Blackhawks

Four takeaways: Lightning strike three times in third period to defeat Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Four takeaways: Lightning strike three times in third period to defeat Blackhawks

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Thursday:

1. A better effort, but not enough

The Blackhawks turned in a better 60-minute effort than their previous game against Carolina, but there weren't enough stretches where they took control of the game and they found themselves playing catch-up.

The Lightning struck first in the opening frame and the Blackhawks eventually evened it up at 1-1 at the 8:27 mark of the third period, but the Lightning scored twice in a span of 2:39 and later added a third on an empty-netter to ice the game.

The Blackhawks failed to hold a lead at any point for the second straight game and they've dropped back-to-back games in regulation after winning four in a row.

"I think it was a better game tonight," Jonathan Toews said. "Even on nights that we play well, we're not going to win every night, so I think we just fell a little bit short in all aspects of the game."

2. Lightning win special teams battle

The Lightning came into the game with the second-ranked power play, converting at a 29.6 percent clip. Nikita Kucherov was out because of an upper-body injury and Steven Stamkos didn't play in the final two periods, but the Lightning still had success in that department.

They scored on their first power-play opportunity of the game to open the scoring, and finished 1-for-3 for a 33.3 percent success rate. The Blackhawks changed up their power play units, overloading the first one and putting Kirby Dach on the second, but went 0-for-3 on the night.

"We had a few good chances," Dylan Strome said of the power play. "Kaner had a one-timer in the first and we had a few good looks later on. Not good enough though, I don't think. Just got to be a little bit better, a little sharper."

3. An even contest across the board

From a statistical standpoint, this was as even a game as the Blackhawks have played against an opponent this season. The Lightning led in shot attempts (65-63) and shots on goal (35-34), but the 5-on-5 scoring chances (23-23) and 5-on-5 high-danger chances (8-8) were exactly the same.

The Blackhawks were outshot 23-16 in the first two periods, but turned the tables in the third period by outshooting the Lightning 12-4. The Blackhawks scored twice in the final frame, but the Lightning capitalized on their chances.

"We did some good things tonight," Patrick Kane said. "Obviously would have been nice to get some points here in the last two games, but yeah, we've got to keep playing the way we won all those games and went on the nice stretch with. Stay with it. We know the recipe for success and keep building."

4. Dressing seven defensemen

The Blackhawks didn't reveal their final lineup until after warmups, and head coach Jeremy Colliton elected to roll with 11 forwards and seven defensemen — like the Lightning — for the first time this season to get Slater Koekkoek into the rotation against his former team. Dominik Kubalik was a healthy scratch for the second time this season.

Kane double-shifted in Kubalik's spot and logged 27:38 of ice time. Kane extended his point streak to 11 games and recorded his 600th career NHL assist on Strome's goal in the third period. He also finished with a game-high eight shots on goal.

"We wanted to get Koekkoek in, it's his old team," Colliton said of dressing seven defensemen. "Think it was the right thing to do. Kaner's playing really well, opportunity to give him a little bit more. Ultimately, I don't think we had enough guys going up front. It's our job to regroup, get some rest tomorrow and come up with a more complete effort Saturday."

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What Blackhawks can learn from defending Stanley Cup champion Blues

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AP

What Blackhawks can learn from defending Stanley Cup champion Blues

ST. LOUIS — From 2008-17, the Blackhawks were the gold standard of hockey. Teams across the NHL tried copying their blueprint after nine consecutive playoff berths, five Conference Final appearances and three Stanley Cup wins.

But for the last two-plus seasons, the Blackhawks have been in foreign territory where they can no longer sleepwalk their way to a playoff spot. It's become an uphill battle just to stay in the race.

While there's a lot of hockey left in the season, the Blackhawks are at risk of missing the playoffs for the third straight year and they’re desperately searching for answers. Ironically, they could learn a lot from their arch rival St. Louis Blues.

The Blackhawks played the role of a big brother and bullied the Blues in the Central Division for years but watched them hoist the Stanley Cup last season for the first time in franchise history by overcoming ridiculous odds of sitting in last place on Jan. 3. The Blackhawks find themselves in a similar position, spiraling towards the basement of the Western Conference and trying to salvage a season in which they had legitimate playoff expectations.

