Blackhawks

Four takeaways: Early mistakes doom Blackhawks as road woes continue in Washington

Four takeaways: Early mistakes doom Blackhawks as road woes continue in Washington

WASHINGTON — Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on Wednesday:

1. Early mistakes

A lot happened before the first TV timeout. And it wasn't great for the Blackhawks. 

Tom Wilson scored 54 seconds into the game to put the Capitals up 1-0. The Blackhawks had a chance to respond 1:16 later with a power play opportunity, but failed to record a shot on goal during it.

The Capitals were awarded a power play shortly after that and cashed in at the very end of it, with Andre Burakovsky burying a beautiful backhand pass by Jakub Vrana to make it 2-0 at 6:34.

"We did a lot of good things," Duncan Keith said. "We played hard. We can be a little bit better with the puck. Maybe a little bit more patient at times and more crisp, cleaner with it and have guys going to the net. That's a step for sure. They got a good team over there and they got skill that can capitalize on chances if you give them up. We didn't give up a whole lot. But when we did they capitalized."

2. Playing catch-up

After getting outshot 8-0, the Blackhawks pushed back by recording 14 of the next 15 shots on goal. But they had nothing to show for it. Instead, the Capitals got the next goal to go up 3-0 near the midway mark of the second period.

There was another push by the Blackhawks after Brandon Saad made it 3-1 at 11:37 and Erik Gustafsson cut the deficit to 3-2 at 5:23 of the third period. But the Capitals answered 1:49 later when Devante Smith-Pelly scored to make it 4-2.

"That's part of hockey," Saad said. "We don't want to give up goals that quickly, but at the end of the day when it happens, just keep fighting and you've got to play a full 60 minutes regardless."

3. Saad-Toews-Kane line shines

The Blackhawks are overloading one line by putting Saad with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, and they were arguably the best trio of any team despite the end result. They drove possession, created scoring chances, and cashed in when Saad made a terrific individual effort to put the Blackhawks on the board.

Saad has scored in three straight, Kane has picked up at least a point in every game except four, and Toews stretched his point streak to five games. All of them saw by far the most ice time of any team forwards: Kane (24:36), Toews (23:47), Saad (22:33).

"They were really good," Colliton said. "They’re skating well and working hard away from the puck. Of course we want them to score more, but they’re playing well and that’s why I played them so much. Because they looked fresh and it looked like they could get us back in the game at any point and that’s what we’re looking for from them.

"I was trying not to," Colliton continued regarding the trio's heavy ice time. "But I looked after the second period and they’re all around 14-15 minutes. I’m trying not to play them, but I felt like we could come back. We had to give it a shot."

4. Road struggles continue

The Blackhawks have been making progress as of late by picking up at least a point in four straight games going into Wednesday. But they're still struggling to pick up wins on the road, with their last victory coming Oct. 20 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. That was more than a month ago.

With this loss, the Blackhawks are 0-6-1 in their past seven road games after starting the season 2-0-1. That's not great news when you look at the schedule as Wednesday marked the first of a stretch where they will play seven of the next nine on the road.

The Blackhawks also extended their losing streak in Washington to eight games, having last won in our nation's capital on Jan. 10, 2006 in a 4-3 overtime victory.

How COVID-19 crisis could impact Blackhawks and NHL's salary cap

How COVID-19 crisis could impact Blackhawks and NHL's salary cap

On March 4, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told general managers that the projected salary cap for the 2020-21 season is expected to be in the range of $84 million and $88.2 million. That's roughly a $2.5 million to $6.7 million increase after it went up only $2 million last season.

But eight days later, the NHL put its season on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it's unclear if or when hockey will even resume at this point. Because of the uncertainty and the risk of the league potentially losing $1 billion in hockey-related revenue, there's legitimate concern about what the ceiling could look like after we get through this and not just for next season.

Could the NHL's salary cap stay the same? Might it even go down to help ease the escrow pain for players? Anything is possible, but it would require both the NHL and NHLPA to come to an agreement on what that artificial number could look like.

If the salary cap remains flat, the Blackhawks would be one of the many teams that would find themselves in an extremely tough position. And they better start preparing for that scenario.

As of right now, the Blackhawks' projected cap hit for next season is $74.1 million, according to Cap Friendly. That number factors in the three players on long-term injured reserve (Calvin de Haan, Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw) but also includes the current players on the roster, which comes out to 26 total, so cuts obviously must be made to get down to the maximum of 23.

But what that number doesn't include is the potential performance bonus overages and the fact the Blackhawks don't have a goaltender signed beyond this season other than Collin Delia, which doesn't leave much room for free-agent signings elsewhere. Heck, taking care of their own guys is going to be a major challenge.

The Blackhawks have nine pending restricted free agents, which most notably includes Drake Caggiula, Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome. Corey Crawford is their highest-profile unrestricted free agent. Those are four key pieces the Blackhawks must try to squeeze in under the cap if the priority is to bring all of them back, and — loosely projecting — gives them around $9-10 million to do so.

You have to wonder if it makes more sense for everyone involved to agree on one-year deals and revisit things the following year after more clarity is provided on the NHL's financial situation, especially with Seattle preparing for league entry and the U.S. television deal set to expire after the 2021-22 season.

For now, the Blackhawks and the rest of the NHL are waiting to see what the next steps are. But the financial ramifications will be significant, and it's something every team must now navigate through. 

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2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 2 win over Sharks

2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 2 win over Sharks

In honor of the 10-year anniversary of the 2010 Stanley Cup team, NBC Sports Chicago is re-airing each of the Blackhawks' 16 postseason wins from the run that ended a 49-year championship drought. You can join the conversation using #HawksRewind on social media.

After stealing Game 1 in San Jose, the Blackhawks took care of business in Game 2 by beating the Sharks 4-2 to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Final. Here are three things we noticed in the win:

1. Building a cushion

You knew the Sharks were going to come out hungry after losing Game 1 in their own building, and the Blackhawks certainly matched that intensity. 

After Andrew Ladd broke the scoreless tie at the 12:48 mark of the first period, Dustin Byfuglien and Jonathan Toews followed suit in the second to put the Blackhawks in front 3-0. It was crucial for the visiting team not to give the Sharks any momentum, and it wasn't until 31:08 into the game that the home team finally got on the board.

2. A make-up game on special teams?

The Blackhawks had zero power plays in Game 1, so they didn't get a chance of testing a Sharks team that had the fifth-ranked penalty kill percentage (85.0) in the regular season. But that changed in Game 2.

The Sharks racked up 22 total penalty minutes and committed six minor penalties, two of which came with 18 seconds left in the game that saw two Blackhawks get sent off as well. The Blackhawks committed only one minor penalty in the previous 59:42.

Both teams converted on the power play once, but the Blackhawks staying out of the box for the majority of the game certainly played a role in preventing the Sharks from getting within striking distance or taking control early.

3. Duncan Keith's strong performance

He didn't garner as much attention as others, but Keith was solid for the Blackhawks in Game 2. He recorded two assists, six shot attempts (three on goal), four blocked shots and led all skaters with 30:21 of ice time. No other skater logged more than 27:56.

Keith was pointless in his first five postseason games, but had nine points (one goal, eight assists) in his next nine.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

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