Nick Schmaltz

Five takeaways from Blackhawks 8-2 win over Senators: Patrick Kane, Nick Schmaltz lead power play to big night

Five takeaways from Blackhawks 8-2 win over Senators: Patrick Kane, Nick Schmaltz lead power play to big night

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 8-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night at Canadian Tire Centre:

1. Richard Panik ends lengthy scoring drought.

Coming off a game in which he logged only 10:53 of ice time and was a healthy scratch almost a week ago in New York, Panik turned in arguably his best effort of the season in this one.

The Senators had 13 scoring chances at 5-on-5 in the first period compared to the Blackhawks' 2, but it was the latter who capitalized on their chances. Panik picked up a trickling puck in the slot after it was blocked and slapped home a shot that put the Blackhawks up 1-0 with 1:09 left in the opening frame.

It was Panik's sixth goal of the season, but just his first since Oct. 21 — a span of 27 games — and first 5-on-5 goal since Oct. 7, the second game of the season. Panik finished the game with nine shot attempts (five on goal), two hits, one takeaway and one blocked shot in 13:47 of ice time.

2. Patrick Sharp getting hot.

Since being a healthy scratch in back-to-back games against Edmonton and Calgary to close out 2017, the 36-year-old's stick is heating up and he's had the scoring touch as of late that's helped him become an eight-time 20-goal scorer in this league. Sharp responded to the message by scoring a goal in a 5-2 win over the Rangers last Wednesday that turned out to be the game winner, and scored another against the Vegas Golden Knights two days later.

Well, he kept his success in 2018 going when he fired a 48-foot wrist shot that got past goaltender Craig Anderson for a 2-0 Blackhawks lead at the 5:14 mark of the second period. Sharp has scored three goals in his last four games after failing to find the back of the net in his previous 12. It's even more impressive when you consider he scored only three goals in his first 35 games of the season.

Encouraging for Chicago to see the bounces going Sharp's way, and perhaps it can serve as a spark offensively.

3. Patrick Kane, Nick Schmaltz lead power play to big night.

Going into the game, the Blackhawks had the third-worst power play in the league with a 14.4 percent success rate and were 0-for-9 in that department over their last four games. But they took full advantage of going up against the fourth-worst penalty kill unit (76.3 percent) by scoring a season-high four goals with the man advantage, three of which came in the second period.

Schmaltz scored the first two, Jan Rutta got the third one and Kane scored the fourth, while assisting on each of the first three. Kane had registered three assists in a game 11 times in his NHL career, but this was the first time he recorded four and he became the seventh Blackhawks player to ever do that in one period, joining Doug Bentley, Bill Mosienko, Jim Wiste, Cliff Koroll, Jim Pappin and Patrick Sharp. Kane's five-point game was also a new career high after collecting four points in a game six times in his career.

Schmaltz has five goals during his career-high four-game goal streak, and 11 points (six goals, five assists) in his last seven games. His 31 points (12 goals, 19 assists) in 38 games this season is also a new career high; he had 28 points (six goals, 22 assists) in 61 games last season.

As a team, the Blackhawks hadn't scored three power-play goals in a game all season and it was their first time scoring four since Feb. 15, 2016 in a 7-2 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs when they went 4-for-7.

4. Jonathan Toews looking like Jonathan Toews again.

The Blackhawks go as their captain goes, and boy is he rolling. This is the best stretch of hockey he's played all season and it's not close.

With a two-goal night, Toews extended his point streak to five games after previously going a season-long six games without a point. He has five goals and four assists during his point streak, which has included four multi-point efforts.

The Blackhawks are 4-1-1 in their last six games and have moved back into a wild card spot in the Western Conference (for now) in large part because of No. 19 looking like No. 19 again.

5. Will Brent Seabrook get back into the lineup Wednesday?

It was probably hard for Blackhawks fans to see a three-time Stanley Cup champion and staple on the blue line for more than a decade be a healthy scratch even though it may have been warranted. And it wasn't a bad time to do it, against an Ottawa team that has been extremely underwhelming this season and it being the first of a back-to-back.

But will Joel Quenneville reinsert him back into the lineup against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday? It will be difficult to break up the pairings after having a hand in the eight-goal outburst, and five of the six defensemen collecting at least a point in the victory. Duncan Keith and Jordan Oesterle each tallied two assists, Jan Rutta scored his first goal since Nov. 12 while Michal Kempny and Connor Murphy each added an apple of their own and had a plus-2 rating as a pairing.

Despite all that, don't expect Seabrook to be watching for the press box very long. 

