7 takeaways from the Chicago Blackhawks’ 5-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens: ‘We just weren’t playing smart’

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Jason Dickinson had kind of a faraway look before he attempted to explain how a 2-0 lead turned into a 5-2 loss Friday against the Montreal Canadiens.

“They pushed and we didn’t,” said Dickinson, whose second-period goal gave the Hawks a 2-0 lead. “Watching clips, feeling it, I felt like they got a couple goals and then we sat back and maybe got on our heels. And then the third period, we just didn’t really do anything. We didn’t get in their zone, we didn’t create anything, we didn’t get enough shots.”

For the eighth time this season, the Hawks couldn’t back up a win with a win. For the fourth time in the six games since this season’s only win streak, they lost after scoring the opening goal.

“It’s really frustrating,” Dickinson said. “Intentions are there, we want to do the right things. We want to win. We want to battle. But the execution isn’t there all the time.

“It comes with being a young team, but at a certain point you just have to figure it out. It’s simple as that.”

Defenseman Isaak Phillips said the Hawks were baited into playing the Canadiens’ style.

“They play a lot more of a run-and-gun game than we do,” he said. “We’re a lot more structured when we’re playing our best. We said that in here, we don’t want to get into that with them going back and forth with chances, and we kind of let that seep into our game.”

The rebuilding Hawks weren’t expected to win this season, but they don’t want certain patterns to become ingrained.

“We just weren’t playing smart,” said coach Luke Richardson. “We were doubling up on forechecks and we were doubling up on backchecks and that left people wide-open. Just kind of unaware.

“It looked like we were the tired team, not them.”

The Hawks did have a few positive notes.

Defensemen Kevin Korchinski and Jarred Tinordi returned to action.

Korchinski missed six games while he and his family dealt with the death of his father, Larry. The entire Hawks team flew from Seattle to Saskatoon, Canada, on Dec. 15 for the funeral.

Richardson said Korchinski “skated well. It was good to have him back.”

Tinordi returned after missing seven games with an oblique injury.

Here are seven takeaways from Friday’s loss.

1. The Hawks don’t just have a problem holding leads.

They have a problem holding teams out of the net whenever they score.

On Friday, Mitchell Stephens scored 37 seconds after Dickinson’s goal.

Here are other instances this season that opponents have responded with at least one goal within three minutes of a Hawks goal, according to NHL Stats.

Dec. 19 vs. Colorado Avalanche: 1 minute and 53 seconds later
Dec. 17 vs. Vancouver Canucks: 2:29 (a second goal, 3:10 later)
Dec. 14 at Seattle Kraken: 1:19
Dec. 10 vs. Washington Capitals: 1:22
Nov. 26 vs. St. Louis Blues: 2:17
Oct. 30 at Arizona Coyotes: 1:55
Oct. 21 vs. Vegas Golden Knights: 2:35
Oct. 16 at Toronto Maple Leafs: 2:15

2. Kevin Korchinski has been “strong” since his return.

Korchinski played for the first time since the death of his father, Larry, on Dec. 13.

Richardson said before the game returning to familiar surroundings will help.

“The dressing room’s that sanctuary where it’s a real family atmosphere and I think sometimes guys just feel most comfortable there,” he said. “He seemed to be smiling and happy to be back.

“Him getting out with the guys, his teammates, and focusing on his job and the game, it can give your mind a little bit of relief about the real-life problems that go on, and that’s what he’s dealing with.”

During the game, he paired with Nikita Zaitsev and got some power-play time.

“He’s strong for being here,” Isaak Phillips said. “You don’t need to say anything too much, you just have to be there for him and I think everyone knows the situation.

“You’re pulling for the guy. He’s a great kid, so it’s just about being there for him. You don’t have to say anything spectacular, just being a brother.”

3. Connor Bedard showed great vision.

On Ryan Donato’s opening goal, Phillips chipped the puck up to Bedard in the neutral zone.

