The Blackhawks wanted to be playing better as they neared the end of the regular season.
And while some of their games have been interesting, sometimes too close for comfort, the Blackhawks are stringing together some victories and gaining some much-needed confidence. They continued that trend on Tuesday night, beating the Arizona Coyotes 6-2 for their third consecutive victory and fifth in their last six games.
So before we head into an off day, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over the Coyotes.
1. The captain is heating up. Jonathan Toews had a short-handed goal and an assist in Tuesday night’s game. That’s five consecutive games in which Toews has scored at least a point, and his goal in this one gave him 250 for his NHL career. Toews said there were times this season he wasn’t happy with his game — “it was, at times, frustrating,” he said on Tuesday morning. We’re guessing the frustration is waning that much more with each passing game.
2. Is the power play waking up again? Could be, if the last two games are any evidence. The Blackhawks scored three power-play goals — including two on Antoine Vermette’s five-minute boarding penalty — giving them five in their last two games. The Blackhawks were more in shooting mode in recent advantages, and it’s paying off. Everything has its ebbs and flows in a season. But the Blackhawks’ power play seems to be surging at the right time.3.
3. Artemi Panarin keeps racking up the points. It wasn’t long ago that the Blackhawks probably thought they’d dodge those salary bonuses with the rookie. Well, they probably won’t because Panarin is heating up again. With his two assists on Tuesday night, Panarin now has 10 points in his last three games. The Blackhawks figured they had a good thing when they signed Panarin, but they’ll probably pay for it.
4. The penalty kill keeps improving. This may be more important than the power play, because this was a serious problem for several weeks. The Blackhawks killed off six Coyotes power plays on Tuesday. Since Marcus Kruger returned, the Blackhawks’ penalty kill has gone 17-for-17. Coincidence? Who knows? Kruger was actually in the box for two of those kills, including the one that Toews turned into a short-handed goal. But there’s no doubt having one more good penalty killer back in the lineup has been beneficial.
5. Winning despite missing bodies. Yes, the Blackhawks have missed Corey Crawford for several weeks now, and their record was up-and-down when he first went down. But in recent games in which they’ve been without Duncan Keith (suspension), Andrew Shaw (upper body) and Marian Hossa (lower body), the Blackhawks have found ways to win. The Blackhawks have usually done well when they’ve had to band together in the wake of injuries. They’re doing that right now.