Banner night: Reichel debuts, Hawks win third straight
The future arrived for the Blackhawks on Thursday in the form of uber-talented forward Lukas Reichel.
But don't blink.
Because after Saturday's game against Anaheim you might have to wait until next season to see him with the Hawks again.
Reichel, selected 17th overall in 2020, made his NHL debut during the Hawks' 3-2 overtime win over Montreal at the United Center. He looked completely at ease centering the top line with Patrick Kane and Brandon Hagel as his wingers.
"I had so much fun out there," said Reichel, who took 3 shots on goal in almost 16 minutes. "First game, first win. That sounds pretty good."
Philipp Kurashev scored at 2:24 of overtime after taking a pass from Brandon Hagel. In a truly bizarre ending, the Hawks prevailed after two video reviews:
• The first determined that Montreal's Mike Hoffman caused the net to be displaced from its moorings just prior to the puck crossing the goal line.
• The second confirmed that the play was not offsides.
Some may wonder why the Hawks (14-18-5) are only allowing Reichel to dip his toe into the NHL waters, especially since they're averaging a mere 2.43 goals per game.
The answer is simple: They don't want him to drown. Extended time in the minors is extremely valuable to any prospect. They get big minutes, end up on the top power play and often grow leadership skills.
"There's a game plan with this kid and we don't want to ruin it. We don't want to ruin him," interim coach Derek King said Wednesday. "Sometimes giving a kid like that too much could hurt him in the long run. It's a marathon, not a sprint."
Reichel had a couple of scoring opportunities in the first period, but both of his centering passes failed to connect. With 1:28 remaining in regulation, he rifled a shot that was turned away by goalie Sam Montembeault.
Reichel said he wasn't at all nervous. Just a confident kid doing what he's done all his life.
"Right away I felt pretty good," said Reichel, who has 11 goals and 9 assists in 20 games with Rockford. "I had my confidence the whole game."
Said King: "I really liked his pace. He can skate. It's (also) little things you might not see as a fan or if you're watching up top. He pushes the 'D' back ... and frees up a lot of space for other guys.
"You see him dishing over to Kane, you look at Kane when he gets the puck (and) there's nobody in his face. So I really liked watching him today."
The Hawks were without Dylan Strome, Kirby Dach, Seth Jones and Jake McCabe (COVID protocol). Despite the missing bodies, they completely dominated the first period, outshooting Montreal 13-3 and grabbing a 1-0 lead on Dominik Kubalik's goal at 7:42. Montreal (7-24-5) hung around, and took a 2-1 lead on second-period goals by Jeff Petry and Mike Hoffman.
Kane evened the score at 2-2 when he snapped a 13-game goal drought at 2:21 of the third.
Erik Gustafsson had 2 assists, Calvin de Haan dished out 6 hits and blocked 4 shots, and Riley Stillman notched an assist while also taking 4 shots on goal.