Five Things: Blackhawks' penalty kill struggles in loss to Blues


Five Things: Blackhawks' penalty kill struggles in loss to Blues

ST. LOUIS – Sometimes it’s about what you gain. The Blackhawks will take that part from Wednesday. But they’re certainly not thrilled with what they lost, which is another critical point at this juncture.

But they’ll still head to Dallas in first place in the Central Division despite their 3-2 shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues. So before we head that way, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ shootout loss.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans]

1. The penalty kill struggles again. The Blackhawks liked what they did on the kill against Detroit on Sunday. They didn’t like it at all on Wednesday. The Blackhawks didn’t give up their first power play until the third period; then they gave up two goals on three Blues advantages. It was an outing that had coach Joel Quenneville angry. Understandably so, since the Blackhawks had a 1-0 lead entering the third period.

2. Jonathan Toews is OK. It wasn’t the hit that hurt Toews so much as him running into a partially open door on the Blues bench. Toews went out for a quick shift before going to the locker room, but he returned a few minutes later. Toews said it was just a hip flexor. “Just had to try and keep it warm and make sure I could keep moving with it,” Toews said. “Didn’t feel good at first, but as the game went on, it got better and better.”

3. The Blues’ penalty kill withstands damage. Yes, the Blackhawks did score one power-play goal on Ryan Reaves’ five-minute charging call. But the Blackhawks were thwarted on two previous power plays. And even after Andrew Ladd’s power-play goal, the Blackhawks had ninety seconds remaining on Reaves’ penalty. The Blues and Jake Allen, however, kept the Blackhawks’ power play – No. 1 overall and No. 2 on the road – from scoring more. The Blues’ penalty kill is the best in the league for a reason.

[MORE: Penalties haunt Blackhawks in shootout loss to Blues]

4. Artemi Panarin just keeps going. The rookie had a timely goal on Wednesday, scoring with just 1:17 remaining in regulation to tie the game and keep the Blackhawks’ leading-after-two-periods record without a regulation loss (they’re now 32-0-3 this season). Panarin leads all NHL rookies in goals (25) assists (37) and points (62).

5. Prepping for Dallas. The Blackhawks will get past this one quick because they don’t have another choice. They’re headed back to Dallas for another first-place tussle. Will Marian Hossa return for this one? The forward said he’ll see day-by-day on his lower-body injury. Considering how close he was to starting tonight, it won’t be surprising if he suits up on Friday.

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?