Blackhawks

Despite strong finishes, Blackhawks still lacking early jump

Despite strong finishes, Blackhawks still lacking early jump

The United Center was raucous after the goal by Artem Anisimov, the second one the Blackhawks scored in a 56-second span and the one that gave them a 3-2 lead on the Dallas Stars.

It was another great third period for the Blackhawks, who have had several of them this early season. It was also necessary. Because once again, the Blackhawks got off to a slow start.

When you’re on a six-game winning streak, as the Blackhawks are right now, obviously there are plenty of things going right. We’ll get to that later. But the slow starts have continued, and the Blackhawks still would like to get out of the gate quicker.

“We’ve been sloppy in certain areas, whether it’s clears, whether it’s in the puck area in our own zone, and it leads to chances and the momentum going their own way,” coach Joel Quenneville said prior to their weekend series against Dallas. “We have to find a way to get through it.”

Now when we talk about the slow starts it doesn’t necessarily mean the Blackhawks have trailed after one period. Usually, they’ve just looked off the first few minutes — a good example of that is against Colorado, who outshot the Blackhawks 11-1 in the first 12:47 last week. The Blackhawks have been outshot in the first period in 11 of their 13 games this season. That usually doesn’t always mean much, but the Blackhawks have given up some quality opportunities in those shots. Credit the Blackhawks’ goaltending for keeping most of those chances from becoming goals.

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Now for the flip side of this: Despite those lousy initial minutes, the Blackhawks have finished the first period with the lead six times (they’re 5-1-0 in those games). Even when they have trailed after one, they’ve found a way to get points (3-1-1). And they’ve been outstanding in third periods, outscoring opponents 19-10 this season.

“I think when the game goes on, we are in a better rhythm and we’re playing better than the start,” Marian Hossa said. “But I think we have to keep improving and have better starts, because that’s as important as finishing.”

Quenneville, when asked about the Blackhawks’ great third-period production following Sunday’s game, went back to the starts.

“We had 4-on-4 and guys made a great play on both plays and we got ourselves back in the game. But it’s the same recipe we’ve talked about game in, game out,” Quenneville said. “We have trouble clearing pucks or we put it in tough areas and sustain zone time for them and don’t have enough puck time and possession in their end.”

The Blackhawks are playing better all-around hockey. They’re finding better chemistry in their lines, which haven’t changed much the last few games. Penalty killing has improved, and goaltending has been great from the start. Still, those first few minutes of every game have been an issue. They’ve usually overcome it, but the Blackhawks would like to have as much energy and all-around play at the start of their games as they have at the end.

“Maybe the teams we play, they come out so hot at the start of the game and we need to just be prepared for that kind of start,” Artem Anisimov said. “We have to play our way. From the first drop of the puck, play how we play late in the game.”

Briefly

— Jonathan Toews did score the Blackhawks’ first goal in their 3-2 victory over Dallas on Saturday night, the NHL announced today. The goal, which came 11 seconds into the game, was originally given to Richard Panik. Toews now has four goals in his last five games.

— Corey Crawford was named the NHL’s second star for last week. Crawford went 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and a .971 save percentage.

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

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AP

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

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AP

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.