Blackhawks adjust — but not enough — in second consecutive loss to Lightning
The Hawks played a far more competitive game Friday than they did Wednesday, but they still lost 5-2 to the reigning Stanley Cup champions.
The Blackhawks adjusted after their loss Wednesday to the Lightning, but they suffered the same fate Friday.
The Hawks kept the rematch more competitive but still lost 5-2, as coach Jeremy Colliton’s game-plan changes — something he’ll have many opportunities to do in this season formatted in two-game sets — weren’t enough to overcome the talent deficit.
‘‘We played really well and didn’t have a ton to show for it,’’ Colliton said. ‘‘Other than that, we were in a battle.’’
The Hawks held a film meeting Thursday and formulated a plan to be more aggressive and tight-checking on Lightning forwards in their defensive zone, defenseman Nikita Zadorov said.
That plan worked — to an extent. The Hawks limited the Lightning to one six-minute surge of offense — in the first half of the second period, when the hosts took a 3-0 lead they wouldn’t relinquish — rather than the three or four such stretches they conceded Wednesday. Each team finished with 35 scoring chances.
‘‘Obviously, you’re going to need reminders throughout the year,’’ Colliton said. ‘‘We’re going to give them more reminders before the next game because we want to keep improving. . . . Of course, you want to keep the puck out of your net. But we can create offense out of [aggressiveness in the defensive zone], getting pucks back quicker and being ready to go the other way.’’
Colliton also inserted rookie forward Philipp Kurashev into the lineup over Brandon Pirri. That switch proved effective, too. Kurashev lived up to his dynamic offensive potential on a new line with Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik.
Even wing Alex DeBrincat, who desperately needs a strong start to 2021 after his confidence-shattering 2019-20 misfortunes, was a bright spot, notching two points.
But the Hawks had plenty of less impressive performances, too, including a second consecutive bad game from defenseman Adam Boqvist.
And Collin Delia, given a chance to show his stuff after Malcolm Subban faltered in his first spin through the goalie merry-go-round, produced an up-and-down performance roughly equal to Subban’s.
Delia gifted the Lightning their first goal with an embarrassing miscommunication with defenseman Duncan Keith and was beaten by shots through clean sight lines two other times. But he also stopped three breakaways and 33 of 38 shots overall.
‘‘We’re just trying to get incrementally better every single day,’’ Delia said. ‘‘If we keep doing that, we’re going to like where we are at the end of the year. That’s our focus right now. We can’t put too much weight in this game. We just have to keep moving forward.’’
Dach, Toews, Seabrook to IR
After only putting forwards Alex Nylander and Zack Smith on injured reserve ahead of the game Wednesday for salary-cap reasons, the Hawks moved the rest of their injured personnel over Thursday.
Centers Kirby Dach (surgery on right wrist) and Jonathan Toews (undisclosed medical issue) were put on long-term IR, which means they’ll have to miss at least 24 days.
Meanwhile, defenseman Brent Seabrook was put on regular IR, which means he can return in 10 days. That designation also confirmed various reports that a back injury is what has kept him off the ice so far.
Seabrook might begin skating soon, but his overall readiness — coming off three surgeries last winter and now this back problem — and his spot in the fairly cemented defensive lineup look dicey.