every Chicago player looked like they were a step slow. Throwing out the dynamite short-handed goal by Jonathan Toews, it was a period of total domination by the Ducks.
The second period and the first half of the third period were where the Blackhawks really made their mark. They started playing more solid defense, prevented the Ducks from getting into any type of rhythm, and in general looked great in taking a 2-1 lead.
The end of the third period was when it all came back to bite them, however. The fact of the matter is when you’re playing a team that hasn’t lost at home in two months, you absolutely have to play a full 60 minutes in order to expect victory. Instead, Chicago took the first period off and figured that putting out about 30 minutes of hard-nosed effort would be good enough. It wasn’t, and the karma of the game took a big bite out of the team in the process.
Dynamite Youngsters Take Center Stage
While the game on Monday in Colorado was more about the exploits of superstars like Toews and Patrick Kane, Wednesday’s affair was more about the young guys. Yes, Toews scored a gorgeous goal in the first, but several young Blackhawks stood out.
Nick Leddy, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Wednesday, was one such player. Not only did he score a gorgeous top-shelf goal from the point to give the Hawks the lead, but he also made several key defensive stops. Eddie Olczyk, had he been calling the game, would’ve slobbered all over himself praising Leddy for keeping his stick on the ice and disrupting passing zones, and he played like a seasoned veteran instead of a third-pairing defenseman still getting his sea legs in the NHL.
The other youngster that played great was Brandon Saad. Granted, he only picked up a secondary assist in the game (on Leddy’s goal), but he was a dominant player on offense throughout, executing absurd dekes and looking every bit the player that caused head coach Joel Quenneville to put him on the team’s top line.
Four Days Off Important for This Club
This loss will sting the Blackhawks. For the first time this season, they were in a prime position to win, and they couldn’t close it out. Their other two losses came in more of a blowout fashion, but this one has the potential to be the first true bit of adversity for this club.
What they need to do is head back to Chicago to regroup, thinking of the fact they got six out of a possible eight points on this road trip, and take a couple days off to rest up. Starting on Monday against the Los Angeles Kings, they are going to be in sprint mode for a good chunk of the season’s final month, so this is their final respite before that stretch.
Whether they have the ability to bounce back from a tough defeat on Monday will tell us a lot about where this club is headed this season.