Blackhawks

Four takeaways: Comeback overtime victory gives Blackhawks first four-game winning streak of season

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USA TODAY

Four takeaways: Comeback overtime victory gives Blackhawks first four-game winning streak of season

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 overtime win over the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday:

1. A gutsy comeback victory

Going into Saturday, the Blackhawks were 5-19-3 when giving up the first goal for a win percentage of .185, which ranked second-to-last in the NHL. Meanwhile, the Wild were 9-1-1 when leading after one period for a win percentage of .818, which ranked sixth.

The Blackhawks battled back and traded goals with the Wild twice before Erik Gustafsson scored the game-winner in overtime for his first multi-goal effort of his NHL career. He had previously gone 15 straight games without a goal. What a way to snap out of that drought.

Since returning from a nine-day break, the Blackhawks have won back-to-back road games in a span of 24 hours and stretched their winning streak to four games, which is a new season long. And they're now only three points out of a wild card spot in the Western Conference, although they still have six teams to jump and all six of those clubs have games in hand. 

2. Power play bounces back

After going 0-for-2 in Buffalo that ended a streak where they scored a power play in nine consecutive games, the Blackhawks bounced back with the man advantage and did so in a big way. 

The Blackhawks were awarded five power plays, and failed to capitalize on the first three. But they didn't on the final two.

Jonathan Toews put the Blackhawks in front 3-2 with 3:35 left in regulation when he tipped in a shot on the power play. Minnesota responded just 1:33 later, but Ryan Suter committed a delay of game penalty with 19 seconds remaining and the Blackhawks converted on a 4-on-3 man advantage in overtime. It was a perfect rebound performance.

3. Point streaks extended

Patrick Kane has been on a ridiculous streak for more than a month now. All season, really. And that continued on Saturday. After recording a primary assist on Toews' power-play goal, he extended his season-long point streak to 11 games and has 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) over that span.

In other news, Alex DeBrincat scored a goal and added two assists to extend his point streak to five games. He's also recorded at least one point in nine of his past 10 games, and has eight goals during that stretch. His 26 goals is two away from matching the total (28) from last season during his rookie campaign, which led the Blackhawks.

And finally, Toews' point streak is now up to four games. He has nine points (five goals, four assists) during that stretch.

4. Dylan Strome heating up

All the attention has been on DeBrincat, Kane and Toews as of late, but there's one notable Blackhawk that's flying under the radar and continues to produce. With two assists against the Wild, Strome has had a multi-point outing in four of his last six games after having just one point in his previous six.

In 29 games with the Blackhawks, Strome has nine goals and 14 assists for 23 points for a points-per-game rate of 0.79. His 82-game pace would be 26 goals and 39 assists for 65 points. He's been a terrific acquisition so far.

Why fixing penalty kill is crucial for Blackhawks in 2019-20

Why fixing penalty kill is crucial for Blackhawks in 2019-20

Just how important is special teams in the NHL?

Of the 16 teams that qualified for the postseason, 14 clubs had at least one special teams unit that was ranked in the top half of the league and 12 teams had at least one unit ranked in the top 10.

The Blackhawks finished the season with the 15th-ranked power play and 31st-ranked penalty kill. The Blackhawks' 72.7 percent kill rate is the lowest the league has seen in 30 years.

“The penalty kill is something that clearly has to be better," GM Stan Bowman said. "That was a big disappointment this year, no question about that. So we have to devote some resources to that. Some of it might be players, if we get some players that have that kind of experience or have a history. Part of it is tactically can we find ways to be better. We have a lot of time now to study it and put a lot of our focus on that.”

Jeremy Colliton did not rule out getting external help to improve the PK.

“We’re going to look at everything, for sure," he said. "We’re going to look at obviously tactically and we’re going to look at the personnel and how we’re using guys and try to put them in the best situation we can. And maybe that’s new, different guys who weren’t getting the opportunity. Or maybe that’s someone from outside.”

The Blackhawks did manage to fix their power play issues this past season. When Colliton became head coach on Nov. 6, the Blackhawks power play was near the bottom of the league. By December, the man advantage was dead last, cashing in on fewer than 12 percent of their power plays.

Colliton made Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Erik Gustafsson his top power play unit and from Dec. 20 till the end of February they were the league's best unit, converting on 35.2 percent of their power plays.  

Gustafsson’s addition to the power play was a major factor in the unit's improvement.

"A big part of our power play progression and transformation from being at the bottom to being in the top group," Bowman said of Gustafsson. "I was really pleased with that and we're going to need him next year for sure.”

If the Blackhawks penalty kill can make strides like the power play did, Colliton’s crew will likely be playing at this time next season.

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Recapping breakout OHL season for Blackhawks top prospect Adam Boqvist

Recapping breakout OHL season for Blackhawks top prospect Adam Boqvist

The London Knights set high expectations for themselves going into the 2018-19 OHL campaign. They always do. Their roster is usually loaded with top NHL prospects and this season was no different.

After finishing No. 1 in the Western Conference with 99 points, the Knights looked poised to go on a deep run. They got off to a roaring start in the playoffs by sweeping the Windsor Spitfires (4-0) and kicked off the second round by winning three straight against the Guelph Storm. But then, for the first time all season, the Knights lost four in a row to squander a 3-0 series lead and were eliminated just like that. It was a disappointing finish for a team with Memorial Cup aspirations.

One of the bright spots of the postseason was Blackhawks prospect Adam Boqvist. He was tied for first among all skaters with 10 goals through two rounds; no other defenseman had more than six. And he finished with 13 points in 11 games for a points-per-game average of 1.18.

To summarize his season: Boqvist scored one goal in his first 15 games. From that point on, he finished with 29 goals and 60 points in 50 games, including playoffs. He became an offensive driving force.

It's unclear what his future holds, but with Evan Bouchard expected to turn pro and secure a full-time roster spot on the Edmonton Oilers next season, returning to London would put Boqvist in a position where he could be the No. 1 defenseman in all situations.

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