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Blackhawks take two steps back after 'embarrassing' loss to Devils

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USA Today

Blackhawks take two steps back after 'embarrassing' loss to Devils

The Blackhawks are a frustrating team to watch.

Two nights ago, they scored four third-period goals in a span of 7:59 to knock off the red-hot Colorado Avalanche, who might be the favorite to come out of the Western Conference. Two nights before that, the Blackhawks scored three goals in the third period to beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-1. Two road victories against Central Division opponents were character-defining moments.

On Monday, the New Jersey Devils came into Chicago sitting in second-to-last in the NHL with 27 points. They left looking like playoff contenders.

The Devils, who ranked 30th in both goals for per game (2.37) and goals against (3.51) going into the matchup, scored seven straight goals after giving up the first one to roll past the Blackhawks 7-1 at the United Center.

This was an opportunity for the Blackhawks to head into the three-day Christmas break on a positive note. Instead, they took another two steps back after one step forward.

"Just an embarrassment," Jonathan Toews said. "I don’t know if that’s an emotion but that’s what we’re all feeling and what we should be feeling at this moment. Pretty tough. Pretty tough all-around game. Not much to say."

It was an ugly game in every facet for the Blackhawks. For starters, they went 0-for-7 on the power play and gave up a shorthanded goal.

The Blackhawks also allowed 21 high-danger chances at 5-on-5, which was their most of the season; their previous high was 16 on Nov. 26 against Dallas, according to Natural Stat Trick. On the flip side, it was the most high-danger chances the Devils had generated all season long after their previous high was 12 (three times).

Nothing about Monday's game was positive and the Blackhawks will feel it going into the break.

"Enough's enough," Toews said. "We've talked about being pissed off. We can't keep letting this slide and just talk about the Xs and Os like it's just another game. We showed a great example of these last two games on the road of how we want to play for each other, and that's got to be the standard. We just completely got away from it tonight. ... Everything fell apart."

The feeling in the locker room is no longer frustration. It's annoyance.

If the Blackhawks won on Monday, the talk in Chicago over the break would've been whether they've turned a corner with four wins in five games. Instead, it feels like nothing has changed.

"It's a missed opportunity," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We should be embarrassed. If we're going to make progress you've got to give yourself a chance to make progress. I don't think we did that tonight. Seems like we need to start over all the time.

"We need to understand what kind of team we are. We've got to work every day and when we do we're good enough. We've shown we can get points and we've had some big-time character wins. But the work and compete's got to be there."

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NHL Draft 2020: Blackhawks could pick one of these ranked prospects

NHL Draft 2020: Blackhawks could pick one of these ranked prospects

NHL Central Scouting released their 2020 draft rankings on Wednesday afternoon. The Blackhawks, who sat in 12th place in the Western Conference and 23rd in the league with a 32-30-8 record at the time of the NHL pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 12, are likely to get a top-10 pick for the third consecutive year.

The team had an 8.2% chance of landing a top-3 pick after finishing the 2018-19 season 10th place in the Western Conference and 20th in the NHL, but they got the No. 3 pick in the lottery and selected center Kirby Dach at last year's draft.

In 2018 they drafted defenseman Adam Boqvist at No. 8 overall. 

One left wing, one right wing, four centers and four defenseman make up the top-10 North American ranked players from Central Scouting available in this year's draft. 

Chicago could use a defensive-minded defenseman as it stands. The Blackhawks are loaded on centers enough to possibly part with Dylan Strome after the season concludes.

Alexis Lafreniere, a left winger, was ranked No. 1 per Central Scouting. The 18-year-old Quebec native led the QMJHL in assists (77) and points (112). It would be a bit of a long shot for the Hawks to land him.

The Blackhawks will probably have better odds than last year in the lottery, but would be more likely to pick around 10th. 

18-year-old Jamie Drysdale is the top North American defensive prospect according to the release at No. 3. The Toronto native, currently with the Eerie Otters of the OHL (Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome's former team) was a member of Team Canada's gold-medal winning entry at the 2020 World Junior Championship. Listed at 5'11, 170 lbs., the Hockey News described his skating and smarts as "other-worldly". Seeing as Chicago has plenty of puck-moving D men who can skate, it may be best to go the stay-at-home route.

At age 17, Jake Sanderson of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program’s Under-18 Team seems to be the highest ranked D man with a strong defensive game at No. 4 for North Americans on the list. According to the Hockey Writers, the Montana native has strong skating and sound footwork. He'll most likely be out of reach for the Hawks.

Sanderson's father, Geoff, played 1104 NHL games and finished his career with 700 points, playing for teams like the Hartford Whalers and Buffalo Sabres. 

Going off of Central Scouting's rankings, 18-year-old Braden Schneider makes the most sense for the Hawks. They have a better chance to grab him than the other D men, as he's ranked No. 9 among North American players, and the Hockey Writers described him as a "quintessential two-way defenseman" whose strengths include his "stick play, gap control and defensive poise."

