Blackhawks’ puck management sloppy again in home-opening loss to Sharks

The Hawks again committed a slew of turnovers and looked scrambled in their own zone as they fell to 0-2 on the season.

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The Hawks looked scrambled in their own zone for the second time in as many games in a 5-4 loss to the Sharks on Thursday.

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The Blackhawks lost their home opener 5-4 to the Sharks on Thursday in a game that involved plenty of unfortunate bounces and odd circumstances. But those breaks largely didn’t favor them for a reason.

“We haven’t quite decided we’re willing to do the right thing all the time, every shift for 60 minutes,” coach Jeremy Colliton said bluntly. 

“That’s what the teams that have success do. No one’s perfect. We’re not going to be perfect. We’re going to make mistakes, but the mistakes we make should be when we still have the intention to do the right thing. I don’t think we did that all the time tonight.”

The Hawks blew four leads during the game, but for 20 minutes, they did do the right things, at least at five-on-five. They dominated the first period, coming up with 14 scoring chances to the visiting Sharks’ five, despite eventually entering the first intermission tied 2-2 after two penalty-kill breakdowns.

The last two periods, however, resembled their sloppy, sluggish, turnover-prone mess of a season opener in Prague. 

In the second and third periods, the Sharks won the scoring-chance battle 21-7 and the shot battle 42-13 (at even strength), overcame two more Hawks goals that gave the hosts the lead and ultimately won their first game in five tries. 

They dismantled the Hawks’ puck-management strategy, which again looked about as orderly as I-90 at rush hour.

“The blue lines are obviously a huge part of hockey,” center Dylan Strome said. “It might not look that way in the stands, but if you don’t get the puck out at your end, it usually stays in there for an extra 30 seconds, and everyone gets more tired. And if it doesn’t get in at their blue line, it comes right back down our throats.”

There were undoubtedly some positives for the Hawks — on the offensive end, as usual.

Andrew Shaw played every bit like the tenacious, exasperating mosquito that made him such a critical player in years past, and he added two goals to boot. 

Dominik Kubalik scored his first NHL goal and led the team in shots (10) and hits (five), earning a midgame promotion to the top line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. And Strome scored on a beautiful give-and-go with Kane.

But the Hawks’ productive offense, just like in Prague, was undone by ugly play in their own half of the ice — by forwards and defensemen alike, it must be said. 

Connor Murphy returned from injured reserve just in time to basically score an own goal, Alex Nylander was invisible all night and David Kampf completely ignored San Jose’s Barclay Goodrow, who was wide-open in the slot on the winning goal. The examples could go on and on.

“I would have liked us to respond a little better to the adversity that we faced because we’re going to face a lot this year,” Colliton said. “So that’s a bit of a message to the team.”

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