Blackhawks lose another defenseman, blown out by Golden Knights
Calvin de Haan suffered another shoulder injury and the Hawks’ defense, already down Duncan Keith and Olli Maatta, could not hold up in a 5-1 defeat.
LAS VEGAS — Down to just three true NHL defensemen, the Blackhawks survived for almost half a game Tuesday.
Then the decimated roster could hold up no more.
The Golden Knights broke a scoreless tie seven minutes into the second period, then scored four more times as the night wore on en route to a dominant 5-1 win over the Hawks, who have now lost eight of their last 11.
Connor Murphy, Brent Seabrook and Erik Gustafsson became virtually the entire Hawks defense after Calvin de Haan left late in the first period with a right shoulder injury.
“Losing de Haan was a big blow, and we got worn down as the game went on back there for sure, asking a lot of guys,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “But whether it was managing the puck or being sharper in transition, they were better than us tonight.”
The other two defensemen on the roster, Adam Boqvist and Dennis Gilbert, are both professional rookies who were in the AHL until last week.
De Haan has been hampered by shoulder issues for years and missed the entire 2019 offseason rehabbing from a surgery that reconstructed the same right shoulder he re-injured Tuesday. Colliton said de Haan went back to Chicago immediately for evaluation and that “it’s not good.”
“He’s a really good player for us and he’s been good all year,” Colliton said. “So [we’re] certainly missing his calmness, and [he] makes a lot of plays and defends really well.”
De Haan’s absence to some absurd ice time totals and situational usages. Boqvist and Gustafsson were both employed significantly on the penalty kill when Gilbert was boxed, eventually resulting in the Knights’ first goal. Gustafsson ultimately played 25:44, Murphy played 23:05 and even Boqvist — who missed a few shifts early on with a bloody nose — topped 17 minutes.
De Haan will join Duncan Keith and Olli Maatta on the injured list, meaning three of the Hawks’ top four defensemen at the start of the season are out of service.
Boqvist and Gilbert seem slated for extended NHL stints in these dire circumstances, with Slater Koekkoek — a healthy scratch Tuesday — also pressed back into service. Philip Holm, who impressed in the preseason, could be the next man up from the AHL. Minor-league veteran Ian McCoshen, who was recalled for but did not appear in the game in Colorado two weeks ago, is another option.
As for Tuesday’s loss, Dominik Kubalik salvaged a goal in the final minute, but the Hawks’ overall effort was nowhere near the level of the Knights. Corey Crawford was the only man keeping the visitors alive for a while and finished with 32 saves.
“He deserves to be frustrated,” Connor Murphy said. “It’s not fair what we give up against him. I mean, it’s not just chances, it’s breakaways, 2 [and] 3-on-1s. It’s just unbelievable what our goalies have had to deal with all year with some of these games. We hang them out to dry.”
The Hawks have only one regulation win since Nov. 17 and have now lost by four or more goals in three of their last six contests.
After trending in such a positive direction following last month’s 5-3 barnburner win in Vegas, the tide has turned dramatically as the gap between the Hawks and the playoff bubble continues to expand.
“I don’t know if it just has to do with us giving up too many Grade-A chances and being irresponsible,” Murphy said. “There’s a lot of different things you can look at. But yeah, just us not playing the right brand on the road.”