Cat with the hat: Alex DeBrincat's latest trick fuels high-scoring Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Cat with the hat: Alex DeBrincat's latest trick fuels high-scoring Blackhawks

Patrick Sharp has been highly complementary of Alex DeBrincat since the 19-year-old started camp with the Blackhawks in September. But on DeBrincat’s biggest night as a pro, the night he celebrated his first NHL hat trick, Sharp nevertheless had to give the kid some grief.

“It was awesome. Only problem is he had that mustache for it,” Sharp deadpanned. “So he’s gonna be on TV a lot with that ugly mustache.”

All Movember-motivated facial hair aside, DeBrincat has developed his game just fine with the Blackhawks. He’s improving his defense with every game. He’s flipped from the left to the right side without missing the beat. And this month DeBrincat has tapped into the offensive potential that was on full display during his Erie Otters days, celebrating that hat trick in the Blackhawks’ 7-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night. DeBrincat now has nine of his 10 goals in November.

“Special night for him,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He finds the net, he sees pucks, gets himself available, the puck follows him around, he has a great stick, his anticipation is high end, play recognition, special player. Nice.”

DeBrincat had a huge smile on his face as United Center spectators threw hats onto the ice. After the game he was a little more subdued.

“It was nice. Pucks were bouncing my way, and it’s cool to get that over with,” he said. “I think today the puck luck was there for me and for a lot of the guys. So I thought that was a big reason I had those chances.”

Maybe, but DeBrincat was already a proven goal scorer at the OHL level. It was just a matter of time before the Blackhawks found out if he could do the same in the NHL. So far, so good.

“He’s a great player,” Sharp said. “You could tell that in training camp, whenever he got the puck he just has poise with it and he’s looking to make a play. I said earlier that he was playing like he’s in junior hockey still, and that’s a compliment. Because he’s looking to make those plays, he’s not intimidated at all by the speed or the pace of the game, and you can see the results.”

Patrick Kane recorded three assists, his second the feed that led to DeBrincat’s third goal. Sharp broke out of his slump. So did Ryan Hartman, with two assists. So did Nick Schmaltz. The Blackhawks got off to another strong start and didn’t look back, the goals that were so elusive a few weeks ago now coming in bunches.

“I mean, in those games we were just one play away. Pucks were rolling on us. Sometimes they don’t go in for you, and other nights everything goes in,” Schmaltz said “You have to stick with it, can’t get too high or too low. It’s a long season, so you just have to bring the same mindset every night.”

The Blackhawks’ tests don’t end. They’re just starting a busy week that continues Tuesday night in Nashville. But the confidence is surging. So is the offense. So is DeBrincat.

“He’s a great kid. He’s doing well for us, and he’s playing a big role,” Schmaltz said. “He’s a goal scorer. It’s fun to watch. The guy just finds a way to put the puck in the net and not a lot of guys can do that, especially at this level. Hopefully he keeps that up and he’ll help our team succeed.”

Five takeaways from Ducks-Blackhawks: Goals galore

Five takeaways from Ducks-Blackhawks: Goals galore

Remember when the Blackhawks’ offense was too quiet? Yeah, those days are gone. Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 7-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.

1. Cat with the hat. Alex DeBrincat was doing well even when he wasn’t scoring goals. But when he does, he’s stellar. DeBrincat recorded his first NHL hat trick on Monday night, Patrick Kane feeding him for the power-play goal early in the second period to complete the trick. DeBrincat has played mainly right wing this season – he played on the left his final two years in Erie. The switch hasn’t hurt him. DeBrincat has scored nine of his 10 goals in November.

2. Patrick Sharp’s drought ends. Sharp hadn’t recorded a goal (make that a point of any kind) since Oct. 14. His skid ended on Monday night as his third goal of the season gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead in the first period. Sharp took the feed from Ryan Hartman, another Blackhawks forward who needed, and had, a strong game.

3. Nick Schmaltz gets going again, too. Schmaltz has had assists here or there but he hadn’t scored a goal since Oct. 28 against the Colorado Avalanche. Patrick Kane’s deft pass to him on the doorstep gave Schmaltz his fourth goal of the season to go with two assists.

4. Avoiding letdowns. The Blackhawks had a couple in this one, just gaffes that let the Ducks have some breathing room. The Ducks had back-to-back power plays to start the third – Chris Wagner got his second goal of the night on the first power play before the Blackhawks killed off the second. Again, the Ducks never really threatened, but the Blackhawks want to stay away from some of those hiccups.

5. The offense is back. From late October to early November, the Blackhawks fought, scratched and scraped for every goal. They’ve regained their scoring touch, seemingly one line at a time. Since Nov. 11, when they came back for a 4-3 overtime victory over the Carolina Hurricanes, the Blackhawks have scored 30 goals in their last seven games. In seven games prior to that they had just 12 goals.