Both on and off power play, Blackhawks keep road success going


Both on and off power play, Blackhawks keep road success going

By Jessica Patton

TORONTO — The Maple Leafs were the latest victims of the Blackhawks' red-hot road power play, as the Blackhawks' man advantage netted two more goals in Friday's 4-1 victory in Toronto.

Coming into the game, the Blackhawks led the NHL with a 27.1-percent power play on the road and have scored at least one goal in 24 games when the other team is in the box.

"I think that's one of their skills: the power play,” said Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly, whose team gave up six power-play opportunities. “I think they're really good at it. They use each other well, they really make the ice big and create opportunities.

“Their D got pucks to the net and created scoring chances, and that's one of their strengths."

After starting the season 1-4 on the road, the Blackhawks have found their game and are now 11-8-3 away from the United Center. The win against the Maple Leafs is not only their 10th victory in a row but their fifth road win.

“I think we got that four-line rotation,” Patrick Kane said after the game when asked about the Blackhawks' recent success. “That’s probably been one of the best things about the streak we’re on right now, everyone’s contributing, it’s a new player’s turn every night.

“It’s fun to watch, and it’s fun to be a part of. All four lines are chipping in, and everyone is doing what they’re supposed to.”

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

For coach Joe Quenneville, who became the NHL's second all-time winningest coach following the Blackhawks' victory Thursday in Montreal, it was just a matter of the team clicking and finding the chemistry throughout the lineup rather than just in select players.

“Our guys are playing well, I think the consistency in our lineup’s been more noticeable here,” Quenneville said Friday. “We’ve been getting contributions across the four lines, and I think early on it was basically a one-line team and now everyone is contributing.

“Our defense has been balanced, our goaltending has been rock solid, so we like the consistency right now.”

With the win, the Blackhawks took sole ownership of the top spot in the Western Conference with 64 points, two points better than the Dallas Stars. They return home to face the Canadiens on Sunday before heading back out on the road Tuesday against the Predators.

But for the defending Stanley Cup champions, it doesn’t matter where they’re playing, the plan remains the same.

“We’re not changing how we play,” Quenneville explained. “I think there is more consistency now both home and away, and we’re playing the right way and everyone’s bringing it so we like the balance.”

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?