Now hear this: In his first game with the Blackhawks, center Dylan Strome scored a goal. It was big. It was special. It sure was something — a feel-good moment and then some.
Oh, and in other news: The Hawks were chewed up and spit out by the Knights — and booed repeatedly by their rankled fans — in Tuesday’s ugly 8-3 loss at the United Center.
OK, so not every debut is perfect.
Strome and winger Brendan Perlini — skating on the second and fourth lines, respectively — were in the lineup for the Hawks’ first game since the surprising trade of Nick Schmaltz to the Coyotes. Overall, their new team was an abject disaster, falling behind 3-0 in the first period and allowing eight goals for the first time since a memorable 2012 game against the Oilers in which Sam Gagner scored four goals and totaled eight points.
“We’ve got to be better from the puck drop,” defenseman Brent Seabrook said. “We’ve just got to be better. It’s just not acceptable to be playing the way we’re playing.”
Asked what were the biggest breakdowns, the veteran’s response was a one-word mouthful:
Almost everything, anyway. Strome, 21, found the puck after it bounced off the skate of Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt in front of an otherwise empty goal. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 draft cut the Hawks’ deficit to 4-2 in the second period and — temporarily — gave the crowd a lot of energy.
Even better: It was assisted by Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat. Strome and DeBrincat were roommates and 100-point scorers together with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League and remain close friends.
“They’re two really good players,” Strome said. “I was happy to be on their line. … I thought we created a bunch of chances.”
But bad news prevailed — in a big way — on this night. The Hawks let their opponent get out to a two-goal lead for the fourth game in a row. Last time out, at the Panthers, they were able to scratch back from a pair of two-goal deficits, tie the game with 0.8 seconds left on a goal by DeBrincat and win 5-4 in overtime. This time, the deficit kept growing until it was comically out of hand and fans were streaming out of the stands like their cars were being towed.
Corey Crawford surrendered six goals before being replaced by Cam Ward to start the third period. Neither goalie got much help from his friends.
“We had our fair share of chances,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “We actually out-chanced them in the first [period]. But it doesn’t matter when you don’t defend hard enough, you don’t stay in the game long enough, to break through offensively. You’re not going to score on every chance — and sometimes it might take 60 minutes to break through — but if you don’t defend hard enough, then you don’t give yourself a chance to win.”
Before this game, according to Colliton, the Hawks’ shortcomings weren’t related to a lack of effort.
Seabrook, though, questioned the team’s readiness to start games. Jonathan Toews didn’t pin it on effort, but rather on a penchant for making early mistakes.
To Colliton, there was something different about this game. Something altogether unacceptable.
“I don’t think it has been a lack of compete in the previous games,” he said. “I think it has been [that] we’re learning how to play the way we need to play. Tonight was a lack of compete.”
The final score reflected as much. And then some.