Looking at positives for Blackhawks going into Christmas break


Looking at positives for Blackhawks going into Christmas break

Everything that could've gone wrong, went wrong during the Blackhawks' eight-game losing streak. They didn't score the first goal over that stretch, they often allowed the second, and special teams was a disaster.

Since then, the Blackhawks have picked up nine out of a possible 14 points and won three in a row for the first time this season. They had a chance to make it four heading into their three-day Christmas break, but lost to the Florida Panthers 6-3 on Sunday night.

"We had the chance to go in on a real high," coach Jeremy Colliton said after the game. "A little bit of a missed opportunity. But we’ve played better and gotten some results for it. The challenge is to leave this kind of effort where it belongs, behind us and pick up where we left off. Certainly not happy with how we played and how it ended up, but we gotta use the days to rest, mentally and physically, and be ready to go when we come back."

Even though it was a missed opportunity, the Blackhawks have done a lot of good things over the last two weeks.

Here are some positives:

— The Blackhawks have scored the first goal in five of their last seven games after going 11 straight without doing so.

— They gave up only four goals during their three-game winning streak after allowing at least three goals in each of their previous 14 games.

— The Blackhawks have an even goal differential in their last seven games; they were a minus-17 in their previous eight.

— The penalty kill is 10-for-11 (90.9 percent) over the last four games, and killed off a season-high 10 in a row before that streak was snapped on Sunday.

— The power play has converted on four of its 18 opportunities in the past seven games for a success rate of 22.2 percent, which is tied for ninth over that span.

— Collin Delia and Cam Ward stopped a combined 91 of 95 shots (.958 save percentage) in the first three games after Corey Crawford went down with an injury.

— The Blackhawks have three players with at least 16 goals going into the Christmas break: Alex DeBrincat (17), Patrick Kane (17) and Jonathan Toews (16); nobody had more than 15 going into last year's Christmas break.

As you can see, the Blackhawks are making progress and are getting rewarded with results. It's important for them to build on those and make sure they return on Thursday with the mindset that they're trending in the right direction.

“We still did a lot of good things," Dylan Strome said. "It’s pretty obvious when we’re playing a certain way, we’re a good team. We’ve shown that the past — other than the San Jose — two and a half or three weeks, we know we’re a good team. We’ve just got to play the right way and follow the game plan. When we’re getting pucks out along the walls and creating chances and we’re locking down defensively and not giving them second and third chances, we’re a good team. Hopefully we can continue that after Christmas and continue the little good run that we’re on."

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Dylan Strome's return comes at opportune time for Blackhawks offense

USA Today

Dylan Strome's return comes at opportune time for Blackhawks offense

BOSTON — The Blackhawks will be getting a boost on Thursday when they take on the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. 

After missing four games with a concussion, Dylan Strome will return to the lineup and is expected to slot into his normal second-line center role in between Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane. And it comes at an opportune time for the Blackhawks, who have scored just 14 goals over their last seven games.

"You want to be out there, you feel like you're letting the team down," Strome said of his absence. "You're part of this team, so it's definitely nice just to be back with the guys. ... You want to be out there helping the team win and if they're already winning you want to be out there helping them contribute. Obviously I wanted to get out there and it sucks just watching but you gotta take the time to get better and ready to go now."

Strome said it wasn't fun watching the Blackhawks from afar, especially when the team was on the road, and it didn't make things any easier after his team got blown out in three straight games against Central Division opponents. He was also playing his best hockey of the season before he got hurt.

Strome had 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in his past nine games after recording seven points (three goals, four assists) in his previous 14. The Blackhawks are hoping he won't skip a beat.

"I thought the three-week stretch before he got hurt, it seemed like he was taking steps all the time," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Hopefully he can get back to that as quickly as possible. It provides offense of course for us with another center. I think defensively he's been improving. That's important obviously, especially if he's playing with DeBrincat and Kane. If they're able to get out of D zone, if they're able to force a turnover, they're extremely dangerous in those moments. If he can create more of those, it's going to be really good for the team."

The Blackhawks are facing a Bruins team that ranks No. 3 in goals for per game (3.61), No. 1 in goals against average (2.18), No. 2 in power play percentage (30.9) and No. 6 in penalty kill percentage (84.9). The Bruins also have the NHL's leading goal scorer in David Pastrnak (25) and the third-leading point getter in Brad Marchand (44 points).

Oh, and the Bruins haven't lost a game in regulation at home this season (12-0-4). The Blackhawks are in for a big challenge as they look to snap a three-game losing skid and win for only the second time in eight games.

"Obviously they've had a great start, building off their run last season," Colliton said. "Tremendous power play, very aggressive on the forecheck, very active with their D in the offensive zone. They do a lot of things well. It's going to test us. We need to perform well. I think it comes down to, for us, our habits, especially on the road. You need to have a good base, stop and start, manage the puck, find a way to create zone time for yourself, stay out of the box. That allows yourself a chance to win on the road."

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Blackhawks hoping to get players back on road trip

Blackhawks hoping to get players back on road trip

The Blackhawks were still without Duncan Keith (groin injury) and Andrew Shaw (concussion protocol) at practice on Wednesday before hopping on a flight to Boston for Thursday's game and then to New Jersey for Friday. 

With Keith out, defenseman Dennis Gilbert was recalled from the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL and participated in practice. 

Dylan Strome (concussion protocol) and Drake Caggiula (concussion protocol) will travel with the team and will be evaluated prior to Thursday's game per Hawks head coach Jeremy Colliton. Olli Maatta missed practice with "flu-like symptoms" but should be good against the Bruins. Robin Lehner, who missed Monday's game with the flu, practiced Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Tough matchup

The Blackhawks, 1-5-1 in their past seven games and last place in the Central division, will have their work cut out for them against the Bruins, who sit in first of the Atlantic division and haven't lost a regulation game at home.

"We know we have to be better at the end of the day," Hawks rookie Kirby Dach said. "It kind of starts from the top and comes all the way down, we have to find a way to compete every night, pull the rope in the same way. With the leadership group we have, they've been through so much, I'm confident in them and our coaching staff to help us, especially me, get through this."

New Jersey, last in the Metropolitan division, could be a different story. The struggling Devils underwent a coaching change, firing head coach John Hynes and naming Alain Nasreddine interim head coach a couple hours before their 4-3 loss to the Golden Knights on Tuesday.

Close one

Patrick Kane went in early during practice after incidental content with Zack Smith's arm during a drill, but Colliton said he'll be fine and good to go Thursday. 


The Blackhawks players will be accompanied by their mothers on the road for the annual mom's trip.

"I think it’ll give everyone a boost," Colliton said. "It’s always nice to have family around and obviously whether it’s moms or important people in your life, it’ll be good for the group to have them around."

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