Blackhawks

Four takeaways: Blackhawks live to fight another day with shootout win over Sabres

Four takeaways: Blackhawks live to fight another day with shootout win over Sabres

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-4 shootout win over the Buffalo Sabres at the United Center on Thursday:

1. Live to fight another day

It wasn't pretty. The Blackhawks went up 2-0, then down 3-2, then tied it at 3-3, went back down 4-3 in the third period and eventually tied it back up at 4-4 before sealing the victory in a shootout. But they'll take it.

Every game feels like a do or die at this point, and even though they didn't gain any ground in whatever's left of their playoff race, the Blackhawks are happy that they lived to fight another day.

"Two points for the team, keeps us in it," Patrick Kane said. "We knew it was kind of a must win tonight. We get the two points, we know we can be better and get some confidence going into Dallas."

2. Balance evident under new lines

The Blackhawks rolled out a new set of lines on Thursday. The goal was to even out the ice time and find more balance in the lineup with Drake Caggiula (concussion) out. It's fair to say they got what they were looking for. 

Artem Anisimov scored twice for the first time all season, Brendan Perlini notched his third goal in as many games after scoring only three goals in his first 29 games with the Blackhawks and even Duncan Keith chipped in for his fourth goal of the season to double last year's total. Plus, only one player logged fewer than 10 minutes of ice time and that was John Hayden, who started the game on the first line.

That's the kind of secondary scoring and minutes distribution the Blackhawks have been looking for all season, which helps alleviate the pressure from the top guys.

"I think we did some good things," coach Jeremy Colliton said of the new lines. "I really liked the checking line, [David Kampf's] line. They were great. They went head to head with [Jack] Eichel all night. We looked pretty under control throughout the whole game. I think that's been an issue for us lately playing against top competition. That's been hurting us. If we can get that sorted out then we got the horses on the other lines to come through."

3. Special teams woes

The Blackhawks made it a priority to work on their penalty kill during Wednesday's practice. They're last in the league in that department, and have been for a while now.

But the power play hasn't been as effective as of late. Converting at a 40 percent clip was never going to be sustainable, but the real concern is that they've allowed three shorthanded goals in their last six games and have scored only four while on the power play for a plus-1 differential.

The Blackhawks went 0-for-5 on the power play against the Sabres, and allowed a shorthanded goal. They're in a little bit of a weird rut right now.

"Tonight I just think we were a little bit late to react to get back and then just kind of a sorting situation where there was a little bit of confusion," Colliton said. "And then obviously the guy made a good play but he was there by himself. We were a little bit out of sync tonight on the power play. We still had some good looks, we didn't convert. That was a tough one to give up."

4. Patrick Kane back on track

After being held off the scoresheet in back-to-back games and three of the last four contests, Kane bounced back in a nice way. He registered a pair of assists for his 27th multi-point outing of the season, and surpassed Steve Larmer for fourth on the Blackhawks all-time points list with 924 — only Stan Mikita (1,467), Bobby Hull (1,153) and Denis Savard (1,096) have more.

Kane now has 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists) in 17 career games against his hometown Sabres, six of which have come in their two meetings this season. And it was fitting that it came on a day where he skated in his 888th career NHL game.

"It's special," Kane said of his latest achievement. "Larmer was a great player, probably should be in the Hall of Fame. Obviously had a great career here with the Blackhawks and one of those guys who played the game the right way. To get by him is pretty special. Just keep trucking along here, hopefully rack up some more points as my career goes on. More importantly tonight, you know got the two points to keep us in the race and gets confidence from that."

Brian Campbell on Adam Boqvist's progression and preaching patience in his development

Brian Campbell on Adam Boqvist's progression and preaching patience in his development

The breakout star of Blackhawks development camp in July was undoubtedly Adam Boqvist, who was taken No. 8 overall in 2018. It was evident how much his game has grown over the past year.

Former Blackhawks defenseman — and now player development coach — Brian Campbell worked closely with Boqvist this past season and raved about the steps he took with the London Knights in the OHL. But Campbell is also preaching patience in Boqvist's development. Boqvist just turned 19 on Thursday, and it's important to let him develop at his own pace.

“Yeah, I was impressed," Campbell said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Obviously, he’s come a long way in a year from last development camp. There’s no pressure being put on him. He’ll develop at his time. If he pushes for a spot, great, but I just don’t want people to get away. There’s a lot to keep learning and he wants to learn, which is the greatest thing. His teammates love him: great thing. He wants to do extra and learn the game: great thing. He is preparing himself days before, even in development camp, he’s preparing himself days before. So all great things and he’s on the right path.

"Hopefully that happens and maybe it does happen but if it doesn’t then that’s not the case and he keeps getting better and wants to keep getting better. Definitely, we know his skill level is there and I think he’s taken a huge step in the last year in preparing himself and knowing how to prepare as a pro player now. There’s a lot of great things there, and hopefully he does do that, but for me, I just don’t want to put too much on him right now. He’s turning 19 soon so he’s still a really young kid and it’s a tough position to play at a pro level. Believe me, I’m smiling, but I just don’t want to force the issue too much. Hopefully he can do some great things, but if he doesn’t, then that’s OK too.” 

Drake Caggiula looks back on how he could've played with Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome in OHL

Drake Caggiula looks back on how he could've played with Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome in OHL

Drake Caggiula had a successful college hockey career. He compiled 127 points (62 goals, 65 assists) in 162 career games across four seasons at North Dakota, and served as an alternate captain during his senior year.

But before committing to college, Caggiula was being recruited by the Erie Otters of the OHL and there could've been a moment where he played with Connor McDavid and current teammates Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome all at the same time.

“I remember telling Sherry Bassin, the GM of Erie, how I was going to go to college," Caggiula said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "He kept reiterating that, 'at 16 years old, we’re not going to be that great. But at 17, we’re going to be a little bit better, but not great. But at 18 and 19, those are going to be your big years and we’re going to have a really good team and we’re going to surround you with good players.’ I mean, that’s two years in the future so it’s hard to really see that.

"Looking back at it now, the players that I could have played with, they had some pretty talented players go through Erie. Even Dylan Larkin was an Erie draft pick and ended up going to Michigan. It could have been a pretty talented team there so it’s kind of funny to see how it all works out. We’re all here today coming from different paths so it’s pretty cool.”

Any chirps from the guys about his decision now?

“Yeah, Connor [McDavid] used to make fun of me all the time, you know? ‘Oh, we would have won the Memorial Cup if you would have joined the team!’ and all that sort of stuff," Caggiula joked. "We talk about it a little bit just here and there saying, ‘what a team we could have had and imagine who we would have been playing with and now we’re all here together. What if we all would have started in Erie together and now we’re here together?’ It just would have been a pretty cool story. It’s obviously something that we can’t control but it’s definitely something that you can look back at and laugh at.”

Check out the interview in the video above.

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