Reality check: Blackhawks look like a team still trying to find its way


Reality check: Blackhawks look like a team still trying to find its way

The Blackhawks were sniffing a playoff spot at American Thanksgiving, trailing the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference by only one point from a points percentage standpoint. And they were coming off back-to-back contests in which they took three of four points from the hottest team in the NHL in the Dallas Stars, including a 3-0 shutout victory at the United Center on Tuesday.

But a home-and-home series this weekend against a decimated but speedy Colorado Avalanche team was a real opportunity for the Blackhawks to show their stripes and they weren’t competitive in either of the two games.

The Blackhawks looked outmatched in every facet despite what the numbers showed, and the early holes they dug themselves did them no favors. They uncharacteristically gave up six combined first-period goals after allowing only 15 in their first 24 games (which was the second-fewest in the league), and were outscored 12-5 total in the two games.

It didn’t help that the Blackhawks were without Duncan Keith (groin injury) in Saturday’s 7-3 loss, but the issues went deeper than that. They were at least a step slow to every 50-50 race, didn't win many board battles and failed to capitalize on their chances unlike the Avalanche.

Where the Blackhawks could have changed the complexion of the game was towards the end of the first period, when they were awarded a 5-on-3 power play for 58 seconds, and the start of the second period when they had a 5-on-4 advantage for 2:27. They generated several quality opportunities but couldn’t cash in, and after the Avalanche killed off those penalties they scored 15 seconds later to extend their lead to three. They didn’t look back from there.

The Blackhawks have relied on Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner all season long to bail them out in key situations, but at some point it needs to be reciprocated by the 18 skaters in front of them. Lehner gave up five goals on 14 shots for a save percentage of .643 before head coach Jeremy Colliton made a goalie swap to spark his team, which isn't a bag he likes to reach into. In this case, he had no choice.

The Blackhawks started November by picking up at least a point in eight out of a possible nine games for record of 6-1-2. Since then, they're 1-4-1 and their mini home-and-home series against Colorado served as a reality check.

"It's just time to look ourselves in the mirror and just do the right thing is what it's all about," Lehner told reporters. "It's on us as players to do the right things."

The Avalanche looked like a Stanley Cup contender this weekend. The Blackhawks looked like a team still trying to find its way.

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Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford's 250th win puts him in elite company


Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford's 250th win puts him in elite company

Corey Crawford captured a coveted goalie milestone with another solid performance in a 2-1 shootout victory for the Blackhawks on Friday in New Jersey. The Hawks (12-12-5) beat the Atlantic division-leading Bruins 4-3 in overtime in Boston with Robin Lehner in net on Thursday before playing the Devils, last in the Metropolitan, Friday with Crawford starting. 

"It's important to try to climb back up in the standings," Crawford said following the game. "We had a few tough games, it seems like it's been pretty streaky the first quarter of the season, but when we're playing well I think we're pretty tough to beat. We just got to try to find that game as much as possible. 

"But that was obviously a big win to start it and against one of the best teams in the league (the Bruins) and having a big lead too, going late into the third period, and then a team that's a little bit lower in the standings (the Devils), but you still have to come out hard and play, no games are easy. It was pretty competitive out there but it's nice to find a way to win." 

The two-time Stanley Cup champ saved 29 of 30 shots through overtime, including a Miles Wood breakaway with 11 seconds remaining in the second period and the game tied 1-1. He also stopped three of five New Jersey Devils shooters including Taylor Hall and 2019 No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes in the shootout. 

Crawford became the 59th goalie in NHL history to record 250 wins. The 34-year-old is one of 13 active NHL goalies and just the third Hawks netminder to reach the milestone (Glen Hall: 276, Tony Esposito: 418).

Crawford is 250-149-52 in 464 games with the Blackhawks and has 26 shutouts. 

5 Takeaways: Kirby Dach leads Blackhawks to 2-1 win in shootout vs. Devils


5 Takeaways: Kirby Dach leads Blackhawks to 2-1 win in shootout vs. Devils

The Blackhawks won 2-1 against the New Jersey Devils in a shootout on Friday. Here are five takeaways:

Top to bottom

The Hawks were looking to establish some momentum in Jersey following a big win Thursday in Boston. Jonathan Toews scored in overtime and Alex DeBrincat ended a 12-game goal drought to help the Hawks to a 4-3 OT win over the Bruins, ending the Blackhawks' 3-game losing streak in which they were outscored 16-5. 

Going from facing the first place team in the Atlantic division (second in the NHL) on Thursday to the last place team in the Metropolitan division (second to last in the league) on Friday proved to be tougher than imagined. 

Alex DeBrincat scored the lone regulation goal for Chicago and Kirby Dach, the No. 3 pick of the 2019 NHL Draft, scored the final goal of the shootout and set up No. 1 pick Jack Hughes to get stopped by Corey Crawford for the 2-1 final score. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane also scored in the shootout for the Blackhawks.

Crow 250

Corey Crawford won his 250th NHL game on Friday. The two-time Stanley Cup champ is the 59th goalie in NHL history to reach the milestone and one of 13 active netminders to do so. The 34-year-old is the third goalie to reach 250 wins with the Blackhawks. 

Crawford saved 29 of 30 New Jersey shots ahead of the shootout. 

Cat on the prowl 

DeBrincat scored his second goal in two games after not lighting the lamp in his previous 12. This is a good sign for the forward, who is known to score in bunches.

Gilbert getting noticed

Dennis Gilbert skated in his second straight game with the Hawks with Olli Maatta (flu-like symptoms) missing both contents on the road trip. Gilbert had a solid game in Boston Thursday and improved his case Friday, putting a big hit on Hughes then having a decent showing after answering the bell with Wayne Simmonds.

Kane watch

Kane tied Andy Bathgate for 93rd on the NHL career points list (973), assisting on DeBrincat's second period goal.