Blackhawks have another quiet night on offense in loss to Jets


Blackhawks have another quiet night on offense in loss to Jets

WINNIPEG, Manitoba – The Blackhawks have been doing plenty right defensively since they lost Duncan Keith. They’ve given up little, recording consecutive shutout victories against Tampa Bay and Anaheim.

The problem is, they’ve generated little on the other side. And on Thursday night, that caught up with them.

Patrick Kane scored his sixth goal of the season, a power-play goal, but the Blackhawks were otherwise quiet in the scoring department in their 3-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. It was the third consecutive game in which the Blackhawks managed just one goal, and the outing snapped their four-game winning streak.

Corey Crawford stopped 28 of 31 shots; his goal-less streak ended with Blake Wheeler’s goal about eight minutes into the first period. Up to that point, Crawford allowed nothing for 141 minutes, 33 seconds.

[MORE HAWKS: Tanner Kero's scoring touch could help Blackhawks]

On the other side, Kane’s power-play goal was the team’s first regulation goal in 141:09. Five-on-five goals, however, remain elusive; the Blackhawks last scored one of those 4:02 into the first period (Artem Anisimov) against the Florida Panthers on Oct. 22.

Michael Hutchinson had another strong outing against the Blackhawks, stopping 45 of the 46 shots he faced.

Even though the Blackhawks have four consecutive victories, including those back-to-back shutout triumphs, the lack of goal scoring is getting frustrating.

“Yeah. You know especially tonight, I think we had some chances to score some goals,” said Kane. “Give their goalie credit. But I think at this point and time, we can do things a little bit better to try and make it tougher on their goalie: try to get to the net, stay at the net, get shots through, get rebounds, try to bang in goals that way. Get some dirty goals because it seems like all the pretty plays aren’t really happening for us. We can do a better job of trying to get some ugly ones.”

Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks needed to make life tougher on Hutchinson.

“I wish we had more disruption at the net. I thought he made a lot of saves without traffic and I think that a lot of goalies will shine on a night like that,” he said. “I thought we worked hard but I don’t think we played with much of a purpose tonight.”

The Blackhawks had that purpose early in this one, with Kane scoring on the power play just 1:26 into the game. At one point, they were outshooting the Jets 8-1. But Wheeler scored the first of three unanswered Jets goals about seven minutes later.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Again, the shots were there but the quality really wasn’t.

“Maybe not, but I think there’s still some good efforts in around the net where we just couldn’t quite finish second efforts,” Jonathan Toews said. “I think that’s what we’re looking for, especially when you’re not scoring, to try to make the pretty plays, I think we had a couple situations where we did try that. Obviously we want to keep shooting the puck from anywhere and go for those second efforts and those rebounds. That’s how we’re going to break through.”

The Blackhawks miss Keith on both sides of the puck. They’re doing pretty well on preventing goals. Scoring them has been much tougher, but the Blackhawks are trying not to get too frustrated.

“What choice do you have? Let it get to you and it can only get worse if you do. At the end of the day, it’s up to us,” Toews said. “Maybe there’s pressure on the outside to really show our frustration, show that we care, but that doesn’t really make much of a difference for us. Obviously, it happens sometimes. But the best thing we can do is stay with it and keep working for it. We’re doing a lot of good things other than that, and eventually the scoring will come.”

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to Blue Jackets: Looking at the bigger picture

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to Blue Jackets: Looking at the bigger picture

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday night:

1. Blackhawks squander two leads.

For the 13th time in their past 16 games, the Blackhawks scored the first goal of the game. They had won their previous three instances when doing so, but couldn't seal the deal this time and fell to 5-6-2 in those 13 games.

What strung even more is that the Blackhawks held two one-goal leads and couldn't hang on to either of them. They have the seventh-worst win percentage (.571) when scoring the first goal this season with a 20-10-5 record.

2. Vinnie Hinostroza continues to produce offensively.

If you're trying to look for a rare bright spot on the Blackhawks roster this season, here's one. Hinostroza registered a secondary assist on David Kampf's goal for his fifth point in six games, and was on the ice for 16 shot attempts for and seven against during 5-on-5 play for a team-leading shot attempt differential of plus-9 (also known as Corsi).

For the season, Hinostroza has 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 32 games and he's doing so while averaging only 13:27 of ice time. His point-per-game average is up to 0.63, which is tied with Jonathan Toews for third on the team; only Patrick Kane (0.92) and Nick Schmaltz (0.71) are producing at a higher rate.

Hinostroza deserves more minutes, but at the same time his ability to produce on any of the four lines has allowed Joel Quenneville to put him in a bottom six role for balance.

"I like his speed," Quenneville said recently on why Hinostroza has been so effective. "I think with the puck, he's been good with it as well. More strength, on it, managing it, better decisions with it, and good plays off it. He definitely brings you energy and some speed, he can catch people with that quickness."

3. Ryan Hartman's benching.

Hartman was part of the fourth line that contributed to the Blackhawks' first goal of the game, and he was on his way to having a strong one. But that changed quickly after he took an ill-advised penalty in the first period.

Already leading 1-0, the Blackhawks had a 2-on-1 opportunity developing involving Hinostroza and David Kampf but Hartman was whistled for high-sticking at 17:06 behind the play. The Blue Jackets converted on the power play, and that was the end of Hartman's night.

He took only five shifts and finished with a season-low 4:16 of ice time, with Quenneville using it as an opportunity for a teaching moment.

4. Tomas Jurco building confidence back up.

It's been a tough season mentally for Jurco. He started the season with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs after failing to make the team out of camp, and compiled 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 36 games. 

It earned him a call-up on Jan. 8, with Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman praising the way he progressed: "He looks like he's totally different, in terms of his composure and ability to make plays. That's why we brought him up here."

The problem? He was a healthy scratch for five straight games and went two weeks without seeing game action with the Blackhawks. Not exactly the best way to keep someone's confidence building. And since then, he's been fighting for a spot in the lineup.

For the last three games, Jurco has been given a shot on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane and he cashed in for his first goal of the season tonight and first since March 27, 2017. It's also the second straight game he's recorded a point.

While he may not be worth much if the Blackhawks were to deal him ahead of Monday's deadline, perhaps a change of scenery to a team that believes in him as a fit will bring out the best of his abilities. The Blackhawks tried and it just hasn't worked out.

5. Blue line observation.

This is more of a big-picture takeaway, but the Blackhawks have gotten only 20 goals from their defensemen this season. The Blue Jackets have gotten a combined 19 from just Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. Last season the Blackhawks had 30 total.

The Blackhawks just haven't gotten the offensive production needed from their back end and it's so important as it helps alleviate some of the pressure off the forwards.

I asked Quenneville about this after Friday's game and here's what he had to say: "Whether you score or not, you need the D to be part of your attack, be it off the rush, in zone. But I think the whole game, the whole league is four-man rush game, five-man attacks, coming at you, night-in, night-out, wave after wave.

"But you need to get your D involved in your support on the attack and you need them on the offensive zone off the point. You need some shooters on the back end that can get them through as well. I think offensive production from the back end in today’s game really enhances your offense and your possession game."

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

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.