Blackhawks

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to avoid season sweep vs. Jets tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to avoid season sweep vs. Jets tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Winnipeg Jets tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. One last crack.

In four meetings this season, the Jets have taken eight of eight points from the Blackhawks, with three of those wins coming at the United Center. In those games, the Blackhawks have been outscored 14-5, their most recent a 5-3 loss in which they squandered a third-period lead by allowing three unanswered goals. Chicago will gets its final stab at Winnipeg tonight, and look to avoid the season sweep.

 

2. Can new top line sustain success?

The first line of Nick Schmaltz, Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik was terrific in Wednesday's 4-3 overtime win over the Minnesota Wild. The trio combined for three goals and three assists, with Toews potting the game winner. The Blackhawks captain now has five goals and seven assists in his last eight games, matching his point total in his previous 26 contests. Getting contributions from this line is key. Let's see if it continues, and how long it lasts.

3. Is Corey Crawford back?

Before undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Dec. 3, Crawford was among the league's best goaltenders in many statistical categories. Since his return on Dec. 23, he hasn't been that great, owning a 9-7-1 record in 17 starts and finishing with an .894 save percentage in December. He turned in arguably his best performance since returning by stopping 35 of 38 shots in a 4-3 overtime win over Minnesota, stealing not only one point for the Blackhawks, but two while preventing the Wild to get an extra one. It would've been a four-point swing with a regulation loss to a team that leads the Central Division by five points and has two games in hand. 

4. Blackhawks power play heating up.

After going 1-for-20 (5 percent) on the power play in their previous eight games, the Blackhawks have scored at least one goal on the man advantage in their last three games, all of which have resulted in wins. They're 4-for-8 during that span, good for a 50 percent success rate. Their season total has improved to 18.9, which ranks 16th in the league.

5. So is Winnipeg's.

Like Chicago, the Jets have been cashing in on their power play chances as of late. They've scored a goal on the man advantage in four of their last five games, and it's helped them win three straight games for the first time all season. Winnipeg is 4-for-13 (30.8 percent) during that span, bumping their overall percentage to 18.6, a notch below the Blackhawks for 17th.

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Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to Blues: What's up with the power play?

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USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to Blues: What's up with the power play?

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night:
 
1. Nick Schmaltz returns but sizzle doesn’t.

You didn’t expect the fireworks of the season opener but you figured Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman and Patrick Kane would connect pretty quickly again. The speed was certainly there. The connections on passes were not. It wasn’t just that second line, though: it was another night on which the Blackhawks’ offense was sluggish. 
 
2. Tripping along.

I joked that tripping is the new slashing. Maybe that’s not the case league-wide but it was for the Blackhawks on Wednesday night. The Blackhawks took five tripping penalties overall, including three in the first period. It was a clear sign that the Blackhawks were trying to play catch-up all night, and they didn’t fare well at it.
 
3. Power play gets something but…

It took until late in the third period (when the Blackhawks’ offense seems to get going lately). The Blackhawks got two late power-play goals, a reminder of what they can do when they battle for the puck and show some spark.

“Our sense of urgency in the puck area, be it 5-on-5 or on the power play, that’s the differential of keeping the puck in the offensive zone and making plays off it is one of our strengths,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We didn’t do that very often and we haven’t won many battles.”
 
4. Starting slow.

Why these are happening is a mystery, and they’ve been most evident in the Blackhawks’ last three games, which have all come against division opponents. Too much relying on Corey Crawford again and not much in terms of shots, be it quality or quantity through the first two periods. The Blackhawks were outshot 17-8 through the first 40 minutes on Wednesday. While they created little they gave up way too much.
 
5. Patrick Sharp OK?

Sharp was injured late on Wednesday night when the Blackhawks-Blues game got chippy in the final five-plus minutes. Quenneville thought Sharp was fine but he wasn’t positive at the time of his postgame press conference.

Blackhawks stumble out of the gates against Blues: 'We were brutal'

Blackhawks stumble out of the gates against Blues: 'We were brutal'

ST. LOUIS – The Blackhawks’ first tripping came barely a minute into the game. Then came another one. And another. And another. And another. Despite welcoming one of their fastest players back into the lineup, the Blackhawks were overall flat-footed and playing catch-up all night, be it on the ice or on the scoreboard, to the St. Louis Blues.

Nick Schmaltz returned but the effect on the second line and the Blackhawks overall wasn’t immediate. Instead the Blackhawks looked sluggish. Their offensive opportunities were few – a one and done here and there but no sustained zone time or pressure on Blues goaltender Jake Allen – their passing was off and they were on the defensive all night.

And then there were the tripping penalties. The Blackhawks’ penalty kill held up through it, nullifying all five Blues power-play opportunities. But the Blues found other ways to inflict their damage.

“They played well and we were brutal,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “That was a bad start, a bad middle and even [though] it was a little excited at the end it wasn’t very good. That’s as close to brutal as you can get.”

The Blackhawks’ last three games have common themes: they’re outshot for a good part of the game, they’re giving up a good amount of quality shots and then the urgency hits them midway through the third period. For the third consecutive contest the Blackhawks scored two goals late and in two of those three games it wasn’t nearly enough.

“Obviously it wasn’t good enough for two periods. If you take any positives out of this game, it’s the way we played in the third,” Patrick Kane said. “At least we know we can do it. Just gotta do it before our backs are against the wall.”

Why it’s taking the Blackhawks so long to get going, however, is the question. Obviously the Blackhawks’ late third-period pushes show how capable they are of producing when necessary. Said Alex DeBrincat, who assisted on Ryan Hartman’s goal late in regulation, “If we’re would’ve been crashing the net like that all game it may have been a different story.”

But they didn’t. The Blackhawks welcomed back a teammate that’s injected speed into their lineup but the team was once again stumbling out of the gate.

“We’re supposed to be out there, giving our all every minute we’re out there and every shift, go out there and take it a shift at a time and give it all you got every shift,” Hartman said. “We have four lines that can roll so there’s no excuse for not going out there and putting all your energy out there for a shift and getting ready for the next one.”