Five Things from Blackhawks-Coyotes: Special teams surge


Five Things from Blackhawks-Coyotes: Special teams surge

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.

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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.

[MORE: Blackhawks bury Coyotes with second straight six-goal game]

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. 

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning


Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Blackhawks on wrong side of history 

Earlier this year the Blackhawks made history by appearing in five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team in NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB history has ever done.

But Sunday they found themselves on the wrong side of it after allowing 33 shots on goal in the second period alone. It tied a franchise high for most given up in a single period — March 4, 1941 vs. Boston — and is the most an NHL team has allowed since 1997-98 when shots by period became an official stat.

"It's pretty rare to be seeing that much work in a period," said Cam Ward, who had a season-high 49 saves. "But oh man, I don't even know what to say to be honest. It's tough. We know that we need to be better especially in our home building, too. And play with some pride and passion. Unfortunately, it seemed like it was lacking at times tonight. The old cliche you lose as a team and overall as a team we weren't good enough tonight."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was a tough, tough period in all aspects. I don’t think we touched the puck at all and that was the part that was disturbing, against a good hockey team."

2. Alexandre Fortin is on the board

After thinking he scored his first career NHL goal in Columbus only to realize his shot went off Marcus Kruger's shin-pad, Fortin made up for it one night later and knows there wasn't any question about this one.

The 21-year-old undrafted forward, playing in his his fifth career game, sprung loose for a breakaway early in the first period and received a terrific stretch pass by Jan Rutta from his own goal line to Fortin, who slid it underneath Louis Domingue for his first in the big leagues. It's his second straight game appearing on the scoresheet after recording an assist against the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"It's fun," Fortin said. "I think it would be a little bit more fun to get your first goal [while getting] two points for your team, but I think we ... just have to [turn the page to the] next chapter and just play and be ready for next game."

3. Brandon Saad's most noticeable game?

There weren't many positives to take away from this game, but Saad was certainly one of them. He had arguably his best game of the season, recording seven shot attempts (three on goal) with two of them hitting the post (one while the Blackhawks were shorthanded).

He was on the ice for 11 shot attempts for and five against at 5-on-5, which was by far the best on his team.

"He started OK and got way better," Quenneville said of Saad. "Had the puck way more, took it to the net a couple of times, shorthanded."

4. Special teams still a work in progress

The Blackhawks entered Sunday with the 29th-ranked power play and 25th-ranked penalty kill, and are still working to get out from the bottom of the league in both departments. In an effort to change up their fortunes with the man advantage, the Blackhawks split up their two units for more balance.

They had four power-play opportunities against Tampa Bay and cashed in on one of them, but it didn't matter as it was too little, too late in the third period — although they did become the first team to score a power-play goal against the Lightning this season (29 chances).

"Whether we're looking for balance or we're just looking for one to get hot, I think our power play has been ordinary so far," Quenneville said before the game. "We need it to be more of a threat."

Four more minor penalties were committed by the Blackhawks, giving them eight in the past two games. That's one way they can shore up the penalty kill, by cutting back on taking them.

Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period


Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period

Well, things could be going better for the Blackhawks during Sunday's game against the Lightning.

In the second period Sunday, the Blackhawks surrendered 33 shots on goal, tying a franchise record for most in a single period. The previous instance occurred March 4, 1941 against the Boston Bruins, a game that the Blackhawks lost 3-2.

While the Blackhawks tied a franchise record for shots on goal allowed, they actually set an NHL record at the same time. The NHL did not begin recording shots on goal as an "official" statistic until the 1997-98 season.

Consequentially, Sunday's 33 shots on goal allowed in the second period is the "official" record, even though the Blackhawks accomplished the "feat" nearly 80 years ago. Confusing, huh? 

Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, they also surrendered three goals and scored zero in addition to the plethora of shots on goal allowed. They recorded just six shots on goal in the second period themselves, trailing 4-1 by the time the third period started.