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."

Is Blackhawks' Round One strategy playing into Vegas Golden Knights' hands?

Is Blackhawks' Round One strategy playing into Vegas Golden Knights' hands?

The Blackhawks knew they'd have to elevate their game for Round One of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in their matchup against the Vegas Golden Knights, who won the No. 1 seed from the West for the first round in the round robin.

The Hawks upset of the West's No. 5 seeded Oilers and their top-ranked power play and second-place penalty kill during the regular season — not to mention Leon Draisailt and Connor McDavid — was no small feat.

Chicago head coach Jeremy Colliton and the Blackhawks know they're facing a more complete team — capable of rolling four lines — in the Golden Knights, as illustrated by Tuesday's 4-1 Game 1 decision over the Hawks.

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Instead of focusing on just shutting down two players like they did against Edmonton, the Blackhawks are tasked with shutting down every line against Vegas. 

The Hawks' tight-checking strategy may have played right into the Knights' hands in Game 1 as Chicago's forwards were so focused on their defensive responsibilities that they failed to generate much offense, recording a measly 20 shots on goal Tuesday night.

Related: Robin Lehner got the best of 'reverse psychology' with Blackhawks familiarity in Game 1

"I think we did a better job controlling the puck in the offensive zone in the second period and on," Golden Knights forward Reilly Smith said after Tuesday's game. "They're a rush team and we don't want to get into a track meet with them so once we can get them to stop in the D zone, we control the game a little bit more."

If Vegas is scared of Chicago's rush, the Hawks need to use it more. They can avoid a track meet, but how about a few races?

Colliton, 35, deserves beyond the benefit of the doubt in how he had the Blackhawks prepared for the Stanley Cup Qualifiers and in how they utilized a system that beat a good team as No. 12 to No. 5 underdogs at the opposition's home ice for his first postseason win in his second year as an NHL head coach. But, he needs to find a way to encourage the Hawks to play loose enough while limiting the Knights' chances in Game 2 that they can generate some of their own.

"We expect a tight series, we expect it to be a grind, we expect to face adversity," Colliton said after the loss in Game 1. "We did that, and we were right there. But we're going to have to find a way to win some of these games (and) we got to put ourselves in that position as well. Again, we just have to stick with it and they did it a little bit longer than us, and that's the message."

To Colliton's credit, Corey Crawford gave up two soft goals that he'd normally have, so the Hawks may have been able to squeak out a victory with their tight, conservative style on Tuesday.

"They’re a good team, they’re going to make you work for what you get," Colliton said. "But if you stick with it long enough and put pressure on the puck, we forced our turnovers, we got our chances. I thought we could’ve created even more if we were a little cleaner early on, especially in the first period. I thought there was more there for us. So we’ve just got to believe in that."

A way the Hawks can generate more in Game 2 on Thursday is by the forwards getting the puck to the D in the offensive zone, creating traffic in front of the net and getting shots off from the point, which played a big role in eliminating the Oilers in the play-in series.

"Yeah, we seemed to have a bit of success there last series. For whatever reason first game here it didn't happen as much," Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith said following Game 1. "Part of it is just keeping the game simple. Being able to get it low to high and then get the shot through. But every game's different."

Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad, who made a beautiful play in Vegas' zone to steal the puck and feed David Kampf for the lone Hawks' goal in Game 1, knows there's more the Hawks can do to score some goals against the Knights.

"We had a lot of one-and-dones," Saad said after Tuesday's loss. "The biggest thing is getting out of our zone clean, playing hockey in their end. We had some shifts too where we pinned them in, we didn't get clean pucks to the net... For us, we just want to get as quick out of our zone as possible. When we get stuck in there, we're not going to get anything there."

The good and bad of Blackhawks' Game 1 loss to Vegas Golden Knights

The good and bad of Blackhawks' Game 1 loss to Vegas Golden Knights

As the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks knew going into their first-round matchup against the No. 1 seed Vegas Golden Knights that it would be an uphill battle. 

The Blackhawks dropped Game 1 on Tuesday night in a tight-checking game, which wasn’t what we’re used to seeing when these two teams collide. The final score (4-1) and shots on goal (34-20) made it seem like a more lopsided effort than it actually was, but that's not to say the Blackhawks were the better team.

The Golden Knights deserved to win, but there were some positives for the Blackhawks. There were also negatives.

Let's break down the good and bad from Game 1:

Good: Three of the Blackhawks four lines outchanced the Golden Knights during 5-on-5 action for a combined scoring chance differential of plus-5, according to Natural Stat Trick.

Bad: The one line that didn’t was Kirby Dach, Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane, which got outchanced 10-3.

Good: The Blackhawks gave up seven high-danger chances at even strength against a Vegas team that generated 10.8 per game during the regular season.

Bad: The Blackhawks had only four high-danger chances of their own, which was their third-fewest total of the season.

Good: The Golden Knights, who rank No. 2 in even-strength shot attempts from the slot off the rush with 7.53, were held to only four rush chances, according to Sportlogiq.

Bad: The Blackhawks, who rank No. 3 in even-strength shot attempts from the slot off the rush with 7.40, had only three rush chances of their own. 

Good: The Golden Knights had 6:26 of offensive zone possession time. For reference, the Oilers had 8:49 against the Blackhawks in Game 4.

Bad: The Blackhawks were held to only 5:25 of offensive zone possession time.

Good: The Blackhawks generated nine scoring chances and four high-danger chances during 4:06 of power-play time.

Bad: Only four of their 12 shot attempts hit the net, and none of them went in.

Good: The Blackhawks lost but hung with the Golden Knights for the majority of the game — two of the four goals allowed by Corey Crawford were ones he normally stops.

Bad: The Golden Knights won despite not playing their best.

The conclusion is, the Blackhawks didn't play bad enough to lose. But they didn't play well enough to win, either. The Golden Knights simply stuck to their defensive structure and never gave the Blackhawks an opportunity to take control of the game.

If the Blackhawks want to make this a competitive series, they have to go out and take it. Because this Golden Knights team isn't going to make the same defensive mistakes that the Edmonton Oilers made in the qualifying round that allowed the Blackhawks to make them pay.

"We expect a tight series, we expect it to be a grind, we expect to face adversity," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We did that and we were right there. But we’re going have to find way to win some of these games, but we’re going to have to put ourselves in that position as well. We just have to stick with it; they did it a little bit longer than us. That’s the message."

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