Blackhawks

Blackhawks will take OT victory but need sharper starts again

Blackhawks will take OT victory but need sharper starts again

Patrick Sharp’s backhand shot slipped past Pekka Rinne late in regulation. The Blackhawks’ push, which started midway through the third period, finally yielded them something and led to a 2-1 overtime victory.

The Blackhawks will take it, but it was the second consecutive game in which it took them two-plus periods and a deficit to get anything going. When the Blackhawks were scoring plenty in the first few games this season they were playing with energy and tenacity from the start and didn’t let up. As they continue through a tough stretch, they want to get back to that.

“They controlled a lot of the battle areas, came up with more loose pucks, we didn’t pressure it enough,” coach Joel Quenneville said of the first two periods against the Nashville Predators. “All of a sudden we had some zone time [in the third], got some momentum off that, scored the big goal by Sharpy. Certainly the last 15 minutes of the game, including overtime, that’s what we need to play like more often.”

Sure, Nick Schmaltz’s absence hasn’t helped. The Blackhawks have missed him, and they hope he’s back on Wednesday. But Schmaltz or no Schmaltz there’s enough firepower on this team to generate offense. So what gives? On Saturday there may have been early frustration against a Predators team that’s done that to them a few times.

“I think it was just tough sledding out there,” Sharp said. “That was a well-coached team, pretty disciplined through the neutral zone. I don’t think we exited the zone with possession too many times throughout the whole game so we had to grind it out a little bit I thought in the third period Joel mixed the lines up and got a little offensive zone time. Got a couple shots on net and able to sneak one in there. I still think we’re capable of scoring multiple goals a game. We can score a lot. That’s never a problem.”

It’s ultimately about creating opportunities or taking advantage of those given to you. Speaking of the latter the Blackhawks’ power play, or lack thereof, doesn’t help. In their best seasons the Blackhawks didn’t sweat power-play issues much because their 5-on-5 scoring was strong. When that 5-on-5 production dries up, however, the power play’s issues are magnified. They came up empty in six more power-play opportunities on Saturday night and are now 4 for 27 on the season.

In the Blackhawks’ last two home games they haven’t been offensively sharp out of the gate. It’s taken them quite a while to get going. On Saturday it worked out well but it’s not a habit they want to repeat often.

“We can’t be overly excited with this short little two-gamer at home,” Quenneville said. “I think that you get Schmaltzy back and you get some consistent lines and more predictable line mates. Maybe if we get that it’ll help push one another in the right way and get more consistency and speed in our game.”

After snapping 12-game goal drought, Alex DeBrincat hoping 'I can get hot again'

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AP

After snapping 12-game goal drought, Alex DeBrincat hoping 'I can get hot again'

BOSTON — Alex DeBrincat isn't used to going through long stretches without scoring a goal. He found the back of the net 41 times last season, which was tied for sixth amongst all skaters.

But the offense hasn't come as naturally for him this season. 

While he's dishing out assists at a career-high rate (0.50 per game), DeBrincat had only five goals through 27 games going into Thursday and was on pace to finish the season with 15. The longest goal drought of his NHL career is 13 games, which came during his rookie season, and he was on the verge of tying that mark.

But after breaking through in the third period of Thursday's 4-3 overtime win over the Boston Bruins, DeBrincat ended a 12-game drought for his first goal since Nov. 7. And he's hoping it will open the floodgates.

"It was a long time between goals," DeBrincat said. "But hopefully I can get hot again and keep going."

DeBrincat didn't show it, but the frustration was brewing inside. In Saturday's 7-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche he couldn't convert on an open backdoor chance and took out his anger on Samuel Girard by picking a fight with the 5-foot-10, 170-pound defenseman.

DeBrincat is a goal scorer and he wasn't scoring. With the monkey off his back, perhaps this could propel his offensive production.

"He's been playing well, getting chances," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "They just haven't gone in for him. Hopefully this is the little boost that he needs."

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Blackhawks pick up marquee overtime win in Boston, but will it serve as jump-start to something bigger?

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USA Today

Blackhawks pick up marquee overtime win in Boston, but will it serve as jump-start to something bigger?

BOSTON — The Blackhawks knew Thursday's matchup against the Boston Bruins was going to be a serious test. They had lost three in a row (0-3-0) and six of their past seven games (1-5-1) and were running into a Bruins team that was aiming for their ninth consecutive win.

To make things more challenging, the Blackhawks were without Duncan Keith (groin) for the fourth straight game, Andrew Shaw (concussion protocol) for the second time and Olli Maatta (flu-like symptoms). It was going to be a measuring stick kind of game for the Blackhawks against the reigning Eastern Conference champions, especially after getting blown out 4-0 to the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in their previous outing.

The Blackhawks were slightly the better team through the first 40 minutes, capitalizing on a couple of chances and killing off four penalties against the NHL's second-ranked power play unit to take a 2-0 lead into the second intermission. But you knew the Bruins, who had yet to lose in regulation at home this season (12-0-4), were going to push back hard in their own building and they did.

After Alex DeBrincat scored 17 seconds — how fitting? — into the third period to make it 3-0, the Bruins responded 1:32 later and that's when the ride turned in a hurry.

The Bruins peppered the Blackhawks with 11 even-strength scoring chances in the third period, according to Natural Stat Trick, after having 12 in the first two periods combined and scored three straight to force overtime. Chris Wagner took advantage of an Erik Gustafsson tire blowout on a 2-on-1 opportunity by scoring a shorthanded goal to cut the Blackhawks' lead to 3-2 with 4:59 left in regulation and Torey Krug tied it up at 3-3 just 2:26 later.

But Jonathan Toews salvaged the second point for the Blackhawks by scoring on a breakaway 54 seconds into overtime to give his club a much-needed 4-3 victory against arguably the NHL's best team.

"I think we did a good job of hanging in there," Toews said of the Bruins' third-period push. "We're not happy with giving up the lead for sure. ... But it's nice to get the win even though they turned the momentum late in the game."

It was a win the Blackhawks can feel good about from the perspective that every guy played an important role. 

Ryan Carpenter scored a shorthanded goal for his first of the season, DeBrincat (12 games) and Toews (seven) each ended their goal droughts, Dylan Strome had a multi-point effort after missing four games with a concussion, Connor Murphy had a two-assist night, Calvin de Haan led all skaters with 25:26 of ice time and Robin Lehner stopped 37 of 40 shots for a save percentage of .925 after getting pulled in his last start.

The Blackhawks were desperate for a win and they got it, even though it was an ugly finish.

"We knew it was a great opportunity because we haven't played up to par for a long period of time," Lehner said. "We know we have to change the tide and this was a great opportunity to do so. As I've said before we've shown in spurts we're a good team, we've just got to start doing it consistently. It's the same thing in the third period today. We were doing some things that were unacceptable that we need to just take out of our game and then we'll be fine. We have the right personnel on this team to be a good team."

While they will certainly take the two points on the road, the Blackhawks know it won't matter unless they turn this into something larger. They've slipped near the bottom of the Western Conference and are trying to climb their way back up yet again.

And there's an opportunity for the Blackhawks to earn four points in a 48-hour span on Friday against a New Jersey Devils squad that has the second-fewest points (22) of any team and second-worst goal differential (minus-32).

"We had a little run there after we had a big win in Nashville," Toews said. "Whether we win a string of games together, we can build off games like this. We had the start we needed tonight and carried it through 60 for the most part. It's got to be a confidence builder when you beat a team like Boston in their own building but what matters is what we do next. We got another chance to build off it tomorrow night."

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