Four takeaways: Blackhawks swept by Kings in season series


Four takeaways: Blackhawks swept by Kings in season series

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on Saturday:

1. Swept by the Kings

The Blackhawks aren't mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, but it will only be a matter of time before that happens. And there will be a lot to look back on when the season ends as missed opportunities, most notably the pair of eight-game losing streaks and not taking care of business during those two crucial weekends in February and March that featured a pair of Central Division matchups and were viewed as playoff-type games.

But getting swept by Los Angeles also won't look great when you add it all up in the end. The Blackhawks finished 0-1-2 in their three-game season series with the Kings, who have been in the basement of the Western Conference for most of the campaign. With four games left and the Blackhawks trailing by six points for the final wildcard spot, their playoff fate could be officially decided as early as Monday.

2. Penalty kill allows goal in fifth straight

The Blackhawks' penalty kill struggles have been well-documented. They're on pace to finish with the NHL's worst percentage in 30 years. And it didn't get any better on Saturday.

The Blackhawks killed off their first two penalties of the game, but during a 4-on-3 opportunity in overtime the Kings scored 19 seconds into it to seal the deal. It was the fifth straight game the Blackhawks have allowed at least one power-play goal, lowering their season percentage to 72.7 and road percentage to 69.7.

3. Cat vs. Kaner Part II

A year ago, there was a mini competition down the stretch as to which Blackhawks player would finish the season with more goals: Alex DeBrincat or Patrick Kane? The 20-year-old rookie edged the former Art Ross Trophy winner 28-27.

Well, it looks like we have another fun one on our hands.

After scoring his third goal in two games, DeBrincat has pulled into a tie with Kane for the team lead in goals (41). Kane is in a nine-game scoring drought, which has opened the door for a healthy competition between the two of them with four games remaining.

Will DeBrincat defend his scoring title or will Kane take it back?

4. Drake Caggiula's impact

After missing 13 games with a concussion, Caggiula returned to the lineup and his presence was immediately felt. He played on the second line with Dominik Kahun and Dylan Strome, and it was one of the most effective trios of the game.

When the three of them were on the ice together at 5-on-5, the Blackhawks controlled 70 percent of the shot attempts and 77.8 percent of the scoring chances, according to Caggiula alone recorded five shot attempts (four on goal) and a blocked shot in 14:01 of ice time. He was noticeable around the net — an area the Blackhawks have been struggling to get to as of late — and was even rewarded with a shift in overtime.

Perhaps most importantly, Caggiula's return allowed Jeremy Colliton to balance out the lineup. He played DeBrincat and Kane together and kept the first line the same with Brandon Saad, Dylan Sikura and Jonathan Toews.

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Four takeaways: Standouts from Blackhawks first preseason win against Red Wings

Four takeaways: Standouts from Blackhawks first preseason win against Red Wings

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-1 preseason win over the Detroit Red Wings at the United Center on Wednesday:

1. Alex Nylander gets a shot on the top line

After having a goal and an assist in his preseason debut on Monday, Nylander was rewarded by the Blackhawks coaching staff by starting on the first line with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. And he certainly didn't look out of place.

The trio logged 14:28 of ice time together at 5-on-5 and generated 18 shots for and only five against, according to Natural Stat Trick. They also teamed up on Duncan Keith's eventual game-winning goal in the second period.

Nylander finished with a secondary assist, three shot attempts (two on goal) and one takeaway in 20:44 of action. He’s going to give the Blackhawks management something to think about.

"I thought he was good," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Again, we're looking for his play without the puck. We know he's going to do a lot with the puck. It's their first time playing together so there's always going to be some kinks you're working out as far as the plays they're making and what not but he had a great net drive on Dunc's goal. Those are the things that people don't notice but opens up ice.

"We want to open up ice for those skill guys he's playing with. I thought he had a couple really good tracks. He was forechecking, he was skating. That's what we're looking for and if he continues to do that then he can be effective at this level no matter who he's playing with."

2. Individual standouts

— Dominik Kubalik was given a top-six role again after his two-goal night in his preseason debut on Tuesday in Detroit. And he was noticeable. He recorded three shot attempts (one on goal) and had a game-high four takeaways in 14:29 of action.

— The Olli Maatta and Brent Seabrook pairing turned in a strong showing together. They were on the ice for 20 shot attempts for and seven against and eight scoring chances for and two against in 13:28 of 5-on-5 ice time.

— Brandon Hagel was named the second star of the game after scoring a goal and tying Keith with a game-high four shots on goal. He also logged 11:58 of ice time and won both of his faceoffs.

— Adam Boqvist showed why he was drafted No. 8 overall in 2018. He's flashy and has elite offensive skill, which you can see in the video below. He also earned some praise from his head coach for his defensive play, which is the part of his game that's going to be a constant work in progress.

3. Penalty kill still ironing out some kinks

The top priority for the Blackhawks this summer was to shore up their defensive issues, and that included the penalty kill. And even though we shouldn't put too much stock into overall team performance and results in the preseason, the Blackhawks have given up at least one power-play goal in each of their first three games.

Fortunately for the Blackhawks, these games and stats don't count, but it obviously would be nice to head into the regular season with some positive momentum. Once the Blackhawks start to finalize their 23-man roster we should get a pretty good idea of what the special teams units could look like on Opening Night and beyond, and more chemistry will develop among the everyday players.

4. Roster cuts looming

In the last four days, the Blackhawks hosted their team scrimmage at the United Center and followed that up with three consecutive preseason contests. That was a significant evaluation period for the coaching staff and management.

Colliton said the Blackhawks are expected to make their first wave of roster cuts between now and Saturday, which is when their next preseason tilt is. The 23-man roster should start to take shape in the coming few days.

"We’re going to start," he said. "I don’t know exactly the timeline and how many and which day, but I can tell you it won’t all be in one day. And we’ll sort of work up to the game Saturday and we’ll have a tighter group, and especially for next week."

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Five Blackhawks make top 100 prospect list


Five Blackhawks make top 100 prospect list

After missing the playoffs for two straight seasons, the Blackhawks are in a transition period coming off the team’s long run as a Stanley Cup contender. There is hope for a relatively quick return to contention with a number of highly-regarded prospects.

ESPN ranked the top 100 NHL prospects on Wednesday and the Blackhawks have five skaters on the list.

Leading the way for Blackhawks prospects is Kirby Dach, who was the third pick in this year’s draft. He is ranked No. 6 overall. The top two picks from that draft, Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, are the top two prospects in the rankings.

Adam Boqvist is the second Blackhawks prospect, coming in at No. 29 overall. The defenseman was the No. 8 overall pick in the 2018 draft.

Defensemen Ian Mitchell (No. 68) and Nicolas Beaudin (No. 82) and right winger Alexander Nylander (No. 88) round out Blackhawks prospects in the top 100. Mitchell opted to return to the University of Denver for his junior year. Beaudin was the Blackhawks’ second first-round pick in 2018, picked No. 27. Nylander was acquired in the offseason in exchange for young defenseman Henri Jokiharju.

With five prospects on the list the Blackhawks had more than most teams. The Los Angeles Kings had the most prospects on the list with seven while the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers each had six.

ESPN also ranked the Blackhawks pool of prospects as ninth-best in the NHL.


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