Blackhawks

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to get back in win column against red-hot Jets

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to get back in win column against red-hot Jets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Winnipeg Jets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Anthony Duclair's Blackhawks debut?

In a move that could benefit both sides, the Blackhawks acquired Duclair from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Richard Panik, and Joel Quenneville said Wednesday after the game that they'll look to get him into the lineup right away.

Duclair, 22, has nine goals and six assists in 33 games this season. There's high upside to the speedy, offensively-gifted winger, with Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman saying Duclair "brings the ability to be a really electrifying player."

The top two lines appear to be solidified for now, so expect Duclair to slide in somewhere among the bottom six, perhaps the fourth line with Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels which will help ease him into the system.

2. Can Nick Schmaltz keep rolling?

In 13 games last month, Schmaltz had eight points (three goals, five assists). He's already matched that point total in five games in January, scoring five goals and adding three assists during his five-game point streak.

He's been sensational as of late, and it's come at a convenient time as Artem Anisimov continues to recover from an upper-body injury. It will certainly make things interesting once Anisimov is ready to return, but Schmaltz is looking like the player the Blackhawks thought he could be when they started him at second-line center alongside Patrick Kane to start the season.

Only Kane (45) has more points than Schmaltz (32) on the team this season, and the latter maybe wouldn't be too far off had he not missed four games in October with a lower-body injury.

3. Stay out of the box.

The Blackhawks are tied for 10th in penalty kill percentage (82.3) and are 10-for-10 in their last four games, but they need to do everything in their power to stay out of the box as much as possible.

The Jets have the second-ranked power play in the league (25.6 percent), and have scored with the man advantage in six straight games (9-for-23 for a 39.1 percent success rate over that span). And they're doing it without one of their best offensive weapons in Mark Scheifele, who's out with an upper-body injury and won't return for another month.

Still, Winnipeg is loaded with offensive talent that includes Nikolaj Ehlers, Patrik Laine and Blake Wheeler up front and Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers on the back end.

NHL Draft 2020: Blackhawks could pick one of these ranked prospects

NHL Draft 2020: Blackhawks could pick one of these ranked prospects

NHL Central Scouting released their 2020 draft rankings on Wednesday afternoon. The Blackhawks, who sat in 12th place in the Western Conference and 23rd in the league with a 32-30-8 record at the time of the NHL pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 12, are likely to get a top-10 pick for the third consecutive year.

The team had an 8.2% chance of landing a top-3 pick after finishing the 2018-19 season 10th place in the Western Conference and 20th in the NHL, but they got the No. 3 pick in the lottery and selected center Kirby Dach at last year's draft.

In 2018 they drafted defenseman Adam Boqvist at No. 8 overall. 

One left wing, one right wing, four centers and four defenseman make up the top-10 North American ranked players from Central Scouting available in this year's draft. 

Chicago could use a defensive-minded defenseman as it stands. The Blackhawks are loaded on centers enough to possibly part with Dylan Strome after the season concludes.

Alexis Lafreniere, a left winger, was ranked No. 1 per Central Scouting. The 18-year-old Quebec native led the QMJHL in assists (77) and points (112). It would be a bit of a long shot for the Hawks to land him.

The Blackhawks will probably have better odds than last year in the lottery, but would be more likely to pick around 10th. 

18-year-old Jamie Drysdale is the top North American defensive prospect according to the release at No. 3. The Toronto native, currently with the Eerie Otters of the OHL (Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome's former team) was a member of Team Canada's gold-medal winning entry at the 2020 World Junior Championship. Listed at 5'11, 170 lbs., the Hockey News described his skating and smarts as "other-worldly". Seeing as Chicago has plenty of puck-moving D men who can skate, it may be best to go the stay-at-home route.

At age 17, Jake Sanderson of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program’s Under-18 Team seems to be the highest ranked D man with a strong defensive game at No. 4 for North Americans on the list. According to the Hockey Writers, the Montana native has strong skating and sound footwork. He'll most likely be out of reach for the Hawks.

Sanderson's father, Geoff, played 1104 NHL games and finished his career with 700 points, playing for teams like the Hartford Whalers and Buffalo Sabres. 

Going off of Central Scouting's rankings, 18-year-old Braden Schneider makes the most sense for the Hawks. They have a better chance to grab him than the other D men, as he's ranked No. 9 among North American players, and the Hockey Writers described him as a "quintessential two-way defenseman" whose strengths include his "stick play, gap control and defensive poise."

Schneider had seven goals and 35 assists in 60 games with the Western Hockey League's Brandon Wheat Kings this season and a +/- rating of +9. Chicago would gladly select a defenseman who can do it all, especially if that includes helping keep pucks out of the net.

