Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 6-1 loss to Coyotes: Time to tank?

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 6-1 loss to Coyotes: Time to tank?

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on Monday night:

1. Slow start dooms Blackhawks again.

The Blackhawks got off to a slow start and it set the tone for the remainder of the contest for the second straight game.

The Coyotes recorded the first four shots on goal through four-plus minutes, and scored on their second one when Max Domi redirected a shot from the point to put his team in front 1-0. Less than eight minutes later, Clayton Keller capitalized on a Jordan Oesterle turnover and made it 2-0.

The Blackhawks ended up finishing the period by registering 10 of the next 16 shots, but they weren't able to convert on any of their 11 scoring chances.

2. Alex DeBrincat continues strong rookie campaign.

Joel Quenneville moved DeBrincat away from the top line, putting him on the third with Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels. Not exactly the kind of skilled forwards he's used to playing with.

But he still found a way to make an impact on the scoresheet after scoring his 20th goal of the season on the power play, assisted by new linemate Bouma and Jonathan Toews.

DeBrincat became the third rookie this season to hit the 20-goal mark, joining Yanni Gourde (21) and Brock Boeser (26). He's also the first rookie aged 19 or younger when the season started to reach that feat since Toews and Patrick Kane did it in 2007-08, according to NBC Sports Chicago's stats guru Chris Kamka.

DeBrincat finished with 17 shot attempts and tied a season-high with seven of them on goal in 14:36 of ice time.

3. Rough outing for Anton Forsberg.

On Saturday, it was Jeff Glass who allowed three goals on 19 shots for an .842 save percentage against Minnesota. Forsberg wasn't much better in this one, giving up three goals on 13 shots (.769 save percentage).

And the third goal was hard to swallow. 

Alex Goligoski fired a 34-foot wrist shot from a bad angle outside the faceoff circle and it found a way to sneak past Forsberg, who would certainly have liked to have that one back.

That signaled the end of Forsberg's night, with Glass recording three saves on nine shots (.667 save percentage) in his relief appearance. It hasn't been a great goaltending showing in the last two games for the Blackhawks. Wonder who will get the start in Vegas.

4. Bouma, Wingels being showcased?

The Blackhawks clearly won't be buyers at the trade deadline, as confirmed by GM Stan Bowman to NBC Sports Chicago, but as the season continues to slip away at a rapid rate — if it hasn't already — they certainly will start either shopping or listening to offers on some of their unrestricted free agents. They have to.

Bouma and Wingels fall into that category as potential depth players for a contending team, and it sure felt like they were awarded some ice time to help showcase their talents and what they could bring to the table.

Each of them saw significant time on the power play (Wingels at 4:14, Bouma at 3:48), with Bouma getting a secondary assist on DeBrincat's goal. You could argue they were on the units to provide net-front presence, but it wouldn't have taken this long to give them a look there if it was just that.

5. Should the Blackhawks shut down Corey Crawford?

For the first time since being placed on injured reserve Dec. 27, Crawford met with the media in Arizona after practicing with the team at morning skate in another positive step in his recovery. There's no timetable for his return yet, but he's making progress and the Blackhawks are hopeful he could return perhaps by next week.

With their playoff chances falling to 1.3 percent though following their sixth straight loss, should they just shut him down for the rest of the season? 

If he's 100 percent healthy to come back and the Blackhawks want to use the final month and a half or so to evaluate their team as a whole with their two-time Stanley Cup-winning goaltender anchoring the crease going into an important offseason, let him play. But if the motivation is to get him back just to salvage whatever's left of their playoff hopes, the Blackhawks should consider sitting him and allow him to regroup physically and mentally for the 2018-19 season.

For what it's worth, Quenneville told reporters there hasn't been any discussion pertaining to that possibility so it doesn't appear to be in the plans, unless their mindset changes as the losses continue to quickly pile up.

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.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Has the championship window closed?


Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Has the championship window closed?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Jonathan Toews sits down with Pat Boyle for a 1-on-1 interview. Toews weighs in on his season with Brandon Saad, whether he expects major changes this offseason and has the championship window closed?

Also, Adam Burish joins the podcast and plays the game: “Building block, not sure, or no thanks.” Burish runs down the Blackhawks forwards and predicts whether or not they have a future with the team.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: