Five Things from Game 3: Penalties cost Blackhawks

Five Things from Game 3: Penalties cost Blackhawks

The Blackhawks were used to writing the script when leading after two periods, and it usually included a very positive ending.

Well, on Sunday it didn’t. And with that, things have gotten very interesting in their first-round series against the St. Louis Blues. Are the Blues a different team this season? Do the Blackhawks have what it takes to come back in another playoff series? We’ll just focus on this game for now. So as we head out into what remains daylight, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 loss to the Blues.

1.    Costly penalties. The Blackhawks still haven’t taken many of them, but the Blues made them pay for two on Sunday. The first was Viktor Svedberg’s high-sticking, after which the Blues scored a power-play goal seven seconds later. The breaker, however, was Patrick Kane’s double-minor high-sticking late in the third period. The kill, which has been so much better lately, couldn’t contain the Blues. But Jonathan Toews said, “it’s playoff hockey. They’re hungry and they want to create on the power play. Sometimes it’s a matter of time before you let one in. You look at that four-minute one tonight, that’s something that can go one or two ways. We have to look at it as a big kill that we have to come up with and give our team momentum. Unfortunately we couldn’t quite get it.”

2.    Brian Elliott shines again. Hey, you can’t say the Blackhawks didn’t test the Blues goaltender. But Elliott was stellar again on Sunday, especially in the second period when the Blackhawks fired 24 shots his way. The Blackhawks were looking for every way possible to beat Elliott in that period. Artem Anisimov did. Andrew Ladd did, too, but his shot hit both posts. The Blues got the necessary goals in the third period but Elliott’s help in keeping this one a one-goal game cannot be measured. 

3.    Oh, and Corey Crawford was damn good, too. I joked on Twitter that I’m no longer asking Crawford if he’s recovered from his upper-body injury. We get it: he’s just fine. Two of the shots he was beat on deflected off teammates. His multi-shot stop sequence in the second period was exhilarating. To Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, those stops had their effect at the time. “I thought those saves had a big impact on our emotional level. We were discouraged after that and I thought Chicago swung momentum [its] way. We were discouraged, a little bit down on the bench because of it.”

4.    Brent Seabrook’s howitzer. We’ve said it often: Seabrook has a great shot and can’t take it enough. With that shot he gave the Blackhawks something they haven’t been used to in this series: the first lead. Seabrook, who took six shots on goal on Sunday, was also very physical. He finished with a team-high seven hits. 

5.    Not the same Blues team. One area where the Blackhawks have long had the postseason edge is mental toughness. Well the Blues showed a lot of it in Game 3. Down 2-1 after two, allowing a ton of shots, it didn’t matter. The Blues persevered and now have a lead in this series. Said Crawford, “whatever happens in the season, whatever’s happened in years before, [it is] not the same team.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Seth Gruen (Big Ten Unfiltered) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) join Kap on the panel. 

The Blackhawks drop their 8th straight. So should their “One Goal” be to tank?

Plus, Jon Lester isn’t a fan of the new pace of play proposals. Is he right?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?


With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?

After losing their eighth straight game and falling 12 points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks' playoff chances have dipped to a season-low 0.2 percent. It would take a miracle for them to extend their postseason streak to 10 at this point, where getting just one win seems like a monumental task.

The Blackhawks were probably never really going to be buyers before the Feb. 26 trade deadline even if they were still in the hunt, but it's hard to imagine they had plans to be sellers. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has reiterated over and over again that he's confident in this group, one that's getting younger and faster.

But now they've reached a territory where they have to consider selling off spare parts simply to coup some draft picks or prospects that they could perhaps retain or use as sweeteners in the offseason.

So which players could the Blackhawks realistically sell?

Let's start with the two players getting rewarded with top-six ice time as of late: Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels.

These are two players that play with high energy and go to the greasy areas, something that's important in the playoffs when scoring goals becomes more difficult. They can clean up rebounds. Wingels, particularly, likely has more value and it's showing given his recent success on the power play as a net-front presence guy. He also isn't a stranger to the playoffs with 54 games under his belt compared to Bouma's five.

Both of them are pending unrestricted free agents and are making $1 million or fewer, which certainly works in the Blackhawks' favor considering they won't cost much and their cap hits are easy to fit in on any interested team.

Maybe a team would like to take a flyer on Tomas Jurco, who's a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but that would be a move somebody makes as more of a longer term project than strengthening your depth for a playoff run this spring.

On the back end, Michal Kempny and Jan Rutta could be in play for a contender looking to ensure some depth as a sixth or seventh defenseman. Again, each of them are making less than $1 million so it's a low-risk situation for clubs whose Plan A or B fall through and may be interested in at least getting something.

While they don't have much NHL experience, they're both 27 years old and have played the sport long enough to know what they can bring to the table.

Once Feb. 26 passes and potential roster spots open up, expect the Blackhawks to start calling up the kids. 

Matthew Highmore deserves a look after leading the Rockford IceHogs with 20 goals and 32 points. John Hayden has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 15 games since joining Rockford, and belongs in the NHL. Even Anthony Louis, who's taken a step forward, should get a taste of the action as he continues his development.

Carl Dahlstrom is getting his shot now. Erik Gustafsson is in that process as well. Gustav Forsling had another extended look during the first half of the season before the team decided it would be wise to continue his development in Rockford, where he can play top-pairing minutes.

All of this would give the Blackhawks a better indicator of how they can approach the upcoming offseason, and which young guys they can possibly add into the mix for 2018-19. But first, we have to see how the end of February plays out before making those calls.