CHICAGO — Dylan Strome is ready for the experience.
The 21-year-old forward, acquired by the Chicago Blackhawks in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes on Nov. 25, hasn’t played in an outdoor game. To get the chance to do it when the Blackhawks play the Boston Bruins in the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana, on Jan. 1 (1 p.m. ET; NBC, TVAS, SN) will be a treat.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Strome said Saturday, when the Blackhawks wore their Winter Classic practice jerseys at MB Ice Arena. “I’ve skated on a lot of ponds and rinks outdoors, but I’ve never played in a game. I think it’ll be a really cool experience. Obviously there will be a lot of people there, and a lot of guys here have played in a bunch. I’m looking forward to it. It should be fun.”
The Winter Classic is something to get excited about at a time when the Blackhawks haven’t had much to celebrate. The Blackhawks (9-16-5) have lost six straight games and are seventh in the Central Division going into their game against the Montreal Canadiens at United Center on Sunday (6 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, SN1, NBCSCH, RDS, NHL.TV).
The Blackhawks feel they’ve been playing better lately, but they’re not getting the results they want. Dealing with the frustration hasn’t been easy.
“I don’t know how to deal with that. Be [ticked] off? Let it go and keep playing? I really don’t know,” goaltender Corey Crawford said. “It’s not a good position to be in. It’s definitely frustrating. The last game [a 4-3 loss at the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday], we felt like finally it was on our side and we played well enough to get one [point], and it just gets wiped out. That was pretty tough to take. I don’t know, maybe our older guys, our core group, maybe we all need to play better to get us out of this. Maybe that’s the answer.”
Too often, the Blackhawks get behind early and end up chasing the game. When forward Artem Anisimov scored an unassisted goal at 7:14 of the third period on Thursday to give Chicago a 3-2 lead against Vegas, it was the first time the Blackhawks led in a game in 527 minutes, 14 seconds of regulation time, since completing a 3-1 win against the Minnesota Wild on Nov. 18. The lead lasted all of 41 seconds before Vegas forward Jonathan Marchessault scored, and a goal by Alex Tuch 12 seconds later gave the Golden Knights a 4-3 lead they didn’t relinquish.
“We’ve found ourselves down two, three goals in the first five minutes, and it’s really killer,” forward Alex DeBrincat said. “If we can play the same way we do when we’re down two goals from the start, we’ll be fine and we’ll win some games. But we have to find the way to keep the puck out of our net the first 5-10 minutes.”
The Blackhawks will be playing in their third Winter Classic; they lost 6-4 to the Red Wings at Wrigley Field on Jan. 1, 2009, and 3-2 to the Washington Capitals at Nationals Park on Jan. 1, 2015. For now, the Blackhawks are trying to keep the frustration of a difficult season from getting worse.
“That’s the only way to go. We need to keep building,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “I think the last three games have been better. It’s the only way we’re going to get out of this is to continue to improve. Today was another opportunity to get better as a team, and I think we did that. If we continue to do that I think we’ll get our wins.”