Five reasons why the Blackhawks have been finding success


Five reasons why the Blackhawks have been finding success

About two weeks ago the Blackhawks were frustrated, the inconsistencies they developed in October carrying over to early November. But things have been looking up lately. Following their 4-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Saturday night, the Blackhawks are now 4-1-1 in their last six games.

Are the Blackhawks finally putting things together? That remains to be seen. Until this develops a little more, let’s look at what’s worked for the Blackhawks in their recent successful run.

1. Corey Crawford is still being Corey Crawford. Crawford has had one bad game this season, the 7-5 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Nov. 12. Outside of that he’s been outstanding. There’s no doubt the Blackhawks leaned on him too much earlier this season, and he did well despite not getting much scoring on the other side. Now he’s getting the necessary support.

2. Special teams are working. The Blackhawks were already enjoying a strong penalty kill again, and it’s continued to be rather successful in their last six games (three goals allowed on 20 opportunities). But the power play is also improving. The Blackhawks are just getting back to simplicity on that, avoiding unnecessary passes and shooting the puck more. As a result, they have six power-play goals on their last 22 advantages.

3. Top lines are waking up. You could’ve picked a name out of a hat and selected a Blackhawks player who was struggling to score. Some, including Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, have broken out of their doldrums the last few games. Brandon Saad’s goal against Florida, part of a seven-shot first period against the Panthers, was just his second since Oct. 10. Jonathan Toews’ goal on Saturday, part of a three-point night, was his third this month. The Blackhawks need everyone on board but especially their top six forwards. Perhaps this is the beginning of more production.

4. Staying calm. On Nov. 11 the Blackhawks didn’t panic when they were down 4-2 to Carolina, and they came back to win. On Nov. 18 they didn’t freak out when Pittsburgh scored a short-handed goal to tie them 1-1, as Anisimov scored 21 seconds later. Too often this season if the Blackhawks gave up a goal or made a mistake, it snowballed into more bad results. Now they’re starting to keep their wits about them. That’s more like them.

5. Team stability. Be it the forward lines or the defensive pairs, the Blackhawks have avoided the blender lately. Sure, that usually happens when they string victories together. But it’s allowed the Blackhawks to get more comfortable with where they are in the lineup and, where necessary, helped them build chemistry. Blackhawks players usually say they don’t mind who they play with but leaving things alone has yielded the right results.

Patrick Kane hits milestone, but Blackhawks get blown out by Islanders

Patrick Kane hits milestone, but Blackhawks get blown out by Islanders

Probably not the way the Blackhawks wanted to start their second half of the season.

After a five-day break, the Blackhawks suffered a brutal 7-3 loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday night at the United Center. This coming after a 4-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on home ice last Sunday.

"It was a game we had to win," Quenneville said after Saturday's loss. "Disappointing in a lot of ways."

The Blackhawks needed both goaltenders to get through 60 minutes. Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass combined for 39 saves on 46 shots.

On the offensive side of things, Patrick Kane hit a milestone.

The 29-year-old had two goals and an assist and recorded his 800th career point, becoming the fifth player in franchise history to reach 800 points.

The Blackhawks are now 22-18-6 on the season with 50 points and rank last in the Central Division, five points behind the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild.

The Blackhawks' schedule doesn't get any easier when the Tampa Bay Lightning — the league-leader in points — come to town on Monday.

See what Quenneville and Kane had to say about Saturday's loss in the video above.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks return to action against Islanders


Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks return to action against Islanders

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the New York Islanders tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Erik Gustafsson's season debut.

The Blackhawks recalled one of their top defensive prospects on Jan. 9 but haven't been able to get him some game action yet. All signs point to that changing tonight.

He skated on a pairing with Brent Seabrook during Friday's practice, and was even placed on the second power play unit during special teams drills. Joel Quenneville was excited about the possibility of finally getting Gustafsson into the lineup.

"Good option, good opportunity," Quenneville said. "We’re not for sure but certainly he’s been around, he’s eager to go. I look forward to seeing what he can do."

2. Anthony Duclair's promotion.

He hasn't been in Chicago for very long but Duclair is quickly working his way up the lineup. The newly-acquired Blackhawk registered an assist in his team debut last Friday in a 2-1 victory over Winnipeg, and was put on a power play unit as well.

On Friday, Duclair was promoted to the top line with Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews and continued getting reps on the second power-play unit. Let's see if the 22-year-old can take advantage of that opportunity in a top-six role.

3. Mathew Barzal.

Three rookies will be named finalists for the Calder Trophy at the end of the season. Barzal is a lock to be one of them.

He not only leads all rookies with 48 points, but he ranks 15th in the entire league in the scoring race and is the only first-year player averaging at least a point per game. 

The 20-year-old center has been sensational and he already has two five-point games in his young professional career. To put that into perspective, Patrick Kane recorded his first NHL five-point effort two weeks ago against the Ottawa Senators.