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Sunday, October 6, 2013
Hawks rewind: 5 observations from Game 2

By Scott Powers

Brandon Saad
Brandon Saad scored in each of the Blackhawks' first two games.


Here are five observations from the Chicago Blackhawks' 3-2 shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in their second game of the season after reviewing the game on Sunday.

1. The Blackhawks’ penalty kill was given only one chance to prove itself on Saturday, but it wasn’t effective again. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville opted to use Ben Smith over Joakim Nordstrom as the top forward pairing with Marcus Kruger to begin the kill. Twice, Smith didn’t get over to Steven Stamkos in the left circle quick enough, and Stamkos had back-to-back quality chances on net. The goal ultimately came off a broken play when the puck bounced off Duncan Keith's stick and went right to Teddy Purcell, but the Blackhawks’ inability to get the puck out of the zone has to be alarming for Quenneville. The Blackhawks have allowed four power-play goals in the first two games.

2. It’s strange to write this after last season, but the Blackhawks’ power play is trumping the play of their penalty kill. The Blackhawks had five power-play chances on Saturday, converted one of them and put eight shots on net. The Blackhawks have scored a power-play goal in both games this season. They only scored power-play goals in consecutive games seven times last season. The goals are promising, but the shots on goal are also a positive sign. The Blackhawks have had 16 shots on net during their power plays. They’re getting clean entries, moving the puck well, finding open space and not hesitating to fire away when they have decent looks.

3. Brandon Saad has been a beast in the first two games. He’s scored twice. He’s skating into open space with and without the puck. He had two premium chances on net within 30 seconds in the second period because he was being active. He’s also been creating chances for teammates. His backhanded pass to Ben Smith from behind the net in the third period on Saturday was a dandy. He had to wait nine games to get his first point of the 2013 season, and he already has four points in two games this season.

4. Marcus Kruger struggled on the faceoff on Saturday. After pointing out that Kruger had won more faceoffs than he lost in the season opener after practice the other day, Kruger was quick to say that it was too early to jump to conclusions. He was right. He won just 3-of-11 faceoffs against the Lightning on Saturday. Martin St. Louis especially made Kruger look bad when St. Louis put the puck between Kruger’s legs off a faceoff in the Blackhawks’ defensive zone and nearly set up Stamkos for a goal. Take away Kruger’s faceoffs, and the Blackhawks were 28-23 at the dot. Andrew Shaw bounced back from a rough first game and was 6-5 in faceoffs on Saturday.

5. Marian Hossa looked more like himself on Saturday. He was getting up and down the ice noticeably easier than in the season opener. He and Patrick Sharp were able to initiate a couple odd-man rushes, and both had a few quality shots on net. That second line still appears to be a work in progress, though. Handzus has been slow to get up on the ice on those rushes, and the line didn’t create many chances when the Lightning’s defense got set up. The first and third lines were better offensively.