Blackhawks defenseman Adam Boqvist

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Zawaski: Observations From Hawks' Loss To Capitals

Top defensive prospect Adam Boqvist has been sent to AHL Rockford.

Jay Zawaski
September 26, 2019 - 10:52 am

(670 The Score) In the immortal words of the great Ron Coomer, "Well..." 

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In a home finale of the preseason that was supposed to be something of a dress rehearsal, the Blackhawks lost 6-0 to the Capitals on Wednesday night. The score was reflective of the game.

It was still just a preseason loss, but let's get to some of the noteworthy items and observations as the Hawks get ready to leave for Berlin, Germany before opening the regular season against the Flyers in Prague, Czech Republic on Oct. 4.

Boqvist headed to Rockford

Blackhawks top defensive prospect Adam Boqvist flashed his talent many times during the preseason. That was especially the case offensively, but there were several occasions in which he struggled defensively. On Wednesday, coach Jeremy Colliton decided to take one last look at his defensive game. Boqvist didn’t play on any of the Blackhawks four power plays but did get some time on the penalty-kill unit. Apparently, he didn’t show enough, as the Blackhawks sent Boqvist down to AHL Rockford after the game. He'll have time to work on his defensive game there. Boqvist will be a contributor to the Blackhawks this season, but we'll just have to wait a little longer than we'd hoped. 

Kubalik continues to shine

It’s safe to call winger Dominik Kubalik a lock for the opening night roster at this point. He was one of the several bubble players who were looking to prove themselves Wednesday, and he was also one of the few bright spots in the Hawks' loss. He used his great shot on several occasions and showed a willingness to battle for space and pucks on several occasions. Some of his teammates should've taken some notes from him. 

On the other hand, Nylander...

It’s apparent the Blackhawks want winger Alex Nylander to make the opening night roster. He played on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Drake Caggiula on Wednesday and despite creating several scoring chances with his offensive prowess, he struggled in the neutral and defensive zones. I isolated on him when he was on the ice. While the knock on Nylander has always been consistency and the level he competes at, what I saw was a player who wasn’t sure where to be or what to do. Was Nylander second-guessing himself? Was he afraid of making a mistake? Whatever it was, he didn’t look great in what may have been a make-or-break game for him. He’s still on the roster as of Thursday morning. We’ll see if he makes the trip to Europe or if he heads to Rockford. 

Crawford struggles

Few Blackhawks were engaged in the game Wednesday. Many of the Capitals goals came off of screens. One could probably find a way to excuse goalie Corey Crawford on all six of Washington's goals, but man, you’d like to see him stop one or two of those chances. It feels like every good scoring chance the Capitals had ended up in the back of the net. I’m not blaming Crawford by any means, but I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss his game as 100 percent of his teammates' faults either. 

Seabrook and Maatta are ... good?

This goes against all logic and science, but Brent Seabrook and Olli Maatta have been the Blackhawks' best defensive pairing in the preseason. Those two also happen to be the slowest skaters on the team.

Mark Lazerus laid out the details in a great piece in The Athletic:

"Through three exhibition games, including Wednesday night’s 6-0 loss to Washington, when (Seabrook and Maatta) were on the ice together, the Blackhawks out-attempted the Red Wings, Bruins and Capitals 36-22, out-chanced them 16-6 and didn’t allow a single high-danger scoring chance. Their expected goals-for percentage is a ridiculous 81.48, according to Natural Stat Trick."

Seabrook and Maatta have five Stanley Cups between them. Can they keep this success going for 82 games? Probably not, but there's something to be said for experience and savvy. I’m just concerned that having two of your slowest skaters paired together in a man-to-man defensive system could be disastrous. 

So, should we panic?

I got this question a few times on Twitter during the game Wednesday and while it didn’t look good, especially considering the Hawks had their A team on the ice, I just can’t overly panic about a preseason loss. Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat looked bad. They’re not bad players. Sometimes, games like this happen. If it becomes a trend early in the season, then we can worry. 

Jay Zawaski is the executive producer of the Bernstein & McKnight Show on 670 middays from 9 a.m. to noon and a columnist for 670 The Score. He's also the co-host of the Madhouse Chicago Hockey Podcast, which is available on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify or your preferred podcast app. Follow him on Twitter @JayZawaski670.​​​