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NHL 20 sim: Penalty kill dooms Blackhawks in Game 1 loss vs. Blues

NHL 20 sim: Penalty kill dooms Blackhawks in Game 1 loss vs. Blues

After surging into the postseason with two big wins in New York to earn the second wild-card spot, the rejuvenated Blackhawks head into a first round showdown with the rival Blues, who swept Chicago in the regular season series. Youth and defense fueled the Blackhawks in the last two games, which saw the likes of Alex DeBrincat, Kirby Dach and Alex Nylander play big roles in earning a playoff bid.

As the Hawks head into Game 1, they’ll look for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to return to the scoresheet like they have so many times in past playoffs. St. Louis comes into the series on a roll, one they’ve practically been on since midseason last year. Not much is expected league-wide from the Hawks in this series. Can they shock the world and make some noise against their biggest rival?

Game 1: Blackhawks at Blues (April 8)

Result: Blues win 6-4 (STL leads 1-0)

Three Stars:

First Star: Ryan O’Reilly (2 G, 4 SOG)

Second Star: Vince Dunn (3 A, 1 SOG, 1 H, +1)

Third Star: Alex DeBrincat (2 G, 5 SOG)

DeBrincat was the star for the Hawks, netting two goals and getting five shots on net. O’Reilly starred for the Blues, single-handedly bringing them back from a 4-2 deficit with a pair of goals, including a momentum-shifting goal late in the second period. That woke up the crowd and the team as the Blues added three more unanswered goals in the third.

Scoring summary:

First period

8:16 Alexander Steen (O. Sundqvist, V. Dunn) 1-0  
   
11:49 Alex DeBrincat (D. Keith) 1-1

12:55 Alex DeBrincat (J. Toews, O. Maatta) 2-1

13:41 PP Robert Thomas (Z. Sanford, C. Parayko) 2-2

Second period

7:31 Dominik Kubalik (S. Koekkoek) 3-2

14:00 Patrick Kane (D. Strome) 4-2

18:34 R. O’Reilly (J. Schwartz, V. Dunn) 4-3

Third period

9:45 Ryan O’Reilly (C. Gunnarsson) 4-4

19:07 PP Brayden Schenn (C. Parayko, V. Dunn)

19:51 EN Jordan Kyrou (Unassisted)

Box score:

Shots on goal
   
Chicago: 30

St. Louis: 30

The Blackhawks kept up with the Blues the whole way, going shot-for-shot all 60 minutes. The turning point was O’Reilly’s late goal, which sparked the favored-Blues and their crowd. The Hawks gave up a few more shots on goal compared t the past two games, but taking four penalties played a hand in that. Their familiar names were back on the scoresheet, but unfortunately the defense fell back into old habits and couldn’t contain the Blues surge.

Goalies:

Corey Crawford: 24/29 (.828 SV%)

Jordan Binnington: 26/30 (.867 SV%)

For the Blackhawks to make a run, perhaps the most important is Crawford's play. He wasn’t at his best in Game 1, and thus finished with a 6-4 loss. Part of the issue was rebound control, which led to the Blues coming back to tie things up, but the defense didn’t do much to help. The penalty kill also left him hanging high and dry, especially on the game-winner, with Schenn cashing in wide open.

Power play:

Chicago: 0-0

St. Louis 3-4

No doubt Jeremy Colliton and company aren’t thrilled about getting zero power plays in Game 1, and they’ll certainly be in officials’ ears to try and change that. However, the real killer here was the penalty kill. After the Blackhawks' PK stepped up down the stretch, they collapsed in Game 1, allowing three goals on four chances. Special teams success was arguably the biggest factor down the stretch for the Hawks, and they need it to return to form to have any chance against St. Louis in this series.

Notable Blackhawks performances:

Patrick Kane (Goal)

Dominik Kubalik (Goal)

Duncan Keith (Assist)

The Blackhawks saw their familiar names return to the scoresheet, with regular season goal leaders Kane and Kubalik each notching a goal. Toews assisted on one of DeBrincat’s tallies. Keith assisted on another. But the youth movement came to a bit of a halt in Game 1.

After playing big roles to close out the regular season, Dach, Strome, Boqvist and Nylander combined for just one assist. The Hawks will need their young role players to play a bigger role again to provide the depth needed to get by the Blues.

Game 1 of the playoffs looked much more like the first 70 regular season games than the last 12 for the Hawks. Chicago’s offense wasn’t able to bail out their defensive deficiencies like it did much of the season. It’s only one game, and a win in Game 2 would give the Hawks all the momentum as the series shifts to Chicago.

In order to send the series home tied 1-1, the Blackhawks will need better play across the board. Look for a bounce-back performance after a tough loss.