Blackhawks

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Jets in Central Division showdown

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Jets in Central Division showdown

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 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Corey Crawford vs. Connor Hellebuyck.

When ranking the importance of goaltenders to their respective teams, these two should be near the top of the list. And they're having Vezina Trophy-type seasons.

Crawford ranks second in the league among starters with a .933 save percentage this season and is 7-0-2 with a 2.18 goals against average and .933 save percentage in his last nine starts.

Hellebuyck on the other hand has arguably been the MVP for the Jets, compiling a 16-3-4 record with a 2.44 goals against average, .920 save percentage and a shutout in 25 appearances. Backup goaltenders Steve Mason and Eric Comrie have combined for a 2-5-1 record with a .897 save percentage in nine appearances. 

They are clearly better when Hellebuyck is in goal, and it's not close. Expect a fun showdown in net.

2. Pick your poison.

There may not be a deeper forward group in the Western Conference than the Jets. They have a dangerous four-line rotation, with the ability to score from top to bottom.

Blake Wheeler has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in six games this month, and is among the top 10 in scoring with 38 points. Patrik Laine has scored a goal in four of his last six games, while Nikolaj Ehlers has scored in three straight.

And then we get to the bottom six.

The third line of Andrew Copp, Adam Lowry and Brandon Tanev are the fifth-best trio in the entire league (minimum of 100 minutes) when it comes to possession numbers, controlling 61.38 percent of the even-strength shot attempts, while the fourth line of Mathieu Perreault, Matt Hendricks and Joel Armia is coming off a game in which they combined for five points (two goals, three assists).

This might be the biggest test yet for the Blackhawks.

3. Be ready by puck drop.

No team has scored more goals in the first period than the Jets, who have 40. The next highest team is the Toronto Maple Leafs with 37. 

But the Blackhawks aren't too shabby in the opening frame, either. They rank fifth with 32 goals, although seven of them came in the first two games of the season.

Still, there's no room for a slow start on either side. Two points are on the line for a Jets team aiming for the No. 1 seed and a Blackhawks squad trying to get back into the playoff picture.

2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 1 win over Sharks

2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 1 win over Sharks

In honor of the 10-year anniversary of the 2010 Stanley Cup team, NBC Sports Chicago is re-airing each of the Blackhawks' 16 postseason wins from the run that ended a 49-year championship drought. You can join the conversation using #HawksRewind on social media.

Despite opening the Western Conference Final on the road, the Blackhawks overcame an early deficit to defeat the San Jose Sharks 2-1 in Game 1 at HP Pavillon. Here are three things we noticed in the win:

1. An epic goaltending battle

The Blackhawks and Sharks ranked third and fourth, respectively, in goals per game going into the playoffs, so it wasn't a surprise to see two of the NHL's best offensive teams reach the Final Four.

The offensive firepower was on full display in Game 1, with the two teams combining for 85 shots on goal, 68 scoring chances and 22 high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. But it was the goaltending that stole the show.

Antti Niemi made a career-high 44 saves on 45 shots for a save percentage of .978. He also stopped all 13 high-danger chances. His counterpart Evgeni Nabokov turned aside 38 of 40 shots, including all nine high-danger chances, for a save percentage of .950. 

2. Escaping the special teams nightmare

The Blackhawks made Game 1 very difficult on themselves in the special teams department. They committed five minor penalties compared to the Sharks' zero, which is as lopsided a ratio as you'll ever see in the playoffs.

The Sharks capitalized on one of those five chances but credit the Blackhawks for hanging in on the other four. They played a full 60 minutes without a single man advantage and made sure it wasn't the reason they lost the game.

3. The legend of Dustin Byfuglien grows

You are going to see a lot of Byfuglien in this series, and he didn't waste any time.

In a 1-1 tie, a wide-open Big Buff pounded his stick on the ice, received a pass from Patrick Kane in the high slot and buried a slap shot past Nabokov with 6:45 left in regulation and it turned out to be the game-winner.

Byfuglien scored a goal in all four games and was credited with the game-winner in three of them. Game 1 was just the start.

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Blackhawks re-sign Highmore, Lankinen, agree to terms with 2 prospects

Blackhawks re-sign Highmore, Lankinen, agree to terms with 2 prospects

The Blackhawks announced on Thursday that they have re-signed pending restricted free agent forward Matthew Highmore and goaltender Kevin Lankinen, and agreed to terms with forward prospects Evan Barratt and Andrei Altybarmakyan on entry-level contracts.

Highmore's deal runs for two years through the 2021-22 season and carries a $725,000 average annual value (AAV). Lankinen's deal is also for two years and runs through the 2021-22 campaign, and carries a $800,000 AAV.

Barratt's deal runs for three years through the 2022-23 season and carries an $870,000 AAV, while Altybarmakyan's is a two-year deal that runs through the 2021-22 campaign and carries a $817,500 AAV.

Highmore has six points (two goals, four assists) in 36 games with the Blackhawks this season and registered 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 21 games with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. Lankinen went 8-10-2 with a 3.03 goals against average and .909 save percentage for Rockford before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery on March 2.

Barratt, who was drafted by the Blackhawks in the third round (No. 90 overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft, is the most notable signing. He registered a team-high 12 goals and 22 assists for 34 points in 34 games during his junior season at Penn State, and was also a Hobey Baker nominee in 2019 after setting career-highs in goals (16), assists (27) and points (43) as a sophomore.

Altybarmakyan was also taken in the third round (No. 70 overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft. He registered career highs in goals (six), assists (11) and points (17) in 49 games this season for HK Sochi of the Kontinental Hockey League, and appeared in three games for HK Tambov of the VHL.

With the re-signing of Highmore and Lankinen, the Blackhawks now have nine pending restricted free agents, which most notably includes Drake Caggiula, Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.