Chicago Blackhawks lose 3-2 in SO as Lightning steal two points - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

Hawks lose 3-2 in SO as Lightning steal two points

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The Chicago Blackhawks suffered a shootout loss on home ice on Saturday night dropping a 3-2 decision to the Tampa Bay. Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop was the best player on the ice and was the reason his club had a chance to skate out of Chicago with a win. The Hawks were dominant throughout but Bishop stole two points for his club.

For the better part of two periods it looked like the seniors playing the freshman. Tampa couldn't muster one shot on goal in the opening 20 minutes. The Hawks outshot the Lightning 12-0 after the opening frame but the game remained scoreless. It was the first time since December 4, 1946 an opponent was held without a shot versus the Blackhawks in the first period.

Tampa had recorded only six shots on goal after 40 minutes of play but Bishop really hit his stride late in the second period as Chicago could have scored a few times. The Blackhawks carried a two goal lead into the third frame but it wasn't enough.

As often happens, a team that gets badly outplayed but is able to hang around comes back to make a game of it. The Lightning struck at the 10:08 mark of period three and then quickly tied the score on a power play goal as Jonathan Toews was set off for high sticking.

Corey Crawford couldn't be faulted even though he was outplayed by his counterpart. It isn't easy for a goalie to get into the flow of a game when there was so little work through two periods.

The Lightning play a trap-like defensive style but the Hawks did generate many scoring chances. It didn't matter because Bishop had a special night and it appeared on several occasions the Blackhawks would score but it wasn't to be so.

With a few days off after their opening night game both clubs had a chance to work on special teams.

After Patrick Kane gave the Hawks the lead in period two, Brandon Saad scored a power play goal as he benefited from a fortunate bounce off the glass which caught Bishop out of position. Chicago took only one penalty and the Lightning did score to even the game at two, but the Hawks penalty killing unit really couldn't be blamed.

Ben Smith and Michael Kostka made their season debut and both gave a good accounting of themselves.

Kostka must have impressed Joel Quenneville in training camp as he made the club for opening night. Quenneville is carrying eight defensemen even though the Hawks don't have a busy workload to start. Kostka played a bit on the power play and looks comfortable with the puck.

Smith has been a hard luck player. Last season he could have made the club instead of Saad but he suffered an injury and was out of action. That turned out well for Saad and the Blackhawks, but Smith should get a good look this time around.

Much has been made about the departure of Michael Frolik and how his loss will have a negative effect on the Blackhawks penalty killing unit.

Last season it was written here Frolik and Marcus Kruger were the best penalty killing duo in the NHL. My thinking hasn't changed but GM Stan Bowman made the correct choice. If it was a decision between keeping the entire defense together and having to sacrifice Frolik to save some cap space, Bowman's logic shouldn't be questioned.

The assumption Blackhawks management made is there will be players in the system that could take Frolik's role. Smith should be one of those players but when Joakim Nordstrom was given a shot on the PK unit coming out of camp, one has to wonder.

Those playing in Rockford for the last couple of years like Smith, Jimmy Hayes and Jeremy Morin seemed more likely candidates for penalty killing duties than the 21-year-old rookie Nordstrom. Nordstrom played overseas last year and doesn't have the strength or seasoning of the others.

Maybe the fate of players like Hayes and Smith will boil down to their ability to kill penalties effectively. Smith is more versatile than Hayes, so if there is a decision down the road between the two that should work to his advantage. If Hayes can't kill penalties he may have a difficult time staying up with the big club. It's very early so the jury is out on a few players. The Hawks have drafted a number of players in recent years that could be best suited as NHL penalty killers and time will tell. 

Frolik had a great season but he wasn't the biggest reason the penalty killing unit was so good.

Kruger also had a huge year, Crawford was much better as was Niklas Hjalmarsson. Johnny Oduya had his best season ever and the addition of Michal Rozsival was Bowman's best free agent signing.

With the addition of Rozsival, Quenneville could lessen the workload of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. That paid dividends all year but especially so in the playoffs. The Hawks were fresh enough to withstand the grueling post season while playing the last series with only five defensemen.

The Blackhawks will play their first road game on Wednesday night facing the Blues in St. Louis. The Blues should be jacked up to prove they belong in the conversation as the biggest challenge to Chicago in the Central Division. 

Quenneville will take his time and try different line up combinations and will eventually figure things out. For now, the Hawks have picked up three of four possible points and can play better. That said the schedule in October is a favorable one and those points can come in handy a few months from now.

Follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia

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