Bedard had Kaiden Guhle on him, with two other Habs in pursuit, as he entered the offensive zone. Bedard put on the brakes along the left wall and spun around as he backhanded a pass to Donato, hitting his stick on the tape.

Donato just had to shoot by defenseman Justin Barron as he scored on goalie Cayden Primeau.

4. Generational player, meet generational player.

Bedard missed the whole “Connorverse” thing — the made-for-marketing label pumping up his first matchup against Connor McDavid — but he’s been asked to participate in more than his share of dog and pony shows since embarking on his rookie season.

“It’s not a very big price to pay,” he said before the game. “At the start of the year, there was a lot of stuff I was doing, so I was getting a little tired. But it’s been good.”

But if there’s one he certainly didn’t mind doing, it was his jersey exchange with Victor Wembanyama, a fellow No. 1 overall pick who was in town for the San Antonio Spurs’ 114-95 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Thursday.

“It was pretty cool,” said Bedard, who didn’t get to see Wembanyama’s game. “Obviously a great face playing in the NBA. He’s going to be, or he already is, really special.

“Getting to talk to him a bit and hear his perspective, coming over from Europe and (being in) similar situations — him even more just with how big the NBA is. It was good to get to talk to him.”

5. The Hawks’ pains aren’t particular to them.

The Hawks got back Korchinski, Jarred Tinordi and Philipp Kurashev for Friday’s game.

“Good to have those (lineup) decisions instead of scramble mode with 20 guys,” Richardson said.

But the Hawks will continue to make do without several key contributors:

Joey Anderson (upper body): placed on injured reserve Monday
Seth Jones (left shoulder): placed on IR retroactive to Dec. 10
Andreas Athanasiou (groin): placed on IR retroactive to Nov. 9.

That’s not to mention Taylor Hall, who had season-ending right knee surgery on Nov. 27.

But no one’s shedding a tear for the Hawks on the Habs bench. They have seven players on injured reserve, including Alex Newhook, Tanner Pearson and Kirby Dach.

Richardson said, “You look at Vegas, both goalies are out. Montreal’s list is as long or longer than ours, and I’m sure they had to do the same thing with adjusting your lines and special teams.

“That’s part of the job. Our guys have been really adapting to it well. If we trust in our system, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing with.”

6. Sometimes you have to put the “drive” in park.

Periodically, Richardson gets questions about Bedard’s skills, habits and mental makeup, particularly from Canadian media, and it certainly was the case with Canadiens reporters in town.

“You can have all the talent in the world but I said the other day that the special quality is that drive,” Richardson said. “It’s getting in the gym early in the morning, getting your body prepared for the game.

“Yesterday, I almost had to give the Zamboni guy 50 bucks to get him off the ice because he stays out there maybe too long after practice. … He loves it and he wants to work on things. So it’s hard to tell him to stop.”

There’s a law of diminishing returns — too much of a good thing.

“We can tell him all he wants, but his peers are the ones that really tell him,” Richardson said. “He’s smart, he watches other players play on the ice, and he takes things and puts them into his game, but he also will take how they prepare off the ice. And some of that is rest.”

7. Colin Blackwell skated like a man making up for lost time.

After his first game back Tuesday, after a near-10 month layoff, Chicago Blackhawks forward Colin Blackwell pondered the question: “Were you emotional going into this game?”

“I’m always emotional,” he said.

This was after he bowled over Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon and left him shellshocked.

Turns out, that was just the appetizer.

During a first-period penalty kill, he nabbed the puck and broke out on a short-handed rush, aiming just a bit high on the roof shot attempt.

Then in the second period, he stickhandled handled through defenders, whirled around in traffic and found Jason Dickinson for a goal.

Dickinson said, “(Blackwell’s) brought a lot of intensity, emotion. I think he was almost 300 days between games, so there’s a lot of built-up excitement, energy.

“He already brings energy to games and on top of that much time out, he’s raring to go. He’s itching for it. It’s contagious.”


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