Blackhawks

Four takeaways: Blackhawks keep playoff hopes alive with offensive explosion

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AP

Four takeaways: Blackhawks keep playoff hopes alive with offensive explosion

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 7-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center on Monday:

1. A complete victory

All season long the Blackhawks have preached playing a full 60 minutes. They'll often go through stretches where they look great, but somewhere in between there's usually a time where their play tails off and the complete effort isn't there. That wasn't the case on Monday.

From top to bottom, the Blackhawks played one their most complete games of the season and it came at a time where their backs are against the wall. They led in shot attempts (50-39), shots on goal (34-25), 5-on-5 scoring chances (25-10) and 5-on-5 high danger chances (14-4), according to naturalstattrick.com

"We haven’t been great at home as of late, so for us to be able to buckle down again and score some goals, I know everyone’s feeling good about ourselves," Brandon Saad said. "We’ve got a tough road trip and we look forward to the challenge ahead of us."

2. Brendan Perlini and a four-line rotation

The Blackhawks shook up their lines after they returned to Chicago from a three-game West Coast trip because they weren't satisfied with the balance they were getting. But Monday was exactly what they were looking for, and easily their best four-line rotation of the season.

All 12 forwards got on the scoresheet except for Dylan Sikura, who's still looking for his first NHL goal — although he did feed Jonathan Toews a stretch pass that led to his penalty shot goal. Perlini led the way with his first career NHL hat trick against his former team for his sixth goal in five games while Chris Kunitz, Patrick Kane, Saad and Toews each found the back of the net. All four lines scored, so there's not much more you can ask for.

"It’s obviously great," Perlini said. "I just wanted to get the win in general, but to do that was awesome. I’ll never forget that one. ... I had enough breakaways. God. And then I wait until the last second to do it. I think just keeping the fans on the edge of their seat."

3. Defense shuts it down again

Going into Saturday, the Blackhawks hadn't allowed one goal or fewer since Dec. 21. Two days later and they've done it in back-to-back games.

The Blackhawks gave up only 25 shots on goal, which is tied for their second-fewest of the season. And you could make a case it should've been a shutout with Arizona's lone goal assisted by the referee after a pass along the boards fell right into the lap of the Coyotes.

"I think we’re doing a much better job of sorting defensively," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "There’s much less scrambly, we’re patient, protect the middle of the ice, get pressure on the puck and then we’re out and creating offense off that. Hopefully we can continue."

Corey Crawford was solid again, although he didn't have to make many high quality saves. He's now stopped 50 of 52 shots in his past two contests for a save percentage of .962. 

"He’s our anchor," Saad said. "He’s incredible. He comes back, doesn’t miss a beat, creating offense out there, too. It’s pretty good to have him back. He’s been great and I know we all feel confident with him in the net."

4. Making history

The Blackhawks made history on Monday. For the first time since the 2000-01 season when Tony Amonte, Eric Daze and Steve Sullivan accomplished the feat, they have three 30-goal scorers in one season: Kane (41), DeBrincat (37) and Toews (30). The Blackhawks didn't have a single 30-goal scorer last season, with DeBrincat leading the way at 28 goals.

With 13 games to go, it's possible for the Blackhawks to get to four 30-goal scorers. Saad tallied his 22nd goal of the season and is eight away from hitting that mark. His career high is 31, set during the 2015-16 season in Columbus.

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Former Blackhawk Dustin Byfuglien considering future in the NHL

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USA Today

Former Blackhawk Dustin Byfuglien considering future in the NHL

Former Blackhawks player Dustin Byfuglien is taking personal time off to consider his NHL future, with sources speculating he may retire this year.

 

Byfuglien is 34 years old and currently plays on the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets announced on Sept. 13 that Byfuglien would be taking time off from the team, declining to cite an official reason for his departure.

“I met with Buff yesterday and we had some conversations and in the conversations, he indicated that he needed some personal time,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said last week to the Canadian Press.

Byfuglien has two years left on his contract, with an annual value of approximately $7.6 million.

Byfuglien was an eighth round, 245th overall draft pick for Chicago, entering the NHL in 2003. He played with the Hawks until 2010. In his NHL career, Byfuglien has played in 869 regular-season games, scoring 177 goals, 525 points and 1,094 penalty minutes.

While many fans of the Jets and Byfuglien may be sad if he does decide to retire (remember, nothing is official yet), it wouldn’t be unreasonable for Byfuglien be considering retirement considering his age. According to Natural Stat Tick and The Athletic, the average age for an NHL player during the 2017-18 season was 27.1, with Chicago and Winnipeg at the center of the bell curve. Byfuglien is seven years older than the median and while he isn’t the oldest player in the NHL by a long shot, he’s no spring chicken either.

Whatever Byfuglien decides to do, he has had an illustrious and impactful career in the NHL and we wish him nothing but the best going forward.

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Why Dominik Kubalik could be Blackhawks' breakout candidate in 2019-20

Why Dominik Kubalik could be Blackhawks' breakout candidate in 2019-20

Dominik Kubalik is somebody the Blackhawks have had their eye on for a while, and now he very well could be the team's breakout candidate for the 2019-20 season.

Drafted in the seventh round (No. 191 overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft by Los Angeles, the Blackhawks acquired Kubalik's rights in January for a fifth-round pick. They signed him to a one-year, $925,000 deal in May.

But even before that, the Blackhawks knew he would play a role for them this upcoming season.

"Dominik Kubalik, he is someone we expect to have a similar impact [as Dominik Kahun] next year," GM Stan Bowman said in April. "A dynamic offensive player, he's got size and speed, can score. We’re hoping he can come in and we're expecting him to be on the team and where he fits is going to be a question. We'll see where it plays out, but I expect him to be an offensive player for us."

Kubalik was named MVP of the top tier hockey league in Switzerland after finishing first with 57 points (25 goals, 32 assists) in 50 games, and adding one goal and five assists in five playoff games. He also stood out at the 2019 IIHF World Championship for the Czech Republic after compiling 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 10 games. 

"He’s probably as advertised," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Going to be somewhat of an adjustment for him. He hasn’t played in North America before, so that’s good. But it’s still going to take some practices and games. So he’s another guy, excited to get him playing and see how it plays out."

Kubalik certainly strengthened his case of making the 23-man roster in his preseason debut on Tuesday against the Red Wings when he scored two goals and recorded five shots on goal. He's a player that likes to shoot, and his second goal in Detroit showed how heavy and deceptive of a shot he has.

"I think I'm playing pretty simple," Kubalik said. "I don't want to handle the puck for a while, I just want to put it as quick as possible to the net. If there's a chance to shoot I'm just going to take it. And I'm trying to use my speed, so those two are probably my biggest strengths." 

Similar to what they did with Kahun last season, it's easy to see a scenario where the Blackhawks give Kubalik a shot in the top-six right away. Obviously, he has to earn his spot, but there's real offensive upside and he could work well with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, and even be a threat on the power play.

Put that all together and Kubalik gives the Blackhawks some legitimate options on offense, which could be key for a team that relied so heavily on their top guys last season and didn't get enough scoring from their depth players.

"Obviously everything is pretty new," Kubalik said. "I'm just trying to get used to it as quick as possible. But I feel great. ... I'm feeling more and more comfortable and that's great. I hope it's going to continue."

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