Schneider had seven goals and 35 assists in 60 games with the Western Hockey League's Brandon Wheat Kings this season and a +/- rating of +9. Chicago would gladly select a defenseman who can do it all, especially if that includes helping keep pucks out of the net.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device. 

NHL 20 sim: Penalty kill dooms Blackhawks in Game 1 loss vs. Blues

NHL 20 sim: Penalty kill dooms Blackhawks in Game 1 loss vs. Blues

After surging into the postseason with two big wins in New York to earn the second wild-card spot, the rejuvenated Blackhawks head into a first round showdown with the rival Blues, who swept Chicago in the regular season series. Youth and defense fueled the Blackhawks in the last two games, which saw the likes of Alex DeBrincat, Kirby Dach and Alex Nylander play big roles in earning a playoff bid.

As the Hawks head into Game 1, they’ll look for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to return to the scoresheet like they have so many times in past playoffs. St. Louis comes into the series on a roll, one they’ve practically been on since midseason last year. Not much is expected league-wide from the Hawks in this series. Can they shock the world and make some noise against their biggest rival?

Game 1: Blackhawks at Blues (April 8)

Result: Blues win 6-4 (STL leads 1-0)

Three Stars:

First Star: Ryan O’Reilly (2 G, 4 SOG)

Second Star: Vince Dunn (3 A, 1 SOG, 1 H, +1)

Third Star: Alex DeBrincat (2 G, 5 SOG)

DeBrincat was the star for the Hawks, netting two goals and getting five shots on net. O’Reilly starred for the Blues, single-handedly bringing them back from a 4-2 deficit with a pair of goals, including a momentum-shifting goal late in the second period. That woke up the crowd and the team as the Blues added three more unanswered goals in the third.

Scoring summary:

First period

8:16 Alexander Steen (O. Sundqvist, V. Dunn) 1-0  
   
11:49 Alex DeBrincat (D. Keith) 1-1

12:55 Alex DeBrincat (J. Toews, O. Maatta) 2-1

13:41 PP Robert Thomas (Z. Sanford, C. Parayko) 2-2

Second period

7:31 Dominik Kubalik (S. Koekkoek) 3-2

14:00 Patrick Kane (D. Strome) 4-2

18:34 R. O’Reilly (J. Schwartz, V. Dunn) 4-3

Third period

9:45 Ryan O’Reilly (C. Gunnarsson) 4-4

19:07 PP Brayden Schenn (C. Parayko, V. Dunn)

19:51 EN Jordan Kyrou (Unassisted)

Box score:

Shots on goal
   
Chicago: 30

St. Louis: 30

The Blackhawks kept up with the Blues the whole way, going shot-for-shot all 60 minutes. The turning point was O’Reilly’s late goal, which sparked the favored-Blues and their crowd. The Hawks gave up a few more shots on goal compared t the past two games, but taking four penalties played a hand in that. Their familiar names were back on the scoresheet, but unfortunately the defense fell back into old habits and couldn’t contain the Blues surge.

Goalies:

Corey Crawford: 24/29 (.828 SV%)

Jordan Binnington: 26/30 (.867 SV%)

For the Blackhawks to make a run, perhaps the most important is Crawford's play. He wasn’t at his best in Game 1, and thus finished with a 6-4 loss. Part of the issue was rebound control, which led to the Blues coming back to tie things up, but the defense didn’t do much to help. The penalty kill also left him hanging high and dry, especially on the game-winner, with Schenn cashing in wide open.

Power play:

Chicago: 0-0

St. Louis 3-4

No doubt Jeremy Colliton and company aren’t thrilled about getting zero power plays in Game 1, and they’ll certainly be in officials’ ears to try and change that. However, the real killer here was the penalty kill. After the Blackhawks' PK stepped up down the stretch, they collapsed in Game 1, allowing three goals on four chances. Special teams success was arguably the biggest factor down the stretch for the Hawks, and they need it to return to form to have any chance against St. Louis in this series.

Notable Blackhawks performances:

Patrick Kane (Goal)

Dominik Kubalik (Goal)

Duncan Keith (Assist)

The Blackhawks saw their familiar names return to the scoresheet, with regular season goal leaders Kane and Kubalik each notching a goal. Toews assisted on one of DeBrincat’s tallies. Keith assisted on another. But the youth movement came to a bit of a halt in Game 1.

After playing big roles to close out the regular season, Dach, Strome, Boqvist and Nylander combined for just one assist. The Hawks will need their young role players to play a bigger role again to provide the depth needed to get by the Blues.

Game 1 of the playoffs looked much more like the first 70 regular season games than the last 12 for the Hawks. Chicago’s offense wasn’t able to bail out their defensive deficiencies like it did much of the season. It’s only one game, and a win in Game 2 would give the Hawks all the momentum as the series shifts to Chicago.

In order to send the series home tied 1-1, the Blackhawks will need better play across the board. Look for a bounce-back performance after a tough loss.