Blackhawks

Four takeaways: Patrick Kane shines in hometown as Blackhawks have offensive explosion

Four takeaways: Patrick Kane shines in hometown as Blackhawks have offensive explosion

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 7-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on Friday:

1. Patrick Kane shines in hometown

When Kane returns to Buffalo, he usually puts a show on in front of his hometown crowd. Well, he did it again.

Just 50 seconds into the second period, the former Hart Trophy winner scored his 30th goal of the season, which happened to be his 900th career point in the NHL. He's the fifth player in Blackhawks history to reach that mark. And he didn't stop there.

Kane later added two assists and an empty-net goal for his third four-plus point outing in five games, and seventh-multi-point effort in his past nine games. He extended his season-long point streak to 10 games, and has 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) over that span coming off a month in which he was named the NHL's third star of January.

With the four-point game, Kane went from fifth to second in the NHL with 75 points. He trails only Nikita Kucherov (79) for the league lead. 

2. Cam Ward rises to the occasion

The Blackhawks may have scored seven goals, but it's hard to see them winning this game without Ward's performance. He stopped 40 of 43 shots for a save percentage of .930, and did his best to hold down the fort in the third period when the Sabres were outshooting the Blackhawks 11-0.

On the other side, Carter Hutton allowed four goals on 22 shots for a save percentage of .818 and was replaced in the third period by Linus Ullmark, who gave up two goals on seven shots for a save percentage of .714. Ward out-did both of them.

3. Answering back

After scoring the first three goals of the game, the Blackhawks gave up their first goal with 1:55 remaining in the middle frame that cut their lead to 3-1. But 1:34 later and 20.6 seconds before the period expired, Brandon Saad scored for the fourth time in five games to give his team a three-goal lead again. It was a great response.

But the Sabres came out of the third period flying, and scored twice within a 3:37 span to cut their deficit to 4-3. It felt like they were going to tie it up at any second.

But Connor Murphy scored his second of the season with 8:36 left in regulation that essentially iced the game as Kane eventually scored the empty-netter, and Saad added his second of the game with 46 seconds left. The Blackhawks never allowed Buffalo to even it up, and kept the Sabres at bay.

4. Shaking off a slow start

Going into Friday, the Sabres had already played in two games since the All-Star break. The Blackhawks were on a nine-day hiatus. And it showed early on.

The road team didn't record their first shot on goal until the 5:53 mark of the opening frame, and were outshot 14-7. Despite that, the Blackhawks got on the board first when Drake Caggiula scored his first goal as a member of the Blackhawks with 1:22 remaining.

Caggiula also added two assists for his first career three-point game and fourth multi-point effort of the season, his first with Chicago. He was finally rewarded on the scoresheet.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Eddie Olczyk joins to discuss the NHL return to play plan

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USA Today

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Eddie Olczyk joins to discuss the NHL return to play plan

Laurence Holmes, David Haugh and Gordon Wittenmyer join Kap on the panel.

0:00 - The animosity between MLB owners and players continues. Does it now seem less likely that we will have baseball in 2020?

10:00 - Eddie Olczyk joins Kap to talk about the NHL’s restart plan and the Blackhawks chances once the games resume.

19:00 - The NBA is still working on its restart plan. So the Bulls be a part of it when the league resumes?
 

Listen here or below.

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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How Blackhawks are impacted by NHL counting play-in results as playoff stats

How Blackhawks are impacted by NHL counting play-in results as playoff stats

When the NHL announced its new 24-team playoff format, it also declared the regular season completed. That means that the 189 games remaining on the regular season calendar will not be played, and all regular season statistics are final.

The league also announced that the qualifying round and round robin games are not technically playoff games, creating a kind of limbo between the regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

A lot of questions have been raised about the stats in these purgatorial games for record-keeping purposes. It seems we now have an answer:

 

The NHL announced the Art Ross, Rocket Richard and Jennings Trophy winners on Thursday, officially marking the end of regular season stat-keeping. So while the play-in and round robin games will not officially count as playoff games, any points, saves or other statistics accrued will officially count as playoff stats for players. 

What does this all mean for the Blackhawks? A few things.

For one, it means that Jonathan Toews’ streak of consecutive seasons with 20 or more goals is now over at 12, as he finishes the 2019-20 campaign with a career-low 18 goals. 

Entering this season, the only three players who had scored 20 or more goals in each of the last 12 seasons were Toews, Patrick Kane and Alex Ovechkin. Kane (13 seasons) and Ovechkin (15), who extended their streaks in 2019-20, are now the only two remaining on the list. 

It also means that Kane’s 84 points in 70 games gives him a point-per-game total of 1.20 for the season, the third best in his illustrious career. Kane finished with five goals in the final five games of the regular season, surpassing the 30-goal plateau for the fifth time in his career. That ties Jeremy Roenick for the sixth most in Blackhawks franchise history. 

It means that Dominik Kubalik’s late Calder Trophy push comes to an early end, as well. He finishes his rookie season with 30 goals, tied with Artemi Panarin and Eric Daze for the third most by a Blackhawks rookie in franchise history. 

It means that Alex DeBrincat will not reach the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his young NHL career. After his 28-goal rookie season, DeBrincat followed up with 41 goals in 2018-19. But a 10% drop in his shooting percentage this season left him with just 18 — with a fresh three-year extension kicking in next season. 

The good news? While the Blackhawks’ play-in contests against the Edmonton Oilers won’t officially count as playoff games, youngsters like DeBrincat, Kubalik, Kirby Dach and others will get a crack at accumulating playoff points for the first time in their career. 

And for legends like Kane and Toews, it’s an opportunity to climb the all-time leaderboards.

Kane’s 123 playoff points ranks fourth in Blackhawks franchise history — six behind third-ranked Bobby Hull. Three more points also propels Kane into the top-50 all-time in NHL playoff points. Toews’ 110 points ranks sixth in Blackhawks franchise history, just a single point shy of Steve Larmer in fifth. 

One stat that might remain in limbo? Playoff wins by a goaltender.

Corey Crawford already owns the Blackhawks franchise record with 48 playoff wins, which ranks 22nd all-time in NHL history. However, if he’s able to lead the Blackhawks to three wins and an upset of the Oilers in the best-of-five qualifying round, will those count towards his playoff win total? That remains to be seen. Only 19 goalies in league history have ever amassed 50 or more playoff wins.

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