VANCOUVER — The Blackhawks still weren’t playing their best hockey over this weekend. There are still some questions they need to answer, some things they have to shore up before the postseason begins.
Nevertheless, the Blackhawks reversed their negative trend and came away with four critical points, including two in their victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday. Now it’s on to Minnesota to face a Wild team the Blackhawks haven’t been able to solve this season. But before we head back to the U.S., let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 decision over the Canucks.
1. They’re in. The Blackhawks wanted to get back in the win column, wanted to start playing better and hoped to clinch a playoff berth this weekend. They ended up doing all of those. The latter is the big one; as much as the Blackhawks have struggled recently and have lost ground in the Central Division, they can at least head to Minnesota knowing they’re headed to the playoffs once again.
2. Penalty kill comes up big. The Blackhawks were holding a one-goal lead when Jonathan Toews was called for a double-minor high-sticking midway through the third. While it had its anxious moments, the kill came through. Two reasons for that: Scott Darling’s stops and Marcus Kruger’s return to the kill. Coach Joel Quenneville was especially pleased with the latter. “That’s what Krugs brings, that intangible,” he said. “You have two penalty killers in the box and you’re down a four-minute kill, so you have to keep going to the well. Darls made a big save late in it, but Krugs out there takes a lot of pride in being in that situation and making sure the penalty kill takes care of business and does the right thing. It’s nice to see him back."
3. Power play is a liability. The Blackhawks only had one power play on Sunday but it wasn’t a good one. They recorded just one shot on that advantage, which came just 21 seconds into the second period. And just like that, the momentum the Blackhawks had built with their great first period seemed to disappear. That is something they saw happen too often when the advantage struggled in previous seasons.
4. No Artem Anisimov. The Blackhawks were without their second-line center, who was day-to-day with a lower body injury. Anisimov has struggled the last few weeks, so in his absence Teuvo Teravainen centered Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin. It was actually a pretty nice combination, one that resulted in a goal (Teravainen’s) early in the third period. Still, the Blackhawks want their big center healthy and ready to go for the postseason, and it doesn’t sound like his injury is serious.
5. Tomas Fleischmann does it again. When the Blackhawks traded for Fleischmann and Dale Weise, the latter was expected to make the bigger impact sooner. Well, it’s been the reverse. Fleischmann has been great in his short time with the Blackhawks, and he scored his fourth goal with them on Sunday night. Listen, we realize the Blackhawks will have very little cash next season, and signing Andrew Shaw is likely at the top of the list. But if there’s a little change left over and Fleischmann is willing to stay for it… just thinking out loud here.