Blackhawks

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-1 bounce-back win over Canadiens

blackhawks_canadiens_five_takeaways.jpg
USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-1 bounce-back win over Canadiens

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night:

1. Salvaging a slow start.

The Blackhawks have dominated the first period through three games this season, having outscored their opponents 9-0 in the opening frame entering Tuesday's game. They got off to their worst start of the year in this one though, allowing the Canadiens to strike first just 1:15 into the contest and were outshot 14-2 halfway through the period.

But the Blackhawks salvaged their slow start by scoring two goals in 19 seconds towards the latter stages of the period, and took a lead into the second for the fourth straight game.

2. Alex DeBrincat scores his first of many goals in the NHL.

We teased the possibility of it in our Three Things to Watch, but the Blackhawks' top prospect is officially on the board. The 19-year-old winger snapped a three-game goal drought to open the season by blasting one past arguably the league's best goaltender in Carey Price for his first career tally.

On the play, DeBrincat received a short pass from Patrick Sharp, adjusted his body quickly to get into a shooting position and slapped it home from one of his main sweet spots. He also registered an assist later in the game for his first multi-point effort of his career.

Side note: DeBrincat committed a third-period turnover that led to a breakaway, but his strong backcheck helped disrupt the shot. That's something coaches will certainly appreciate when looking back at the tape.

3. Corey Crawford continues domination against hometown team.

For the second straight game, the Blackhawks perhaps got bailed out by great goaltendering. The Montreal native was outstanding in his hometown return, and he had to be from the very beginning.

The Canadiens peppered the Blackhawks with 14 shots on goal in the first 10 minutes of the game, and finished the contest with a season-high 42 of them. Crawford stopped all but one of them in the win, and improved to 8-0-2 with a 1.49 goals against average and .954 save percentage in 10 career games against Montreal.

The most important save of the game came on a shorthanded breakaway in the second period, which happened shortly before the Blackhawks scored on the power play to take a 3-1 lead. The score wouldn't change the rest of the way.

Crawford has now allowed only one goal in each of his first three games, and increased his season save percentage to .971. A darkhorse Vezina Trophy candidate? 

4. Penalty kill steps up.

Crawford was the biggest reason the Blackhawks won, but the penalty kill unit is a close second. They were a perfect 5-for-5 in that department against a team still searching for its first power play goal of the season.

Early in the first, the Blackhawks killed off a 5-on-3 penalty that could've changed the complexion of the game but their unit stood tall.

Tanner Kero and Tommy Wingels were very noticeable in their own ends, combining for four blocked shots and breaking up a handful of plays with active sticks. It was an all around great effort.

5. Cody Franson's debut could've been better.

Connor Murphy was a health scratch in only his fourth game with the Blackhawks, but it was likely more about getting another defenseman some reps on the second of a back-to-back rather than his on-ice play. And with the Gustav Forsling-Jan Rutta pairing shining and Franson being a right-handed shot, it makes sense why Murphy was taken out instead of the left-handed shot Michal Kempny.

As far of Franson's debut went, it wasn't bad but it wasn't great. He committed a pair of penalties (tripping and slashing) but it didn't cost his team thanks to the penalty kill coming through in the clutch, as we mentioned above.

Franson finished the game with 16:41 of ice time, recorded an assist on Anisimov's goal, and had four shot attempts (two on goal).

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

2-24_blue-jackets_matchup_nhl_chi_blank.jpg
NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

2-23_berube_schmaltz_usat.jpg
USA TODAY

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

Jean-Francois Berube got his first start of the season on Friday night, and it couldn't have gone any better.

The 26-year-old goaltender stopped 42 of 43 shots, a career-high for him in saves, in the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the United Center.

Since Corey Crawford went down with a head injury last December, the Blackhawks have been searching for consistency in the crease. 

The pair of Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass — who was assigned to Rockford on Feb. 15 and replaced with Berube — have had their ups and downs since then. With the Blackhawks out of the playoff picture, Berube had an opportunity showcase his skills, and he didn't disappoint.

"We were very happy with him," said coach Joel Quenneville. "I thought he did a great job. He was comfortable. I thought he was very patient in his net. Absorbing a lot of pucks with people in front of him was good. Closed some gaps and got … of the top of the paint. Rebound control was effective. Nice response from a long absence."

Berube's last — and only — appearance with the Blackhawks prior to Friday's game came on Dec. 6, relieving Forsberg in a game against the Washington Capitals. He recorded 12 saves of 14 shots. 

When Crawford got injured, Berube was the primary candidate to become the team's backup goaltender. The only problem? He was injured too, so the Blackhawks promoted Glass.

"I didn't want to sit and think about it," Berube said of his injury. "At the same time, it was great for Glasser. He was one of those guys that probably deserved it earlier in his career and he finally got his chance. Sometimes you need a guy to go down to have your chance. So I was mostly happy for him.

On Friday night, he got his chance.

"You always want to have a good impression for your first game," Berube said. "I know what I can do at this level, so it was just a matter of getting the opportunity to play and showing people what I can do."

Celebrating his 22nd birthday, Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. Artem Anisimov scored an empty-netter.

"It's a lot more fun coming to the rink when you're winning, enjoying each other, playing well as a team," Schmaltz said of the Blackhawks' win, which have now won three of their last four games. "Hopefully we can keep that good energy and bring it to the rink every day, and build off of that.

"You never know where this team can go, a lot of great players, lots of guys that have had a lot of success. Hopefully we can continue to put together solid efforts."