The Blues know exactly what they're going through and how difficult it is to stay positive during those dark times.

"It's never easy, no doubt about it, especially when there's guys in that locker room that have won as many Cups as they have and know what it takes to win," Blues forward Brayden Schenn said of the Blackhawks' situation. "If you get the feeling sometimes of it's not coming easy ... I think obviously they're good enough pros in that locker room to find ways to keep positive and believe that they're going to turn it around."

When you go through long stretches without winning, it can feel like a chore coming to the rink every day. And when you're not at the rink, it's difficult for players not to take that frustration home and let it creep into your everyday life. That's where the Blackhawks are at right now.

"It's all part of the job, really," Schenn said. "It's not going to be, if you ask those guys in that locker room if they think they're going to win a Stanley Cup every year that they're going to play, I think they feel very fortunate to definitely win three of them but I don't think you come to the rink, you don't want to bring a negative attitude to the rink, no doubt about it, you want to be positive and upbeat and find ways to work through it."

The Blues' path to the Stanley Cup isn't exactly one teams are looking to emulate. Nobody plans on being at the bottom of the standings around Christmas. But it gives the clubs that are some hope that it can be done.

"It's not going to happen every year where the last place team comes out and dominates the second half and wins the Cup," Schenn said. "But I guess we showed the league and people that it's definitely possible."

Every team that's on the outside looking in will try to rally around the fact the Blues never stopped fighting even when a playoff berth seemed so far away last season. But the Blackhawks have to take it one day at a time and simply focus on what they can control or it's not going to matter.

"They showed it's possible but ultimately we have our own situation," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "They improved so that's what we need to do."

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Blackhawks won't loan Kirby Dach to Canada for 2020 World Juniors

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks won't loan Kirby Dach to Canada for 2020 World Juniors

ST. LOUIS — The Blackhawks confirmed on Saturday that rookie forward Kirby Dach will remain in the NHL and not be loaned to Team Canada for the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship, which begins Dec. 26 and runs through Jan. 5 in the Czech Republic.

The Blackhawks weren't expected to send him, but their recent slide in the standings reignited the discussion as Team Canada was preparing to finalize its roster. Dach, who was taken No. 3 overall in the 2019 NHL Draft, would have played a significant role for his country, but the Blackhawks felt it was better for his development to stay in Chicago.

"Obviously, it was an opportunity that he had but he's playing really well," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I think he's getting better and better and his minutes are going up steadily and there's an opportunity for more if he continues to improve, so we didn't really want to lose that momentum. He's got an opportunity to take a bigger role as we go here and hopefully he can."

Dach has been a bright spot for the Blackhawks this season. He has 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 26 games and is averaging 12:03 of ice time. But he's pointless in his last 11 and probably could've used a reboot by going up against his peers at the World Juniors and playing in all situations.

After all, the Blackhawks sent defenseman prospect Henri Jokiharju to do exactly that last season and he helped lead Team Finland to a gold medal by eating up top pairing minutes and serving in a leadership role.

While he may be bummed about not getting that same opportunity, Dach understands the privilege it is to play in the NHL at 18 years old and that's where his mind is at.

"Obviously World Juniors is pretty big in Canada and growing up it's always a thing you dream of doing," said Dach, who won gold with Team Canada at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup and recorded seven points (two goals, five assists) in the tournament. "Growing up I remember the Jordan Eberle goal against Team Russia and that's the golden moment that most Canadian kids will remember, is the goal he scored and they want to be that guy. To represent your country is a huge honor. But at the same time, I've been focused on being with the Blackhawks and helping them win each and every night. Obviously timing didn't work out, but I'm happy to be here. It's the NHL and it's the best league in the world, so I'm excited for the opportunity that I have here and to keep producing.

"It's the management's choice and whatever they say goes, right? So you don't want to upset the boss. For me, it's just about playing good and feeling good on the ice, and obviously I've got a good coaching staff and support staff around me that is helping develop me here. If I was able to go back for the World Juniors, it would be a huge honor, but I've played for Team Canada in the past and it's a fun time."

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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