Blackhawks

Four takeaways: Blackhawks survive Maple Leafs push, inch closer to playoff picture

blackhawks_maple_leafs_usa_today.jpg
USA TODAY

Four takeaways: Blackhawks survive Maple Leafs push, inch closer to playoff picture

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-4 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday:

1. Owning the start

"It was a measuring stick game. That's the best team in the league and we didn't come ready to play. They pretty much just slapped us. ... The effort just wasn't there at times. I think in the third period we just quit. That's on us as players, we gotta wake up."

That was Auston Matthews on the effort the Maple Leafs turned in two nights ago against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who handed them a 6-2 loss in their barn. So the Blackhawks were expecting the home team to fly out of the gates.

But it was the road team that actually did, with the Blackhawks scoring four consecutive first-period goals to open the game (and later a fifth in the second period), prompting the boo birds to rain in Toronto for the second straight contest. It was the first time since Jan. 18 and 20 that the Maple Leafs lost back-to-back games in regulation.

2. Surviving the push...

When you score five straight goals, the most dangerous thing you can do is sit on that lead, especially against a high-powered offense like the Maple Leafs, who showed that in their first meeting on Oct. 7 in Chicago. The Blackhawks didn't necessarily take their foot off the gas, but they were certainly preparing for a push back and that's exactly what happened. Particularly in the third period.

Corey Crawford, who stopped 17 of 18 shots in the first two periods, was removed from the game at the start of the third period because of an illness. Collin Delia came on in relief and faced 30 shots in the third period alone, three of which found the back of the net as the Maple Leafs cut their deficit to 5-4. It's the second time this season the Blackhawks have allowed at least 30 shots in a period, with the first coming on Oct. 21 when they gave up 33 in the second period to Tampa Bay.

But the Blackhawks barely hung on to secure the two points. They made it much closer than it needed to be.

3. Breaking down the numbers

Going into Wednesday, the Maple Leafs were, by far, the No. 1-ranked team in even-strength scoring chances for per game at 27.1, according to naturalstattrick.com. The Blackhawks were dead last in even-strength scoring chances allowed per game at 26.2, 11.9 of which have been high-danger chances. And it showed.

The Blackhawks gave up a season-high 95 total shot attempts and 58 scoring chances at even strength to the Maple Leafs, 18 of which were high danger chances. Fifty of the 95 shot attempts and 26 of the 58 even-strength scoring chances came in the third period.

The Blackhawks were outshot 30-12 in the third period after outshooting the Maple Leafs 27-18 in the first two periods. The tides completely turned in the final frame, and fortunately for the Blackhawks, they built a big enough lead to help them survive.

4. Inching closer to playoffs...

Just when you think they're out of it, the Blackhawks find a way to climb back into the playoff race. It happened in February, and it's happening again now in March. 

With the win, the Blackhawks have picked up eight out of a possible eight points in their past four games and have pulled within four points of the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference. The three teams they're chasing each have 12 games remaining, just like the Blackhawks, so there's still some ground to be made up.

But they're much closer than they were after the Blackhawks looked dead in the water following their West Coast trip. Can they continue their run into April?

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.

Hawks Talk Podcast: What will it take for Blackhawks to make playoffs?

blackhawks_usa_today.jpg
USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: What will it take for Blackhawks to make playoffs?

What will it take for the Chicago Blackhawks to earn a playoff spot with 10 games remaining? Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd and Charlie Roumeliotis discuss where the Blackhawks stand after a rough 3-2 loss in overtime to the Vancouver Canucks.

With Corey Crawford at the top of his game again, should the Blackhawks try to ride him into the playoffs? How have Jeremy Colliton’s line changes impacted Patrick Kane’s game? Plus, breakouts from Eric Gustafsson and Brendan Perlini have been huge for the Blackhawks during their recent streak of six straight games with a point. 

0:45 - Missed opportunity for Blackhawks against Canucks

2:45 – Hawks changing up lines has slowed down Patrick Kane

5:45 – Should the Blackhawks ride Corey Crawford while he’s hot?

8:00 – Hawks will need 13-15 points in final 10 games to get playoff spot

10:30 – Brendan Perlini has finally figured it out for Hawks

12:35 – Eric Gustafsson’s breakout year has been vital to Hawks success

15:35 – Dylan Sikura still hasn’t scored, but he’s been all over the ice

18:50 – Prediction time…will the Hawks make the playoffs?

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

Subscribe:

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.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks manufacture point against Canucks despite inconsistent effort

blackhawks_canucks_usa_today.jpg
USA TODAY

Four takeaways: Blackhawks manufacture point against Canucks despite inconsistent effort

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks at the United Center on Monday:

1. Manufacturing a point

The Blackhawks had a good opportunity on the table. After Arizona lost, they could've pulled within three points of a wildcard spot with a game in hand if they pulled out a victory.

Instead, they settled for the one point, which was obviously important because it moved them within two games. But they weren't satisfied with their effort, especially against a Canucks team that was on the second of a back-to-back and started their 23-year-old rookie goaltender who had only five career NHL starts going into the game.

"We had a chance to jump on ‘em, try to wear them down early and take control of the game and just let them hang around," said Jonathan Toews, who's now three goals away from tying his career high of 34 set during the 2008-09 season. "We didn’t have the speed and pace we needed early on. Obviously it’s nice to get that point. But tough finish."

2. The pros and cons

There's good news and bad news regarding the effort the Blackhawks turned in.

The good news? The defense was solid, allowing only nine total high danger chances, according to naturalstattrick.com, after giving up 24 to Montreal and 18 to Toronto.

The bad news? The offense generated just six of their own and were held to two goals, which is below their season average of 3.35 per game. There weren't many high quality opportunities. But the Canucks took advantage of theirs and the Blackhawks didn't until late.

"We didn’t come out hard enough," Erik Gustafsson said. "We know they’re playing back to back and we talked about it before. We needed to come out much harder today. Just a bad 60 minutes. At least we got one point. But we need two now. It’s not fun."

3. Playing down to opponents?

The Blackhawks are fighting for their playoff lives. Every point matters, no matter who the opponent is. But lately they haven't been bringing their A-game against teams below them in the standings. They lost to Los Angeles, barely escaped Anaheim and were fortunate to pick up a point against the Canucks.

Is that a trend or just a blip?

"There's been nights where we've played down, for sure," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I don't know if that's a consistent thing, but obviously there's been some instances where we would've liked to play better against teams we're ahead of in the standings. But we also had a pretty good run there in January where we were beating teams that we needed to beat and that's why we're here. We didn't have it tonight, but we did manufacture a point and gotta just use the two days to reload here and get back at it."

4. Patrick Kane hits century mark

For the second time in his NHL career, Kane has hit the 100-point mark. It was only a matter of when, not if. And after going pointless in Montreal, he didn't have to wait too much longer to do it. 

With a primary assist on Toews' power-play goal in the first period, Kane became the third player in franchise history to record multiple 100-point seasons, joining Jeremy Roenick (three times) and Denis Savard (five). He also became the fifth American-born player to accomplish that feat.

Kane joins Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov and Edmonton's Connor McDavid as the first three players to reach 100 points this season. Kane's career high is 106, set during the 2015-16 campaign when he won the Art Ross and Hart Trophy. And with 10 games remaining, there's a good chance he breaks that, too.