Game 5: Hawks 4, Wings 1

The Blackhawks finally got into the win column with the first win of the year against a Red Wings team that is expected to be at the same level in terms of projected league standings.

More sustained pressure in the offensive zone, more consistency in locking it down defensively, and more steady goaltending by Kevin Lankinen were key factors leading to the 4-1 victory.

This was the first time the Hawks not only scored the game’s first goal but also held a lead until the final buzzer. The only scoreboard blemish was a goal allowed after going up 3-0.

The Hawks PP entered the game 2nd in the league with a 41.7% conversion rate. With 2 PP markers out of 5 chances, the Hawks maintained a hot pace with a marginal dip down to 41.3%.

Lankinen earned his first NHL win with another solid effort between the pipes making both routine saves and tough saves. In total, Lankinen made 30 stops and helped the PK go 5 for 5.

Pre-Game Ceremony

As customary for the home opener of any sports franchise, there was plenty of pomp and circumstance to christen the new season, enact traditions, and honor very important people.

Land Acknowledgement

Essential Frontline Salute

Player Introductions

Starting Lineup

The starting lineup for Friday’s game was the same as the previous game versus the Panthers on Tuesday:

The starters for the opening shift saw Patrick Kane’s line for the first time this season:

Game Recap

1st Goal: Kane (1-0)

Good things happen when you shoot the puck and drive hard to the net. Dylan Strome fired a shot from the left wall and hit Kane gliding to the crease bumping the puck from his skate to stick.

2nd Goal: de Haan (2-0)

Strome used his excellent vision again to find Calvin de Haan at the point who wired a slap shot into the twine. Ian Mitchell picked up his first NHL point with the secondary assist.

3rd Goal: Shaw (3-0)

The top PP unit was a well-oiled machine as all five players touched the puck making quick passes — a hallmark of a stellar power play — and ending with Andrew Shaw banging it home.

4th Goal: Larkin (3-1)

Mitchell took too wide of a path to manage his gap and thus couldn’t close it fast enough to contain Dylan Larkin who bursted from the wall to the net with a full head of steam.

5th Goal: Janmark (4-1)

While the Hawks were shorthanded, Connor Murphy and Lucas Wallmark won a board battle to free the puck that eventually got to Mattias Janmark who scored a dilly-dallying empty netter.

Game Notes

Connor Murphy

Murphy was by far the best defenseman last night and much improved from the first four games. He was positionally sound, played physical, showed a mean streak, and blocked shots.

Ian Mitchell

Mitchell has shown a good balance between making wise offensive pinches, not skating in too deep, and getting back swiftly to defend if the other team suddenly flips the ice.

Adam Boqvist

One area that Adam Boqvist needs to watch closely is creeping out of the slot too soon and too far. Also, his eyes are often looking up ice even though the opponent is still pressuring.

Alex DeBrincat

If there is a player who is consistently strong at dump and chase, it is surprisingly DeBrincat. When the puck gets in deep, he makes a beeline to it and frequently retrieves it first.

Brandon Hagel

Something that sticks out with Brandon Hagel is his hyperactivity at both ends of the ice. He is willing to take a hit to make a play or roll off the defender to get open in the slot.

Mattias Janmark

Janmark seems to bring value on the PK only yet makes more than double the salary of Wallmark who brings more than double the value as an impact player in all situations (ES, PP, PK).

Roster Updates

Brandon Pirri cleared waivers yesterday and was assigned to the taxi squad instead of to Rockford.

Carl Soderberg was officially activated and placed on the roster. He could make his Hawks debut on Sunday.

Top 6 Material?

There has been much debate on whether Strome will be a top 6 center in the NHL and specifically for the Hawks, particularly in the longer term beyond the next two seasons.

Strome is on a bridge deal to see how far he develops into a top 6 center. He may not be a bonafide one today but management thought enough of him to grant two years to prove his worth.

So far this young season he has shown some progress. This isn’t to say he has cemented his spot as the Hawks 2C for years to come but he is at least making positive strides toward that end.

If management had thought he was a lost cause and would never reach top 6 level, then they would likely have jettisoned him during preseason for whatever assets they could gain.

Had that happened, the Hawks would have had to roll with Soderberg, Wallmark, Kampf, and either Pius Suter or Philipp Kurashev at center with Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach out.

Hogs Schedule

The AHL released the official schedule for all teams yesterday Like the NHL, the AHL will have intra-divisional games only during the regular season.

The Hogs will compete against the Iowa Stars, Cleveland Monsters (Jackets), Grand Rapids Griffins (Wings), and Chicago Wolves (Hurricanes and Predators).

Here is a look at the 30-game schedule for the Hogs:

See you on the boards!

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