Five Things from Blackhawks-Sharks: Crawford stays hot


Five Things from Blackhawks-Sharks: Crawford stays hot

The Christmas break nears, but the Blackhawks still have some work to do before they kick back for a few days. They took care of some of that work on Sunday night.

Balanced offense and great goaltending was there again as the Blackhawks beat the San Jose Sharks 4-3 in overtime. The Blackhawks have won seven of their last nine games but their biggest pre-Christmas comes in Dallas on Tuesday. The Stars were the first team in the NHL to reach 50 points this season. The Blackhawks will be seeing former teammates Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya, who have been big parts of the Stars’ great start.

[MORE: Jonathan Toews nets game-winning OT goal vs. Sharks]

But before we talk about reunions in the city that once had Reunion Arena – I’ll show myself out – let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over the Sharks.

1. Andrew Shaw gets the big goal. Coach Joel Quenneville was happy with all the Blackhawks’ goals on Sunday – all were within close proximity of Sharks goaltender Martin Jones. But he was especially thrilled with Shaw’s, which tied the game 3-3 and came after the Blackhawks killed off two consecutive Sharks power plays in the third period. “Great timing,” Quenneville said. Indeed.

2. Playing the hot hand works. Quenneville’s decision to pull Corey Crawford to give the Blackhawks a 6-on-3 late in Saturday’s game in Buffalo proved a good decision. So did his choice of going with Crawford again on the back-to-back. This isn’t about any concerns regarding Scott Darling; Quenneville doesn’t have any. Crawford’s on a roll and Quenneville didn’t want to disrupt it. Crawford responded with a 33-stop outing. Said Crawford, “I’ll play as much as I can but that’s Q’s choice. We have a really good goalie, Darling, that’s played well since he’s come up here. Really, it’s just a matter of us both working hard and just waiting to see whoever he wants to put in the net.”

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3. Overtime suits Jonathan Toews well. The 3-on-3 version has been good to him, anyway. Toews’ game-winning goal was his 11th goal of the season and as well as his third overtime one. Toews had another shot earlier in overtime but it hit the post. The captain said he just decided “to get pissed off and use the energy the right way.” That, he did.

4. Gutting out games. The Blackhawks came back for the second time in as many games on Sunday — they were down 2-1 late in the first period and 3-2 in the third. There are going to be games like that every season, and the Blackhawks like how they’ve responded to these lately. “These are the ones you build on through the year,” Shaw said. “Team comes together and you find a way to win those tight, close games.”

5. Marian Hossa healing. It was somewhat surprising to find out Hossa was out of Sunday’s game with an upper-body injury, given he played all of Saturday’s game in Buffalo. But it doesn’t sound serious and the nearing Christmas break will give the Blackhawks’ right wing ample time to rest and probably be ready for the post-break game against Carolina. The Blackhawks need a healthy Hossa come the spring, so they’ll do what’s necessary to ensure he gets there.

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.

Four takeaways: Alex DeBrincat salvages divisional game for Blackhawks in overtime on Duncan Keith’s special night

Four takeaways: Alex DeBrincat salvages divisional game for Blackhawks in overtime on Duncan Keith’s special night

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues at the United Center on Saturday night:

1. Special night for Duncan Keith — and Brent Seabrook

The Blackhawks celebrated Keith's 1,000-game milestone in the perfect way. Every player wore a No. 2 jersey during warmups, his family was on the ice for the pregame ceremony, and Patrick Sharp made an appearance to present Keith with a silver stick. Seabrook was also paired with Keith among the starters, a great touch by Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff.

But it was also a historic day for Keith's partner and close friend Seabrook, who became the franchise leader in games played by a defenseman, surpassing Bob Murray who previously held that mark at 1,008. It's only fitting Keith and Seabrook shared that moment together.

"We've been riding shotgun together for our whole careers," Keith said. "I couldn't imagine my career, my 1,000 games without him and all the experiences and memories that I've had winning and even losing, and the fun times we've had off the ice. I owe a lot of my success, and I think the team does as well, to Brent and what he means to the team and what he brings to our friendship and as a teammate."

To put a bow on the game, Keith had a vintage Keith moment on the game-tying goal in the third period when he intercepted a pass in the neutral zone on his backhand, then fed Toews a dart leading him into the offensive zone that set up DeBrincat's goal. 

2. Alex DeBrincat's torrid start

The Blackhawks continued to get contributions from their top players such as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, both of whom extended their point streaks to five games to open the season. But DeBrincat has propelled himself into that conversation as a top player on this team.

He had a multi-goal effort for the second straight game, upping his goal total on the season to a team-leading six. His overtime winner is the first of his NHL career in that fashion.

DeBrincat didn't score his sixth goal until Nov. 12 last season, which was the 18th game. And he still finished with 28. While it's hard to envision him continuing to score at more than a goal-per-game pace, it's not hard to see him continuing to be one of the best players on the ice and generating offense and scoring chances on a nightly basis.

"I think I'm getting pretty lucky right now," DeBrincat said. "I'm playing with [Toews] and [Dominik] Kahun, they're making great plays and getting me the puck. It's pretty easy when you have those guys as your linemates. Even on that last goal, [Erik Gustafsson] made a great pass backdoor to me. Pretty easy tap in."

3. Squandering another two-goal lead

The Blackhawks took a 2-0 lead for the third straight game. And they squandered it for the third straight game, in large part because they committed five straight penalties in the second and third periods.

It's no longer a blip at this point and is becoming an alarming trend, even though the Blackhawks have come back to force overtime in each of those three games. That will be something the Blackhawks work on all season long.

But Quenneville would have liked to have seen the Blackhawks keep their foot on the gas pedal and cash in on their opportunities to make it a 3-0 game.

"Score the third goal," he said. "I loved the way we were playing. We had a lot of good things going. Eventually they’re going to get chances, get opportunities. But we had some great chances to get it to three. It was one of those nights, every game is kind of different how the leads changed."

4. Brotherly love

For the first time in the NHL, the Schmaltz brothers finally got their chance to go up against each other at the highest level. There had been a handful of other opportunities in the past, but it never lined up for a variety of reasons. 

They didn't see much of each other while on the ice — they were on together for only 1:30 of the game — but Nick did commit a penalty that led to Jordan assisting on the Blues' first goal on a delayed call. 

The best battles between Jordan, who turned 25 on Oct. 8, and Nick, 22, came when they were kids.

"We had a little roller rink downstairs in our house growing up," Nick said. "It would be me vs. my sister (Kylie) and my brother. Those were probably the best battles. Someone would usually come up crying or high-stick or puck to the face or something like that. A lot of good memories. Looking back at it, it was awesome to have that and work on each other’s game and push each other to get better."