Blackhawks observations: Chicago responds with win vs. Calgary after being called out

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CHICAGO — The Blackhawks knew they were lucky to pull off their comeback win over the San Jose Sharks in the last game.

As Seth Jones said Tuesday, against any team other than the last-place Sharks, the Blackhawks probably would gone down 4-0 and never been able to come back. Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson made his feelings known about his team’s poor start against the Sharks during that game, but he continued to do so when the team returned to Chicago. For the first time in a long time, Richardson put his players through sprints at the end of Monday’s practice.

“I know we skipped out of the game luckily on top, and that’s great on them that they were able to do that, but if we go back two games, we weren’t happy with our performance in two games,” Richardson said on Monday. “That’s just not professional enough for me. You have to do it every day. Sometimes that’s the way the game is played: up and down the ice, or over and back. It sets home that it’s really unacceptable for the standard that we want to have for work ethic.”

That wasn’t the end of that discussion either. The Blackhawks veterans continued to push that message in the dressing room leading up to Tuesday’s game against the Calgary Flames. They wanted to ensure their next game would be different. They even went as far as setting goals of 10 shots and 10 hits in the opening period.

“Just a mindset,” Blackhawks forward Nick Foligno said on Tuesday morning. “I think sometimes if you put those in then you’re instantly in the game of understanding, OK, we have to hit those numbers. I don’t know it’s going to work, but I think it’ll get some guys around maybe a shot-first mentality, engaging in a hit because you know that’s something the team is asking of you.”

But would it work?

It would.

From the opening puck drop Tuesday, the Blackhawks were noticeably more engaged. Ryan Donato and Philipp Kurashev went out of their way on the opening shift to finish checks, helping the tally. Jason Dickinson was zipping around more than anyone. On his opening shift, he drew a penalty, which was followed by another Flames penalty, which was followed by a Blackhawks opening goal. Within the first five minutes, the Blackhawks had attempted 16 shots. Dickinson later scored off a pass from Joey Anderson on a two-on-one rush and leveled Mikael Backlund into the Blackhawks’ bench.

“I don’t think I’ve been physical enough the last number of games, so I definitely wanted to bring that to the game,” Dickinson said. “It always helps me get engaged and helps me play a little bit better.”

And after 20 minutes, the Blackhawks had 15 shots on goal, nine hits, and, most importantly, a 2-0 lead.

The Flames would push back, and the Blackhawks wouldn’t maintain that energy over the next 40 minutes, but the first period was what everyone searching for and it would be enough. Dickinson added a goal in the third period, his 20th of the season, and the Blackhawks won 3-1.

“I thought the first period was excellent,” Richardson said. “We were flying, we were physical and dominant in a lot of areas and really didn’t let them have a chance to get going. The second period we laid off a little bit, but I liked our third. I thought we played well and got some spark back and had some better line rushes and better battles. So it was good overall.”

Two chances to score his first goal

Landon Slaggert was SO close to scoring his first NHL goal — twice.

On the first one, he beat Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom to a loose puck in the offensive zone. With Markstrom out of the play, Slaggert wasn’t facing a goalie any longer, but he still had to get the puck past defenseman MacKenzie Weegar who denied his shot.

“(Net) looks pretty big and I managed to miss it,” Slaggert said with a laugh.

Later on, Dickinson, Anderson and Slaggert worked an odd-man rush to near perfection. Dickinson absorbed two defenders and got the puck to Anderson who got it to Slaggert who was even more open. Slaggert looked as if he might have finished off the play, too. But after review, it was discovered the puck never crossed the line.

“Honestly, I couldn’t tell you what was going through my mind,” Slaggert said. “I thought I went in, but then I turned around, the spotlight came on, so I think there was definitely some confusion for a second there. But, yeah, I guess I have to wait a little longer for it.”

As a consolation, Slaggert still recorded his first NHL point on Dickinson’s first goal and tallied his second on Dickinson’s second goal. But beyond the points, Richardson has been pleased with the way Slaggert has played through his first six NHL games.

“I thought he fit in well with that line,” Richardson said. “Nick’s (Foligno) done well there, (Colin) Blackwell’s done well there but I think Landon’s perfect. He’s like a spark plug, he’s got a lot of energy, he makes the right plays in the zones, just like he did on Dickinson’s first goal and he creates on the forecheck. That’s Dickinson’s second goal. There was one play in the third period that came to him, he caught it like a baseball play or a football play and he threw it down in one motion and got a stick on it, and got it in deep. Because we’re protecting a 2-goal lead, those are just smart hockey plays with athletic ability. He’s one of those guys you can probably put anywhere on the ice, but I think that line suits him really well right now.”

Making it look easy

Mark Lazerus and I are working on something we’ll publish later in the season, but this is a sneak peek from Tyler Johnson on Alex Vlasic.

“I think Vlassy’s pretty special,” Johnson said. “I know he gets a lot of credit, but in a few years, the whole league will really know.”

Vlasic’s game on Tuesday made me think of the quote. There are so many plays Vlasic makes that don’t appear in highlight packages, but are important to the outcome. For example, in this play where the Flames appear to have a two-on-one opportunity, Vlasic plays it so well and makes it look easy.


Pride Night 2024

A season ago, the Blackhawks’ players did nothing in warmups to show their support for Pride Night. This season, players brought in their own rainbow tape and made it available to teammates. Many players used it, too.

Leading up to the night, Jones and Foligno talked about its significance.

“We’re obviously all in on that as a team and as an organization and out of respect to anyone, any way of life anyone has,” Jones said. “And Pride Night’s obviously still a big part of this league and a big part of our organization from the top down, so all the players are still happy that our organization is having a Pride Night. And we’re not wearing the jerseys, but I think it means more than that, you know? I think if everyone believes in it, it’s not just about the jersey at the end of the day.”

Foligno said, “I think it’s wonderful, and I think it’s great that our league still does. The biggest thing is everyone has different beliefs, but at the end of the day, you should be able to voice what yours is in a respectful way. Not to say if somebody doesn’t or does, it’s an opportunity for us to shed light on a group of people that has felt that they need more of that. So it’s a great opportunity for us to do that. It’s a nice way to take on leadership for yourself, whatever you feel your beliefs are. I think that’s a great way to grow as a person … if that’s an important part for you, then stand up and do it. And I think everyone’s there to support each other.”

Prospect signed for a tryout

Blackhawks forward prospect Jiri Felcman, a third-round pick in 2023, signed an amateur tryout agreement with the Rockford IceHogs on Tuesday. Felcman isn’t likely to appear in any IceHogs games soon, but the Blackhawks wanted him to experience practicing with the team and they were happy to have the opportunity to work with him. Felcman played mostly in Switzerland’s lower leagues this season, but he is expected to be in the top division there next season.

(Photo of Jason Dickinson celebrating his goal in the third period: Kamil Krzaczynski / USA Today)

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