Dylan Sikura scored his first NHL goal and the Blackhawks came back to beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-2 after being down 2-0 after the first period. Here are four takeaways:
Stop playing to opponent’s level
The Blackhawks had just won five of seven before Sunday’s contest at the United Center, the first home game of 2020. But you wouldn’t guess it, as the Red Wings, last place in the Eastern Conference, led them 2-0 after one period. The Hawks weren’t able to make things difficult for Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard — who was 2-13-1 heading to Chicago — or help out Corey Crawford on their end in the opening frame.
The Blackhawks beat the Islanders, fourth place in the Eastern Conference, handily on Dec. 27 (5-2) and lost to the New Jersey Devils (7-1), second to last in the East, the game before on Dec. 23. They’ve also beaten top teams like the Avalanche, second in the West (5-3 on Dec. 21), and the Bruins, second in the East, earlier in December.
Yes, it’s an up-and-down season with young players and veterans, but there’s a theme. The Blackhawks tend to play down to or up to their opponents’ level. It’s time for them to snap this bad habit and focus on their game instead of matching and mimicking their dancing partners. Following the game, Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said he’s noticed the trend as well but didn’t see it much against the Wings.
“Maybe there has been, but I don’t think that was really the case tonight,” Colliton said. “I just think we had a tough start. They scored on the power play and then the end of the power play where we had 3 D on the ice. It’s going to happen like that.
“And at that point we know we’re in a hole and we just got to be patient, not panic, play the right way. So I don’t think tonight we took them lightly. It was just a hard game because they had the lead early and we had to battle our way back.”
Forward Dylan Sikura scored his first NHL goal 45 seconds after Dylan Strome cut the Red Wings’ lead to 2-1 to tie it 2-2 at 15:52 of the second period. Sikura skated up to the right circle where a rebound found him and he found some open net to live a dream and lift a heavy weight off his shoulders. It was Sikura’s 43rd game with the Hawks.
“I was telling the guys I think that’s something I pictured that exact scenario maybe a thousand times before bed,” Sikura said. “It was kind of just instincts when it came there and it was a nice play by Gus (Erik Gustafsson, who got the primary assist), so happy to get that one out of the way.”
Rookie defenseman Adam Boqvist scored his second NHL goal to put the Hawks up 3-2 at 8:47 of the third period. Boqvist skated around Darren Helm near the blue line, then made his way to the slot, releasing a wrister that beat Howard.
The Blackhawks went 0-for-3 on the power play against Detroit, who was 30th in penalty kill percentage (73) before Sunday night. The Hawks were 26th in the league, converting just 15.7 percent of their man advantages.
It’s a good thing Boqvist found the back of the net again in five-on-five play. It should help his confidence on the power play, where he needs to be shooting a lot more.
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