Chicago Blackhawks

Patrick Kane sparks Blackhawks' power play with 'one of the best shots we've seen all year'

Patrick Kane sparks Blackhawks' power play with 'one of the best shots we've seen all year'

This Patrick Kane guy is pretty good.

Kane had another demonstration of his Hall of Fame level skill with a sick shot to give the Blackhawks a lead that would stick against the Bruins on Sunday. Kane’s power play goal with less than four minutes remaining impressed coach Joel Quenneville.

“It’s one of the best shots we’ve seen all year,” Quenneville said.

The goal came after Zdeno Chara, who had tied the game earlier in the third period, took a double-minor for high sticking. Brandon Saad was bleeding as a result of the play and went to the locker room immediately. After the game, Quenneville said he thinks Saad will be fine.

The double-minor came with less than four minutes left in the game, which meant that as long as the Blackhawks didn’t commit a penalty, they would either take the lead or have a man advantage into overtime. When Kane scored 18 seconds into the power play, it was best-case scenario.

Just seconds after Chara left the box, Brent Seabrook doubled the lead and put the game away. For a power play that has struggled for much of the season, the two goals were a positive sign and gave the team a win.

“I thought the power play moved it around pretty good tonight,” Kane said. “We had some chances, we had some good looks. It was nice to get a couple on it, too.”

Jonathan Toews was big on the power play and assisted on all three Blackhawks goals.

“Our power play all year has been quiet,” Quenneville said. “The timing of scoring big goals all year has been… we’ve been missing some big opportunities. That was like a perfect shot and a perfect timing. I don’t care who it is, but it was a nice shot and a timely goal as well.”

Glass half full? There was something to be excited about in Blackhawks loss to Bruins

Glass half full? There was something to be excited about in Blackhawks loss to Bruins

There hasn't been much to cheer for this season if you're a Blackhawks fan.

It was another painful unraveling on Saturday after they allowed four power-play goals and suffered their second regulation loss (17-2-3) when leading after two periods in a 7-4 loss to the Boston Bruins.

But, taking a glass half-full approach, there was something to be excited about.

Matthew Highmore scored his first career NHL goal, added two blocked shots and two hits in a season-high 15:48 of ice time.

John Hayden, who was recalled from the AHL's Rockford IceHogs on an emergency basis, showed some fight — literally — by dropping the gloves in his second shift then scoring a goal the next period. He basically picked up where he left off in Rockford, where he had five goals and nine assists for 14 points in 22 games.

Erik Gustafsson had a career-high three points, and has two goals in three games since signing a two-year contract extension. He had only one goal in his previous 60 games, dating back to last year's rookie campaign.

Alex DeBrincat and Nick Schmaltz each registered an assist to maintain their position among the Top 4 scorers on the Blackhawks, while David Kampf also recorded an assist for the second straight game, had a team-high four takeaways and won at least half of his faceoffs for the seventh straight game — he's 52-for-86 (60.5 percent) over that span.

Notice a common theme?

Every single one of those players are aged 25 or younger and made an impact on the scoresheet. Even more encouraging, they did it against a team that is arguably the best in the NHL.

They're taking it upon themselves to stand out in this final month, which is essentially an open audition for next season and beyond.

Sure, the youth movement comes with bumps and bruises, and it's hard to look at this game and feel good about it, but it would be even more alarming if there weren't signs of development in those younger players. That sets franchise's back years.

That's not the case going on in Chicago.

It's about how quickly they can put it all together and make it work as a group, and moving past the developmental stages of the retooling process by 2018-19.

Blackhawks are having an uncharacteristic season in an important category

Blackhawks are having an uncharacteristic season in an important category

There are a combination of reasons why the Blackhawks are on their way to missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007-08.

You can point to Corey Crawford's injury as the most obvious, a power play unit that has hovered near the basement all year or an inexperienced defense that has given up the sixth-most high-danger scoring chances.

There's also another one that has been well-documented over the last month and a half particularly, but really sticks out like a sore thumb when you look at the numbers on a larger scale.

The Blackhawks have scored the first goal in 40 of 68 games this season, yet they rank 25th in win percentage (.550) with a 22-13-5 record and are tied for the most regulation losses (13) in those contests when doing so. 

And that's incredibly uncharacteristic for a Joel Quenneville-led team.

Since he took over as head coach in 2008, no team has had more wins when scoring first than the Blackhawks (326). Going into this year, they had ranked third with an overall win percentage of .754 in that category across nine seasons.

Just last year, they were 37-8-5 for a win percentage of .740, which ranked sixth.

What happened?

Well, all those reasons we mentioned above have probably contributed to the lack of success when it comes to shutting the door.

It's not like they're taking their foot off the pedal; they have the second-best 5-on-5 shot differential when they're playing with a lead.

It's that they haven't been able to capitalize on their scoring chances, have allowed way too many quality scoring chances of their own and, obviously, haven't had one of the best goaltenders in the world to bail them out like he often has done in the past.

Still, it's bizarre to see the Blackhawks among the worst teams in the league in that department because they used to be as close to unbeatable as you can get when they jumped out in front first.