PRAGUE - It wasn't the start the Blackhawks wanted to the new year, dropping a 4-3 result to the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2019 Global Series opener.
Patrick Kane enjoyed a three-poing night, finding the scoresheet on all three Blackhawks goals, but inopportune turnovers and a lackluster second period left Chicago empty-handed as they prepare to head back stateside on Saturday.
Players and head coach Jeremy Colliton alike could easily identify where things seemed to go wrong for the Blackhawks in their opener: the second period.
Chicago had a manageable 13 giveaways on the night - fewer than Philadephia's 17 - but the bulk of them happened in a middle frame that saw Philadelphia take a two-goal lead and was salvaged only by a DeBrincat power play goal in the final minute.
"Ultimately we just didn't manage the puck well enough and we exposed ourselves defensively," Colliton said. "I don't think we made plays, especially in the second period, but we've got to find a way to limit the damage. We turned pucks over at the lines and were exposed defensively, we turned them over at the end of shifts when we were tired and it makes it difficult to defend"
"Ideally you just ride it out when things aren't going your way and then you can win the game when you're good again," the head coach continued. "Then, when we were good again we're trying to dig out of a two-goal hole. That, to me, is the tale of it."
"We made a nice goal there at end to keep us within reach and give us some momentum, but I think that's a period where we want to dominate teams," Kane added of the middle frame. "We think we can, especially with our transition game and the way we should be able to hold teams in their end and create momentum that way. Definitely something to improve upon and it's a big aspect of the game, the second period."
The mental mistakes weren't the only thing fighting against the Blackhawks in Prague - the puck itself wasn't cooperating either.
One the opening Flyers goal, a jumping puck off the stick of Dennis Gilbert in the defensive zone led to Travis Kopecny essentially all alone from the top of the circles in. On the second, Corey Crawford made a shorthanded save, pushing a shot off the crossbar only to have it deflect off defenseman Slater Koekkoek's chest and into the open net behind him. Combine that with the aforementioned second period, and Chicago was left with a steep hill to climb in the third.
The final scoresheet read that Crawford allowed four goals in his season debut, but in reality the longtime Chicago netminder put forth a strong opening showing with 34 saves on 38 shots, including several timely saves late in the game to keep the Blackhawks in it til the very end.
"That stuff happens from time to time, you can't really let that affect your game," Crawford said. "No goalie wants to let up four goals. Anytime you do that, it's going to be pretty tough to win a hockey game, so I'll try to build off some good stuff but overall it's still not a good performance, I think."
"It was (just) alright, I'd say," Alexander Nylander said of the often bouncing puck. "(We just have to try and) play simple when the puck's bouncing that way and get more pucks to the net then."
The bright spot on the night for the Blackhawks was the midseason form Kane showcased with a three-point night, picking up right where he left off on the heels of a career year. No. 88 had the primary helper on the first two Blackhawks goals before ripping a shot from the top of the circle through traffic in front to pull Chicago within one with just under three minutes to play.
"He makes the difference for us," Colliton said of Kane. "It didn't seem like there was much ice out there early on. Again, we didn't make any plays, we struggled to support the puck, I thought, but he found a way, got a little bit of an opening and then made it happen."
"I think there's always things to improve upon," Kane said. "For some reason every year it takes me a little bit to get into the game. Whatever the numbers were tonight, I still think I have more to give to the team and can create more and have the puck a little bit more out there too, so just keep building here."