Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime win over the Colorado Avalanche at the United Center on Sunday:
1. Duncan Keith saves the day
The Blackhawks needed this. After losing three in a row, anything less than a win on Sunday would've been the nail in the coffin on the team's playoff hopes with seven games remaining.
But Keith's overtime heroics saved the day for the Blackhawks, who live to fight another day. It was the third goal in nine games for Keith, who has six goals on the season. He had two goals in 82 games last season. Surely this offensive hot streak — by defensemen standards — feels good.
"I don't score too many overtime goals," Keith said. "[Nathan] MacKinnon was coming down and I'm just trying not to get embarrassed there because he's a pretty good player. And he kind of fell and I had the jump on him, and I was thinking he might try to poke it on my backhand. But I saw that he wasn't going to have enough room, so I just tried to slam it at the net as hard as I could. It hit the net and luckily it went in."
2. Blackhawks keep playoff hopes alive (barely)
Saturday's regulation loss to the Avalanche was a gut punch. Allowing the Avalanche to pick up a point in this one wasn't ideal. But the Blackhawks need to take care of their own business first, and earning two points was the ultimate goal.
The projected playoff cut is roughly 87 points. The Blackhawks have 76 with seven games left. They need 11 out of a possible 14 points in their final seven games to hit that mark. Their odds are bleak. But they're hanging on by a thread.
"This is huge," Keith said. "I think it was pretty much a must-win game. Especially after losing the last one against these guys. I thought we played a really good game tonight as a team. Obviously nothing's perfect but finding a way to get those two points. We're taking it one game at a time. We'll enjoy it, move on and know we still got our work cut out for us. Our theme of taking it one game at a time is a good way to approach it."
3. Loading up 12-19-88
Entering Sunday's game, the Blackhawks had scored only seven goals in their past four games. It's been their toughest stretch of the second half in the goal scoring department after it came so easy to them for months. The lack of power play is one of the main reasons for that.
To help change things up, Jeremy Colliton loaded up the top line with Alex DeBrincat, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, and tried to exploit some matchups by having the last change at home. And why not? They've accounted for 45.5 percent of the team's goals this season, and that strategy worked so well for Colorado earlier in the year. They didn't score, but they were very effective together.
In 16:19 of even-strength time, the trio controlled 65.9 percent of the shot attempts, 80 percent of the scoring chances and 80 percent of the high-danger chances, according to naturalstattrick.com.
"Those are the three guys that put the puck in the net the most," Colliton said. "We've been having trouble, so I think throw them together and that's probably the best opportunity to create some offense. I realize they didn't score, but they were really good."
4. Staying optimistic
The Blackhawks know it's an uphill battle to make the playoffs. But until the math says they're officially out of contention, they're going to continue fighting and clawing for that final wildcard spot.
There's still some optimism inside the locker room that they can make a run because they've shown in the past that they can do it. A big game against Arizona on Tuesday is a chance to strengthen it.
"We have a big belief in our group," Artem Anisimov said. "We just need to get it done."
Said Keith: "We know it's tough. We look at the standings and stuff, but at the same time I think our focus has to be in the moment. The standings are what they are, our focus needs to be one game at a time and just control that. So good game tonight and good that we got the two points, but we need to go into Arizona and play just as good as a game, if not better, to beat those guys."
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