Blackhawks

Four takeaways: Blackhawks can't crack Carter Hart as offense hits bump in the road

Four takeaways: Blackhawks can't crack Carter Hart as offense hits bump in the road

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers at the United Center on Thursday:

1. Offense drying up

The Blackhawks are going through a dry spell. They tried sprucing up the lines mid-game on Monday against Vancouver, and reunited Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on the top line on Thursday to help change their fortunes. But no luck.

For the third straight game, the Blackhawks scored two goals or fewer after scoring at least three goals in 23 of their previous 27 games. The power play hasn't been nearly as effective, which has played a big part in that. 

The Blackhawks had their chances at 5-on-5, though. They led in shot attempts (64-34), shots on goal (35-20) and scoring chances (31-17) but lit the lamp only once.

"I think we played pretty good at times and maybe just couldn't find the back of the net," Jonathan Toews said. "Still pretty frustrating that it's another huge opportunity at home and it's two in a row that we fall short. Still wouldn't say we played as good in our own building as we have on the road as of late. So we have to find a way to be better here. Can't allow ourselves to fall short and not get any points anymore."

2. A goaltending duel

Going into Thursday's game, two-time Stanley Cup winner Corey Crawford was 5-0-1 with a 1.74 goals against average and .948 save percentage in his past six starts. And 20-year-old rising star Carter Hart had a .961 save percentage in his past two starts. Both of them picked up where they left off.

Crawford turned aside 25 of 27 shots for a save percentage of .926. Hart one-upped him, denying 40 of 41 shots for a save percentage of .976. It was the first time since Nov. 16 that the Blackhawks were held to only one goal, a span of 52 games.

"They locked it down pretty good," Dylan Strome said. "I think we had a decent amount of shots, but not a lot from the slot, but their goalie played good and made some big saves and we couldn’t capitalize. We hit a post. Hit a couple posts. Had some good chances. But unfortunately that didn’t go our way tonight.”

3. Breakout season for No. 56 continues

When Erik Gustafsson signed a two-year extension last March with the Blackhawks worth $1.2 million per year, it didn't sit well with some fans who believed he hadn't done enough to earn that just yet. But looking back on it, it's turned out to be one of the best bargains on the Blackhawks.

After scoring his 15th goal of the season, Gustafsson became the first Blackhawks defenseman to hit that mark since Dustin Byfuglien scored 17 goals during the 2009-10 campaign. And that was a season in which Byfuglien alternated as a defenseman and forward. It's been an impressive year for Gustafsson, and there are still nine games left to add to that total.

4. Controlling your own destiny

Western Conference bubble teams were licking their chops once again on Thursday night. After the Coyotes lost for the third straight time, it opened the door for the Blackhawks to ultimately control their own destiny. And they do.

A victory would've pulled the Blackhawks within two points of the final wildcard spot with a game in hand. This going into a weekend in which the Blackhawks will have a home-and-home against Colorado before heading to Arizona, which makes the upcoming three-game slate even more important.

The playoff race is really just beginning. Every team in the NHL is now in the single digits in the games remaining department. It's now or never.

"We're right in there," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "That's kind of how it is. People think we're out and we find a way to climb back in. That's good. That's good that we've showed that resilience for sure. We'd like to take that next step."

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Blackhawks remove interim tag and name Derek King head coach of Rockford IceHogs

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Rockford IceHogs

Blackhawks remove interim tag and name Derek King head coach of Rockford IceHogs

One day after mutually parting ways with assistant coach Don Granato, the Blackhawks announced Thursday that they have removed the interim label from Derek King's title and named him the head coach of the AHL's Rockford IceHogs. Anders Sorensen also received a multi-year extension to remain on the staff as an assistant.

While King may have been a worthy candidate for the vacant assistant coaching position on Jeremy Colliton's staff in Chicago, the Blackhawks like the continuity this gives them within the organization. King is familiar with Colliton's philosophy and has a strong rapport with his players.

After Colliton was promoted to head coach of the Blackhawks on Nov. 6, 2018, King moved into his role on an interim basis while the organization got their house in order. Sheldon Brookbank was later added to Colliton's coaching staff with the Blackhawks, which led to Sorensen — who had previously worked as a development coach for the last five years — stepping in for Brookbank. 

King, 52, guided the IceHogs to a 29-28-3-4 record and fell short of the Calder Cup Playoffs after reaching the Western Conference Final a year ago. He joined the organization in July of 2016.

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Blackhawks star Patrick Kane named 2018-19 Ted Lindsay Award finalist

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AP

Blackhawks star Patrick Kane named 2018-19 Ted Lindsay Award finalist

For the second time in his NHL career, Patrick Kane has been named a finalist for the Ted Lindsay Award, given annually to the most outstanding player in the NHL as voted by members of the NHL Players' Association.

At age 30, Kane turned in his best offensive season by setting a career-high with 110 points. He ranked third among all skaters in points-per-game average (1.36), second in even-strength goals (35) and second among forwards in average time on ice (22:29). 

In 2015-16, Kane made history when he became the first American-born player to win the award after leading the league in points (106) — the only player to hit the 100-point mark that season. 

Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov, who secured the Art Ross Trophy by leading the league in scoring with 128 points, and Edmonton's Connor McDavid, who ranked second with 116 points, are the other two finalists, respectively. McDavid has won the award in each of the past two seasons.  

The winner will be announced at the NHL Awards on June 19 in Vegas.

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