This one was ugly.
One look at the Fenwick chart posted below tells a pretty accurate tale of what happened on Saturday night at United Center. The Chicago Blackhawks played keepaway with the puck all night long, denying the Tampa Bay Lightning the chance to get or keep the puck in the offensive zone. In rare moments when the Lightning did enter the zone successfully with an opportunity to create offense, the Hawks filled up the shooting lanes, broke up passes through the slot, and transitioned back to offense with relative ease, forcing Tampa Bay to dump and chase and preventing any sort of forechecking.
The Top Gun line was more Goose than Maverick; to put things bluntly, they were eaten alive by Chicago’s forwards at 5v5. Tyler Johnson, Richard Panik, and Ondrej Palat were on the ice for a grand total of (1) Fenwick event in their favor. Johnson and Palat had a Fenwick For % in the single digits which isn’t just bad, it’s like NHL players versus AHL players bad (which may not be far from the truth, and might explain a few things). The kids have terrific chemistry but we’re seeing now the drawbacks to starting three rookies on a line together in the best hockey league in the world against the defending champions.
To be fair to them, the whole team was dreadful at even strength. That’ll happen when you don’t register your first shot on goal until well into the second period.
Chicago had as many scoring chances (16) as the Lightning had shots, as the Hawks outchanced the bolts 16-5. Fortunately for the Lightning, in games where they don’t possess the puck, they have elite offensive talent capable of converting on scoring chances, and that’s exactly what happened here.
Teddy Purcell continues to be a zone-entry bright spot for the Bolts, even against the Hawks in a rough game. He had 6 entries in total (5 with control), behind only Nate Thompson who managed 7 total entries but only 3 with control. The 4th line continues to play well this season but it’s no secret Thompson, Pierre-Cedric Labrie, and BJ Crombeen are looking to dump the puck in and dig it out rather than enter with control and try to create sustained offense via the rush.
Fortunately for the Lightning, they get the win and a bit of a reprieve for Game 3 of the season-opening road trip, as they will face the Buffalo Sabres next, their first opponent of the season who wasn’t in the Stanley Cup Final a few months ago.
Following is tracked scoring chance and zone event data (stick tap to friend of the site Corey Sznajder, who runs the Carolina Hurricanes blog Shutdown Line and writes for Hockey Prospectus, for tracking zone entries for this game) that is exclusively available here: