Blackhawks

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime win over Predators: How long can Brandon Saad keep this up for?

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime win over Predators: How long can Brandon Saad keep this up for?

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday night:

1. Corey Crawford stays sharp.

It was another busy night for the Blackhawks netminder, and he was on his A-game yet again from the moment the puck dropped.

Crawford made 29 of his 37 saves in the first two periods, and allowed only one goal for the fourth time in five games this season to up his season save percentage to .959.

"He's gotten off to a great start for us," Joel Quenneville said. "Can't say enough good things about him."

2. Slow start, strong finish.

The Blackhawks had 17 shot attempts in the first period, 11 of which were on goal, while the Predators peppered 32 attempts towards the net and got 18 on goal. It was an unorthodox start for the Blackhawks, who are outscoring their opponents 11-1 in the opening frame so far this season.

Seven of their eight high danger scoring chances allowed came in that period as well. If it weren't for Crawford, as mentioned above, it could've been a different result through 20 minutes.

3. Can Brandon Saad keep this up, and for how long?

The Blackhawks could not have envisioned a better start for Saad in his second stint with Chicago. He opened the season with a hat trick, and has recorded at least a point in five of six games.

He scored the overtime winner in this one after burying a perfect pass from Patrick Kane, and has now scored the game-winning goal in all four Blackhawks wins this season.

Saad is on pace for 82 goals. Is that doable?

"I don't know," Saad laughed. "I just try my best and do what I can. It's been fun so far."

4. Power play goes quiet.

The Blackhawks scored a power play goal in each of their last four games entering Saturday, but it dried up against Nashville.

They went 0-for-6 on the man advantage, and struggled to create any type of quality scoring chance despite recording eight shots on goal during them.

What needs to change in that area?

"More of the boring quotes that we're going to give you," Patrick Sharp joked with the media. "They're quotes because it's what works. Quick puck movement, more shots, traffic to the net. We feel like we're entering the zone okay, but we're just breaking out too many times, we're not sustaining pressure and generating a whole lot of scoring chances.

"I'm sure the next few days we'll talk about getting pucks to the net, screening the goalie, getting those second and third chances."

5. Pekka Rinne picks up where he left off.

The visiting goaltender wasn't too bad, either.

In four playoff games against the Blackhawks last year, Rinne allowed just three goals and had a .976 save percentage, including two shutouts in back-to-back games at the United Center.

He picked up right where he left off, and appeared to be headed for a third straight shutout in Chicago until Sharp got the Blackhawks on the scoreboard with 6:36 left in the third period.

Rinne finished the game with a season-high 33 saves.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night:
 
1. One too many penalties.

The Blackhawks flirted with danger in the first period when they handed the Lightning three straight continuous power plays, a four-minute double minor high-sticking penalty from John Hayden and a Jonathan Toews hooking call that resulted in a 5-on-3 opportunity for Tampa Bay for 43 seconds. 

The penalty kill unit that ranked fourth in the league entering the matchup, however, killed off all three of those penalties against the NHL's top-ranked power play, and did so in commanding fashion.

The Blackhawks went 5-for-5 on the penalty kill in regulation, but couldn't stop the sixth one — a questionable slashing call on Nick Schmaltz —  in overtime when Brayden Point buried the winner on a 4-on-3 opportunity.

It was also interesting that Jon Cooper elected to go with four forwards (Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Point and Steven Stamkos) and zero defensemen during that man advantage, putting all of his offensive weapons out on the ice. It's something more teams should do in that situation.

2. Patrick Kane gets going.

After scoring just one goal in his previous 10 games, Kane found the back of the net twice in the opening frame against Tampa Bay and stayed hot against a team he historically plays well against. And he nearly netted a hat trick in overtime but couldn't cash in on a breakaway opportunity.

Kane has 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 14 career regular-season games against the Lightning, and extended his point streak to five games. He has three goals and four assists over that stretch.

We wrote about how important it is for the Blackhawks' superstars to get going again with the offensive contributions mainly coming from role players as of late, and Kane getting into a groove is a perfect step in that direction.

3. How about that goaltending battle?

Corey Crawford and Andrei Vasilevskiy showed us exactly why they belong in the Vezina Trophy discussion, and as of this moment, it's hard not to include both of them as finalists. They put on a goaltending clinic, seemingly topping the other as the game went on.

The two teams combined for 71 scoring chances, and Crawford and Vasilevskiy came up big when their teams need them the most.

Crawford finished with 35 saves on 38 shots (.921 save percentage) in the loss while Vasilevskiy stopped 29 of 31 (.935 save percentage), and improved to 15-2-1 on the season. 

4. Missed opportunities.

You couldn't have asked for a better start for the Blackhawks. They scored the first goal 3:49 into the game and the second on the power play at 15:54, killed off three penalties, including a 5-on-3, had 24 shot attempts (13 on goal) compared to the Lightning's 16 attempts (11 on goal) and led in even-strength scoring chances 9-6.

It was a different story the rest of the way.

The Blackhawks took their foot off the gas pedal a bit and let the Lightning back in the game by getting away from what they do best, and that's control the puck. Obviously, you expected the league's best offense to push back and it's certainly not an easy task to keep them off the scoresheet all together. 

But the Blackhawks had their chances to stay in front or retake the lead and just couldn't bury them. Tampa Bay had 50 shot attempts from the second period on while the Blackhawks had only 32, and finished with 44 scoring chances compared to Chicago's 27.

5. Richard Panik in the doghouse?

Joel Quenneville didn't go to his line blender in this one, but he did shorten some leashes. Panik, most notably, had a season-low 12:28 of ice time in the loss and had 15 shifts, which was second-fewest only to Ryan Hartman (13) on the team.

Panik had a prime chance to break a 2-2 tie in the third period but was denied by Vasilevskiy, who made a remarkable left-pad save. Instead, Panik extended his goal drought to 12 games and didn't get a shift in overtime.

He's certainly better and will get his scoring chances when playing on the top line with Toews and Brandon Saad, but the missed opportunities are magnified in tight losses. It doesn't look like a move down in the lineup is coming given the success of Alex DeBrincat, who gives the Blackhawks an offensive weapon on the third line, but perhaps it should be considered.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit first-place Lightning

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit first-place Lightning

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.

There hasn't been a more dynamic duo in the NHL so far this season than Kucherov and Stamkos, who have combined for 68 points (27 goals, 41 assists) through 20 games, and sit first and second in the scoring race.

They've each recorded a point in every game except three — which coincidentally have been the same games — and they've lost all three of those contests. Kucherov has also scored a goal in 15 of 20 games this season. That's absurd when you consider he's scoring on a consistent basis; it's not like they're coming in spurts.

To put all that into perspective, he reached the 17-goal mark in his 36th game last year and still finished second in the league with 40 goals. He hit the 17-goal mark in 16 fewer games this season. How many can he realistically finish with? 60?

2. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Tampa Bay knows how dangerous Chicago's dynamic duo can be as well, as evidenced in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. The Blackhawks' superstars know how to get up for a big game.

In 13 career regular-season games against the Lightning, Kane has 18 points (six goals, 12 assists). Toews has 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 14 games.

They're both producing at or above a point-per-game pace, and they're going to need more of that against this powerhouse Lightning team.

3. Something's gotta give.

Tampa Bay's offensive prowess is off the charts up and down the lineup. It has four lines that can come at you at waves, and a strong, active blue line led by potential Norris Trophy finalist Viktor Hedman and Calder Trophy candidate Mikhail Sergachev.

Although Chicago allows the fourth-most shots per game (34.0), it actually hasn't been bad at preventing goals — a large reason for that is Corey Crawford. 

The Lightning rank first in goals per game (3.95) and first in power play percentage (28.0) while the Blackhawks rank sixth in goals against per game (2.65) and four in penalty kill percentage (84.9).

Who's going to crack first?