10 observations: Blackhawks can't overcome slow start in loss to Capitals

10 observations: Blackhawks can't overcome slow start in loss to Capitals originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

WASHINGTON — The Chicago Blackhawks fell to the Washington Capitals 4-1 on Saturday at Capital One Arena.

Here are 10 observations from the loss:

1. The Blackhawks gave up three goals in the first period, and it didn't help that they committed three penalties. Not the way they wanted to follow up Tuesday's win in Arizona to finally snap a 22-game road winless streak.

"I didn’t think we were really physically and mentally into that game early and it showed," Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson said. "And we got behind. At the end of the period, we picked our game up and we created a power-play opportunity and that definitely had some life and that gave us a little bit of life. ... We tried to push and the third period was probably our best, but it’s a 4-0 lead, so the other team plays differently."

2. The Capitals thought they went up 4-0 in the opening frame but the Blackhawks challenged for offside and won it after a lengthy review. It helped calm the waters a bit, although it didn't matter in the end.

The Blackhawks are now 13-for-14 in challenges in the Luke Richardson era. The only one they lost was on Nov. 16 vs. Tampa Bay when Richardson decided to roll the dice on a puck possession zone entry that could've gone either way.

Chicago's video coaches are some of the best in the NHL, and Richardson made sure to give them each (Matt Meacham and assistant Adam Gill) a shoutout after the game.

"Our guys, they’re great," Richardson said. "Both Matt and Adam in the back, I don’t know if they’ve missed one. I think I challenged one over them last year and I lost, so I go on their judgment for sure."

3. The Blackhawks erupted for four power-play goals in their last game. They had four opportunities in this one, although three of them didn't come until the third period when the game was already out of reach. The first one was by far the best one of the four. Connor Bedard finished with 16 shot attempts, a majority of them coming on the power play.

"He has a pretty good shot, so if he's shooting the puck, that's a good thing," said Tyler Johnson, who scored Chicago's lone goal. "We've got to do a better job trying to get some net-front presence and creating some more rebounds and more opportunities from that. But yeah, we like when he shoots the puck, for sure."

4. He's hardly to blame, but this wasn't Petr Mrazek's best performance. He'd probably be the first to say it too. Arvid Söderblom is expected to get the start in Sunday's rematch against Arizona.

5. Nikita Zaitsev returned to the lineup after missing the last 19 games with a knee injury. He was back earlier than I expected. He skated on the third pairing with Jarred Tinordi and looked a little rusty before settling into the game about halfway through. But his return comes at a good time because it allowed them to send Louis Crevier and Isaak Phillips back to the AHL's Rockford IceHogs for the playoff push.

6. The Blackhawks were hoping Andreas Athanasiou would be ready to return for this game, but he's not 100 percent yet. He participated in the team's morning skate. We'll see if he plays on Sunday vs. Arizona. His groin injury has held him out of the lineup since Nov. 9.

7. The Capitals went into sell mode at the trade deadline, moving Evgeny Kuznetsov to Carolina, Anthony Mantha to Vegas and Joel Edmundson to Toronto. They're only three points out of the final wildcard spot in the East with two games in hand but I think they made the right decision. Their -27 goal differential going into Saturday was third-worst in the conference and they're just not a very good 5-on-5 team.

8. The NHL trade deadline came and went on Friday, and Anthony Beauvillier was the only player dealt after Chicago shipped him to Nashville for a fifth-round pick in 2024. Colin Blackwell and Tyler Johnson were the two players I thought could be moved but they weren't.

Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson said on Friday: "I just thought there would be a little more action on our end, but it was quieter, which is fine. We're happy with the group we have moving through the deadline."

9. Boris Katchouk was placed on waivers on Thursday with the intention to make him eligible for the AHL playoffs, according to Davidson. But the Ottawa Senators claimed him on Friday, so he's no longer with the organization.

10. As mentioned earlier, with the return of Zaitsev, Crevier and Phillips were sent back to Rockford. I originally thought they were paper transactions but turns out they're staying there, which makes sense. Teams are allowed only four call-ups after the trade deadline, and they used one of them on Zach Sanford after the paper transaction. The Blackhawks probably want to hold another spot for Lukas Reichel at some point, too.

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