Tracey Myers

Five takeaways from Blackhawks-Stars: Power play fails again

Five takeaways from Blackhawks-Stars: Power play fails again

Well, that could’ve ended better. Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars.

1. Mediocre first 40 minutes. The Blackhawks have gotten off to great starts more often lately but they didn’t on Thursday night. The so-so play continued through the second period. Despite getting two goals the Blackhawks generated very little, recording just 10 shots on goal through the first two periods. But… 

2. (Sort of) better in the third. The Blackhawks finally woke up in the last period, putting Ben Bishop to work and recording more shots in that period (12) than they did the first two (10). If that effort is there through the first two periods perhaps it’s a different outcome.

3. The power play fails again. This was another area in which the Blackhawks were trending for most of the month but the power play was not good against the Stars. They had just one goal on seven opportunities, falling back into the bad habits of overpassing, not shooting enough and being careless with the puck. Oh, and they gave up a penalty shot on one of them. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “we lost momentum on our power play tonight.”

4. Great month for Anisimov and DeBrincat. In November, Artem Anisimov got back to what works for him and Alex DeBrincat starting showing his scoring prowess at the top level. These two were scoring again on Thursday night, and Anisimov and DeBrincat finished the month with 10 and 9 goals, respectively. It’s especially helpful for DeBrincat as he develops his pro game. Anisimov joked, “bright future for him, if he shaves his mustache, you know?”

5. Crawford cleans up. Corey Crawford saw some decent chances through this one but got tested with about five minutes remaining in regulation. The Stars took advantage of a turnover and got several choice scoring opportunities, with Crawford stopping them all. His great work continued on a late Stars power play, helping the Blackhawks force overtime.

Blackhawks can’t overcome mediocre start in overtime loss to Stars

Blackhawks can’t overcome mediocre start in overtime loss to Stars

The third period was an energetic one for the Blackhawks, at least through the first half of it. The shots were there. So were the good scoring opportunities. So was the necessary urgency. Before that, however…

“Yeah, just not really much going on,” Patrick Kane said of the first two periods of the Blackhawks’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars. “I thought we had the puck and then we gave it away and it was tough to get it back. We started buzzing a little bit in the third and had some momentum which was good to see. But not much really going on. I think we had 10 shots after two, which is unacceptable.”

It was an unacceptable opening 40 minutes for the Blackhawks, who could use every point they can get in an already tight Central Division. The good work they’ve built up through most of November wasn’t there enough on Thursday. The power play was listless. The shot count wasn’t acceptable until late. After so many consistent games, the Blackhawks took a bit of a step back against the Stars.

“Good first 10 minutes of the third. We slowed down a bit again after we tied it up,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We didn’t have enough pace with the puck, pressure on the puck or enough of the puck. And what we did with it, we gave them a lot of quality opportunities because we didn’t keep it or protect it.”

If there was any consistency it came from Alex DeBrincat and Artem Anisimov. The Blackhawks had 41 goals in November, and DeBrincat and Anisimov combined for 19 of them.

“Both had great months. Cat went to a higher level than we’ve seen, tremendous upside, a threat every time he was out there tonight,” Quenneville said. “Arty’s been consistent as well, productive, net presence, defensively responsible, so he’s had a great month and we need arty to keep going and we need some guys to get going.”

And that’s got to be the mantra for the Blackhawks from here on out. At times in November, it looked like they were righting the ship. They were playing better hockey, finally scoring goals after starting the month in an offensive drought. But there are still too many who aren’t bringing the consistent performances. The top line had a so-so night. Richard Panik is struggling mightily; as Quenneville said, if he’s not scoring he at least has to bring the physical element more.

The Blackhawks did some good on Thursday but not enough. The production through most of this one was, as Kane said, unacceptable. There’s a lot of season left but the Blackhawks are already fighting for position in the standings, and they’ll see the Stars again on Saturday night. The Blackhawks started trending in the right direction in November but they need more. It won’t be getting any easier.

“Disappointing, obviously. We just needed to get the win. In the standings we had a tie before that game. We needed to find a way to make points, win the game,” Artem Anisimov said. “It’s going to be a big game for both teams [on Saturday].”

Fourth line adding a little of everything, including goals, for Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Fourth line adding a little of everything, including goals, for Blackhawks

They know their role, what they have to do every time they’re on the ice. Fourth liners are out there to bring energy, to bring a physical presence, the sandpaper, the grit, all those familiar terms.

As for what fourth liners want to do? Well with that, they’re like every other hockey player.

“You know, we all play this game for one reason and that’s to score goals,” Tommy Wingels said recently. “Whether you’re a five-goal scorer or a 50-goal scorer, you go out there wanting to score a goal every shift. that being said, are we going to do that? No. But we’re certainly going to try every shift.”

For Wingels, Lance Bouma and John Hayden, who have comprised the Blackhawks’ fourth line for most of this season, the trying has yielded some good results lately. All three have scored in recent games; Wingels and Bouma provided the goals in the Blackhawks’ 3-2 loss to Nashville on Tuesday night, with Wingels nearly tying the game late.

When the Blackhawks were experimenting with different line combinations during their scoring drought, the fourth line remained intact. That’s mainly because those three serve a certain purpose but it’s also because it’s been consistent. Bouma, in and out of the Calgary Flames’ lineup the last two seasons due to injury or lack of production, has found a steady role here. Wingels was expected to play mainly wing but has found his niche at center. Hayden brings skill and the physical element, mixing it up a few times this season.

It didn’t take long for the three to mesh and get familiar with each other’s tendencies.

“We played with each other for most of the year so we know where everyone’s going to be on the ice. And it’s a good combination,” Bouma said. “We have a good mixture on the line. We’re all gritty guys, we all want the puck and are hungry on it. If we continue to play like that we’ll have some success.”

The fourth liners know their role: bring the energy, the grit, the physical presence, all of that. But goal scoring is never frowned upon, and those three have brought that, too.

“It’s a lot of different things we try to do. We try to be physical, we try to draw penalties, we try to bring momentum in our favor, we try to play well defensively,” Wingels said. “It’s just doing anything we can to help this team win.”