The Chicago Blackhawks didn’t exactly get their post-Olympic Break schedule off to a rollicking start on Thursday night, dropping a 2-1 decision at Madison Square Garden to the New York Rangers.
While their attention has already shifted towards Saturday’s Stadium Series game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field, we’ll keep our gaze on last night’s affair in this edition of Three Stars.
Third Star: Patrick Kane
Kane may have come home from Sochi without a medal around his neck, but his effort in Team USA’s final two games against Canada and Finland was still great to see, as he was all over the ice and generating chances while the rest of his team seemed to be reeling.
Kane continued that on Thursday night despite a rotating cast of linemates, picking up two shots on goal and attempting two more as the Hawks lost. No, none of those shots went in the net, but both of his scoring chances were high quality.
The first came in the first period of the game as the Hawks were pressing on the power play. After a nifty wraparound attempt by Jonathan Toews was stopped by Rangers goaltender Cam Talbot, Kane picked up the rebound and got a quick shot attempt off. It took a great lateral move across the crease from Talbot to stop the shot, and New York remained in front.
Kane also had a chance to tie the game late in the third period after Peter Regin’s goal with 12 seconds left in the contest. Kane grabbed the puck at the near post, and skated it around to try to find an opening, but his shot was barely stopped by a quick leg pad save from Talbot, and when the puck bounced to the corner, the Rangers held on to win.
Normally we don’t feature “almosts” so prominently on this ranking, but Kane was one of the Hawks’ most prominent players in the game on Thursday, and if he continues to play that aggressively, the goals will surely come.
Second Star: Peter Regin
Going into Thursday’s game, there was plenty of buzz around the Blackhawks about whether or not Regin was going to be able to handle the pressure of being the second line center for the team, skating with Kane and Kris Versteeg to start the contest off.
In the end, Regin played only 13:50, but he was one of the most notable Hawks on the ice, with three shots on goal and two hits to his credit in the game.
Regin’s big moment came in the late stages of the third period with the Blackhawks down two goals. Picking up a loose puck in the slot, Regin carried it in on net and ended up forcing a shot past Talbot to give the Hawks their first post-Olympic goal.
In the end, it was for naught as the team lost, but at least Regin crashed the front of the net and made something happen on offense rather than letting the opportunity fall by the wayside like so many others did for the Hawks in the contest.
First Star: Duncan Keith
If there was one player that could be definitively labelled as rust-free after the Hawks’ first game back from the Olympics, it would be Keith. With five shots on goal in 23:11 of ice time, Keith looked sharp in all areas of the game Thursday, and he was in top form on defense especially.
On two different breakaway opportunities during the game, Keith made potentially goal-saving plays. In the first period, Keith made a brilliant play in the neutral zone off a tough line change for the Hawks, getting caught stumbling off the bench but somehow still making the poke check to prevent a Rangers breakaway in on Corey Crawford.
Later in the period, Keith was at it again as the Rangers cleared the puck out of the zone on a Hawks power play. Carl Hagelin chased down the puck, and looked to have a breakaway in on Crawford, but Keith made a tremendous play to force the puck away from the Rangers skater, and he did so without committing a penalty on what was truly a tough play.
On a night that some other Hawks veterans were slow to get up to speed, Keith was a big exception to that, and looked right at home in his first game back on the NHL-sized rink.