In what can fairly be described as one of the weirdest games the Chicago Blackhawks will play this season, they dropped a 6-5 overtime decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night.
The loss dropped the Hawks to 6-1-3 on the season, and featured so many weird plays that ESPN’s “Not Top 10” could almost exclusively use footage of this contest to fill the entire segment.
With that in mind, here were Thursday’s Three Stars:
Third Star: Duncan Keith
The Blackhawks came out with a largely flat effort on the defensive side of things in the game’s early stages, and their offense was slow to get going as well. One of the big turning points in that regard was the way the team’s defensemen began to carry the puck more and draw defenders with their patient approach. Both Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook were involved in the Hawks’ first goal, with Seabrook taking the shot that eventually found its way to Bryan Bickell, who tapped in the rebound.
Keith also picked up the assist on Andrew Shaw’s power play goal that gave the Hawks a 4-3 lead early in the third period. On the play, Keith fed the puck to Kane as he skated down the boards, and Kane’s shot was deflected by Shaw for the tally.
Keith may not have even picked up the primary assist on that goal, or any type of helper on Bickell’s goal, but his passing on those plays, as well as his five shots on goal and two takeaways in nearly 26 minutes of ice time were a big boost to the Hawks tonight, and were nearly enough to give the team a victory.
Second Star: Jonathan Toews
Even though it was Radko Gudas that deflected in the errant pass that evaded Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop, Toews got credit for the game-tying goal as the last Hawk to touch the puck. Aside from that boondoggle, he did quite a few good things too.
Toews picked up another assist in the game on Marian Hossa’s deflected goal in the second period. On that play, Toews got zone entry carrying the puck, and flipped a nifty little pass onto the stick of Patrick Sharp, who was following closely behind him. Sharp fired the puck on net, and it was Hossa who managed to somehow get a stick on the waist-high shot and drop it between Bishop’s goal pads to tie the game up at 2-2 for the Hawks.
In addition to his assist, Toews also racked up seven shots on goal and played 24:17 of ice time in the game to lead all forwards and trail only Keith among Hawks’ skaters in ice time. Add to that the fact that he took 30 of the 74 face-offs the Hawks had during the game (he won 16 of them) and the way he succeeded in creating offensive pressure no matter who was with him on the ice at any given time, and it can fairly be said that Toews had himself a successful game despite the outcome.
First Star: Patrick Kane
In all honesty, when Kane is firing on all cylinders and pitching in both on offense and defense, there are few players in the game more dangerous than he is, and he was at his most lethal on Thursday night.
While most of the Hawks muddled through the first half of the game, Kane was there in a big way, pushing the tempo offensively and providing some great pressure on Lightning skaters as they tried to move the puck up the ice. Kane had seven shots on goal in the game, and his goal that re-tied the game late in the second period really took the air out of an arena that came alive after Steven Stamkos scored to give the Lightning back the lead just a minute and a half earlier.
If Kane can continue to play with the same passion that he showed on both sides of the ice tonight, then there should be a lot more big games coming for him down the line.