10 observations: Blackhawks allow 3 first-period goals in loss to Flames

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10 observations: Hawks allow 3 first-period goals in loss originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Blackhawks fell to the Calgary Flames 5-2 at the United Center on Monday.

Here are 10 observations from the loss:

1. The Flames are one of the best first-period teams in the league, and they showed why in this game. They scored three goals in the opening frame and upped their first-period goal differential to +40 on the season, which ranks No. 1. The Blackhawks hung with them the rest of the way, but it was a low-event game and Darryl Sutter-coached teams often win those.

2. Calgary's third goal was a tough one to swallow. Dylan Strome won the faceoff cleanly, and it looked like the Blackhawks were in perfect position for a zone exit, but Seth Jones missed Patrick Kane on the ring-around pass and Flames defenseman Oliver Kylington just fired the puck on net and Blake Coleman redirected it in to make it 3-1 in the first period.

3. Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk has been the line in hockey all season. When the three of them are on the ice together during 5-on-5 action, they have a +41 goal differential. The next best goal differential by one line is Michael Bunting, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner of Toronto at +29. Ridiculously good.

4. Kevin Lankinen turned in a solid performance and definitely got better as the game went on. After giving up three goals on his first 12 shots, he turned aside 21 in a row, which included a breakaway stop on Gaudreau towards the end of the opening frame and a Grade-A save on Tyler Toffoli near the crease. He finished with 30 saves on 33 shots for a save percentage of .909.

5. Alec Regula scored his first career NHL goal — which was also his first career NHL point — in his 13th game, and it was a weird one. His 60-foot wrist shot from the point went off the post, then Vezina Trophy candidate Jacob Markstrom's back and in. I'm not sure that's how Regula drew it up in his head but he'll take it.

6. For the first time since Oct. 24, Tyler Johnson got on the scoresheet. He scored Chicago's first goal after Jonathan Toews' pass to the slot missed Dominik Kubalik and landed right on Johnson's tape, who fired it past Jacob Markstrom's glove. Johnson let out a big exhale and looked up to the heavens. You could tell it had been weighing on him. This was his 12th game since undergoing neck surgery, and he picked up a point for the first time in six months.

7. I thought Jake McCabe had a noticeable night, and he's been playing some good hockey lately. The Blackhawks didn't allow a single scoring chance when he was on the ice at even strength, per Natural Stat Trick. He also finished with an assist, two shots on goal, three hits and a roughing penalty that was ignited by a Nikita Zadorov hit on Jonathan Toews.

8. If you had to guess which NHL player has the most even-strength points this season, who would be at the top of your list? Connor McDavid? Auston Matthews? Leon Draisaitl? Maybe Jonathan Huberdeau? The correct answer is Gaudreau, by a significant margin. He two goals in this game — one empty-netter — and now has 85 even-strength points; the next closest is Matthews at 74, although Matthews has played six fewer games. Gaudreau deserves Hart Trophy consideration, but there are so many deserving candidates this season that I'm not sure he's going to get his due.

9. MacKenzie Entwistle took a hit from Kylington on his third shift of the game, and immediately went to the locker room. He did not return. The Blackhawks are calling it a right shoulder injury, which is no surprise given the way he was hunched over when laboring to the bench.

10. The Flames rank Top 5 in expected goals for and against, shot attempts for and against, slot shots for and against, rush chances for and against, and a bunch of other different important underlying statistical categories. What I'm saying is, they're going to be a tough out in the playoffs. That's as well-structured a team as any.

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