Blackhawks edge Red Wings in overtime, move into playoff spot
The win bumped the Hawks’ points percentage up to .588, a few decimals above the Stars’ .583 and into fourth place in the Central Division.
The Blackhawks are in a playoff spot.
The way they got there — a 3-2 overtime win over the lowly Red Wings — was underwhelming, so much so that coach Jeremy Colliton said he’d sleep worse Monday night than he did after the team’s well-played regulation loss to the Blue Jackets on Jan. 29.
But the Hawks are nonetheless in one, for now. The win bumped their points percentage up to .588, a few decimals above the Stars’ .583 and into fourth place in the Central Division.
“Sometimes games are like that,” Dominik Kubalik said. “It wasn’t our best, but we still found a way to win it. That’s huge. We had some good stuff there, some good stretches, some bad stretches too. But we stuck with it and found a way.”
Kubalik beat Thomas Greiss through his five-hole for the winner with 16.1 seconds left, giving him two even-strength goals this season — he also scored in the first period — after he entered the day with zero.
Brandon Hagel, who set up Kubalik’s first goal and also saved a Wings breakaway with a clever interception in the second period, continued to excel after his pregame promotion to the second line.
And Malcolm Subban, making just his fourth start of the season, saved 27 of 29 shots.
Otherwise, the game was far from the Hawks’ finest. The Wings controlled play for much of the game and out-shot the Hawks 29-24.
Only because of Subban did the Hawks even survive the closing minutes of regulation.
“A lot of different areas can be better,” a grumpy Colliton said. “We didn’t manage the puck very well, we didn’t make enough plays in the breakout, we didn’t hold the puck in the offensive zone, we didn’t sustain enough zone time, didn’t protect it down there.
“We did get two points and they can’t take them from us. Now the challenge is to make sure we’re much better on Wednesday.”
Mitchell not worn down
Entering this season, the densest season of Ian Mitchell’s hockey career was 54 games —as a 16-year-old in Albertan “junior A” hockey.
He expected this 2021 NHL season, in which he’d play 56 games in just four months, would exhaust him by comparison. Yet the series-based format, which has nearly halved the Hawks’ frequency of flights, has made a huge difference.
“You hear a lot about rookies in their first year getting worn down,” he said Monday. “Being able to stay over in a place a couple of nights has been beneficial. I don’t feel worn down yet... That’s been a huge benefit for myself, coming in and maybe not being used to playing this many games.”
It’s a good thing, too.
Entering Monday, Mitchell — recently promoted to a pair with Duncan Keith — had played 18:21, 17:58 and a career-high 19:29 on Saturday in his last three outings after previously averaging 14:06 per game.
“These last few games, I’ve been hitting my stride and earning the coaches’ trust more,” he said. “I’ve been able to get more playing time, which has been awesome. You really get into a rhythm.”
Ex-Hawks struggling in 2021
The 2021 NHL season hasn’t been kind so far to recent former Hawks players.
Robin Lehner was scratched from his scheduled start Thursday for the Golden Knights with an upper-body injury and hasn’t played since. Drake Caggiula sits on the Coyotes’ injured reserve list, too.
Neither Olli Maatta nor Slater Koekkoek has clicked with the Kings or Oilers.
Brandon Saad, who had a bad start with the Avalanche, finally found his groove —tallying seven points in a four-game span — then saw COVID-19 pause the Avs’ schedule for two weeks.
Erik Gustafsson has seven assists in 11 games for the Flyers, but he has struggled defensively.