Five takeaways from Blackhawks 3-2 loss to Predators: Solid outing for Anton Forsberg


Five takeaways from Blackhawks 3-2 loss to Predators: Solid outing for Anton Forsberg

The Blackhawks have played well as of late but against the Nashville Predators, you better be close to perfect. They weren’t, so they left sans two points. Still, it wasn’t a bad outing.

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 loss on Tuesday night:

1. Second-period swing.

The first period wasn’t a bad one for the Blackhawks. But Duncan Keith took an unsportsmanlike conduct at the end of it, and while the Predators didn’t score on the power play that opened the second period they swung momentum their way. The Predators outplayed the Blackhawks and took a 2-1 lead.

2. Tough night for Panik.

Much like some of his teammates, Richard Panik has dealt with a scoring slump. While other teammates have broken out of their doldrums, Panik is still struggling. He looked to be fighting the puck that much more on Tuesday.

3. Solid outing for Anton Forsberg.

You can debate who should’ve started which back-to-back game. Coach Joel Quenneville opted for Corey Crawford against the Anaheim Ducks on Monday before starting Forsberg against the Predators.

Despite the Blackhawks loss, it’s hard to hang this on Forsberg. He had a good performance, stopping 28 of 31. Said Quenneville, “tough one at the end, hitting off us (Roman Josi’s goal going off Brent Seabrook’s stick), and it was a big goal. But he made some key saves all alone on broken plays, made some key saves to give us a chance to stay in the game.”

4. Pekka Rinne vs. Patrick Kane.

The Predators goaltender got the edge in this matchup. Kane had some outstanding chances against Rinne, especially early when Rinne stopped Kane on successive opportunities. Rinne would stop 37 of 39 in the victory.

5. Fourth line chances.

Lance Bouma brought the Blackhawks within one goal midway through the third period. Tommy Wingels, who had the team’s opening goal, had a chance to tie the game in the waning seconds. The trio of Bouma, Wingels and John Hayden has been solid and has brought a little offense, and was rewarded with late play. Said Bouma, “we were feeling it tonight. A couple of great chances. It was nice to get out there to try and get more.”

Alex DeBrincat records third career hat trick, but Blackhawks lose to Blues in overtime

Alex DeBrincat records third career hat trick, but Blackhawks lose to Blues in overtime

For Alex DeBrincat, it was probably nice to hear Chelsea Dagger again.

But how about three times?

The 20-year-old rookie snapped out of a 13-game scoring drought in a big way on Sunday night, recording his third hat trick of the season. DeBrincat did all he could to help give the Blackhawks two points, but they only came away with one in a 5-4 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues.

DeBrincat is now the first rookie in franchise history with three hat tricks in the same season, passing Steve Larmer. His last two hat tricks came against the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 27, 2017 and Detroit Red Wings on Jan. 25.

"It's pretty cool," DeBrincat said of his third hat trick, "but I wouldn't be able to do that without the guys we have in this locker room and the linemates I've had. Most credit to them."

Entering Sunday, his last goal was on Feb. 17 against the Washington Capitals.

"Obviously it's frustrating when you go through a slump that like that but what I've learned is to stay positive and there's other things you can help your team win with," DeBrincat said. "Just kind of focus on those things."

He netted goals No. 23, 24 and 25 on the season, tying Patrick Kane for the team lead. He is also tied for second among goals scored by a rookie this season.

DeBrincat opened the scoring with nice wrist shot on the power play to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead midway through the first. With less than a minute to go in the period, he tapped one home in front of the net to make it 2-0.

In the third period with the game tied at 3-3, DeBrincat put his team in front 4-3 with 3:13 left in regulation. 

“We were talking about [DeBrincat] today, it had been a while since he had scored," coach Joel Quenneville said. "But whether he scores or not, he does a lot of good things in the game, and he’s very aware of his positioning, and doing the right things, finding pucks, getting in shooting lanes, or denying passing lanes. So he’s effective in a lot of ways, but nice to see him score a nice power-play goal today.”

But Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo even things up again after a shot from the point found its way past J-F Berube with 1:22 left. Patrik Berglund would net the game-winner in overtime to hand the Blackhawks a loss.

"I feel like we’ve played well and we just came up a little bit short," DeBrincat said. "I feel like that’s been the theme of this whole season.”

The pros and cons of reuniting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on Blackhawks top line


The pros and cons of reuniting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on Blackhawks top line

Jonathan Toews' offense usually comes in spurts. We're seeing it again right now.

But it's no coincidence his numbers have spiked since Patrick Kane joined him on the top line.

After recording another two points in Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the Blackhawks captain has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in his past eight games; he had 11 points in his previous 23 games total.

Toews also reached the 20-goal mark for the 11th straight season, joining Kane and Alex Ovechkin as the only three active players to accomplish that feat to open their NHL careers.

Kane has seen his offensive production pick up, too. He has 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in his past 13 games after going five straight without one, which was his longest point drought of the season.

When the two of them are on the ice together at even strength, they control 57.9 percent of the shot attempts. It hasn't quite translated on the scoresheet (14 goals for and 17 goals against) maybe the way it should, but they are certainly spending far more time in the offensive zone than the defensive end and are generating a high volume of shots.

So yes, reuniting the dynamic duo has worked stats-wise.

But it comes at a cost:

— Vinnie Hinostroza and Nick Schmaltz haven't scored in six straight contests.

— Alex DeBrincat's season-long goal drought is up to 13 games.

— Artem Anisimov's last even-strength goal came nine games ago.

When you put Kane and Toews together, you risk losing some balance across the lineup and that's why Joel Quenneville has always been reluctant to go to that nuclear option. He prefers when opposing teams are forced to play 'Pick Your Poison.'

Ideally, you'd like to spread out the scoring, but one thing is for certain: The Blackhawks are better when Kane and Toews are each producing offensively, whether they're apart or together. 

When the wins start to dry up though — and they have — that's normally when it's time to try something different.

Perhaps more importantly, the last thing you want are those scoring droughts mentioned above to stretch even further and get inside the younger skaters' heads, then carrying it with them into the offseason.