Here come the ‘Hawks, the flighty Blackhawks?
Yes, a three-game skid to open the season has frustrated the Chicago Blackhawks, but the struggles certainly aren’t the kind to derail the club as Chicago welcomes the New York Islanders for its home opener Tuesday night.
Still, considering that the Islanders have lost their first two games, urgency figures to be higher than usual for the third Tuesday in October.
“Once you lose a couple and now it’s three in a row, it’s all of a sudden like you want to get to the next game and try to make sure you get a win the next game,” Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said.
“I think we’ve been thinking about that the last two games as well. I don’t want to say the pressure’s building, but I think if we relax, play our game, look at the team we have in there — we have a lot better team than we’ve had in the past couple years — we should have a lot of success.”
Chicago bemoaned another slow start during Saturday’s 5-2 loss at Pittsburgh. Playing against his former club, which was without injured forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury surrendered four goals in the first period.
Kevin Lankinen entered in relief of Fleury and helped steady the team, which has allowed eight first-period goals in the first three games of the campaign.
“Certainly not the start we wanted,” Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. “Ultimately, again, can’t dig yourself a hole that deep and expect you’re going to be able to come back. This group has a much better level than we’ve shown, at least the consistency of our performance from shift to shift. We can be much better. We know that, and we’re going to need it.”
An opponent’s barrage also was an issue for the Islanders on Saturday, although they were peppered steadily instead of all at once.
Sam Bennett tallied a hat trick for the host Florida Panthers in a 5-1 win against the Islanders, who fell behind 1-0 after the first period and 3-0 following the second.
“Once they got the fourth goal, we stopped playing,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “They smelled blood and they kept coming at us.”
New York is in the midst of a season-opening stretch of 13 straight road games before its scheduled home opener against Calgary at the new UBS Arena in Elmont, N.Y., on Nov. 20.
The Islanders have been outscored 11-4 in their first two games, with goalie Ilya Sorokin (5.09 goals-against average, .855 save percentage) seeing much of the action.
Trotz hinted that some changes in New York’s defensive alignment might be on the horizon as the team seeks answers.
“It’s a combination of things, but we’re spending too much time in our own zone,” Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech said. “We’re getting worn out down there. It takes a toll on you. You maybe don’t have the energy to close quickly and kill the play right away.
“It starts at the beginning of the game; every time they enter the zone, we have to be dialed in with that. There’s no excuses there.”
–Field Level Media