Five Things from Blackhawks-Stars: Right response in third period

Five Things from Blackhawks-Stars: Right response in third period

DALLAS – What started as a rather dull game turned out to be anything but on Saturday night. The Blackhawks were once again sweating it a bit in the third period but, after flirting with another tough loss, they pulled it out.

As Niklas Hjalmarsson said, they don’t care how they get the two points, just as long as they do. So before we head home from Ice Show Trip, Part I, let’s look at five things to take away from the Blackhawks’ 5-3 victory over the Stars.

1. The right response in the third. The Blackhawks were down 3-2 nearing the midway point of the third and, considering they hadn’t scored a third-period goal since Jan. 22 against Vancouver, this one wasn’t looking good. Well that Stars lead lasted a whole 35 seconds before Patrick Kane’s slick backhand. The Blackhawks kept coming after that, with two more goals (Trevor van Riesmdyk’s game winner and Jonathan Toews’ empty-net goal). Yes, dicey and the lost lead was again a bit worrisome. But you’re looking for the necessary response, and the Blackhawks had it in this one.

2. Ryan Hartman’s massive block. Jamie Benn had a gaping net in front of him, as Corey Crawford was pulled to his glove side on a previous stop. But a moment later Benn also had Hartman in front of him, blocking the shot and saving a goal. Hjalmarsson, who’s made a career out of making critical blocks, was proud of that one. “Oh, that was huge. I was screaming at him at the bench. That would’ve been a goal otherwise. It would’ve been a tap in. Great play by Hartsy.”

3. A much improved second. We won’t review their second period against Arizona on Thursday. You all saw it; it wasn’t good. This second period could’ve been rough, too, especially with the Stars scoring just eight seconds into it. But instead of getting sloppy and heading to the penalty box, the Blackhawks responded with shots and goals, taking a 2-1 lead into the third.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

4. Good work from Tanner Kero. The young center plays a blue-collar game and he had another good outing on Saturday night. Kero set up Hartman’s goal in the second period and won five of his seven faceoffs. Kero and Hartman have had good chemistry, which developed during their time in Rockford, and Hartman said it’s continued here. “Kers made a great play on that goal and was real strong on his stick, threw it over to me. He knew I was there and made a great play.”

5. Congratulations to Corey Crawford. The Blackhawks goaltender stopped 31 of 34 shots for his 20th victory of the season, but it’s where he is on the team’s all-time list that’s noteworthy. Crawford now has 202 career victories, good for third among the franchise’s all-time winningest goaltenders. Crawford said last week at the All-Star festivities that he’s grateful for the opportunity to play in Chicago. He keeps building on that. “I just want to keep going and keep moving up,” he said. “Yeah, that’s pretty special.”

How Blackhawks are trying to stay positive despite postseason-high 12 iron shots 

How Blackhawks are trying to stay positive despite postseason-high 12 iron shots 

Goal posts apparently aren't kind to the city of Chicago in the playoffs. (Nobody needs a reminder of the double-doink).

So if you hear a ringing sound, you’re not alone. 

The Blackhawks are six games into their postseason run and have hit 12 iron shots so far — 10 off the post, two off the crossbar. Twelve! That’s an average of two per game and a pace of 164 across an 82-game season. For reference, they hit the iron 58 times — 48 off the post, 10 off the crossbar — in 70 games during the regular season.

No team has hit more iron than the Blackhawks (12) since the NHL's 24-team Return to Play tournament started and it's not even close. The next highest? Toronto at six. An incredible gap.

"It's always tough hitting the post," said Drake Caggiula, who's hit one crossbar this postseason. "You’re close to scoring a goal but that’s hockey. It’s all about bounces. Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don’t, you've just got to stick with it. It's just something where you've got to keep shooting the puck and trust that you're going to get your chances and make sure that you try and capitalize. But hitting the post is never a fun feeling unless it's going in the net. We've just got to make sure it doesn’t discourage us."

Here's a list of where each team sits when it comes to iron shots, through Thursday's games:

  • 12: Blackhawks
  • 6: Toronto
  • 5: Boston
  • 4: Calgary, Colorado, Columbus, Montreal, N.Y. Rangers, Vegas
  • 3: Florida, N.Y. Islanders, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh
  • 2: Carolina, Dallas, Edmonton, Nashville, Tampa Bay, Washington, Winnipeg
  • 1: Vancouver
  • 0: Arizona, Minnesota, St. Louis

The Blackhawks hit five posts in Game 3 against the Edmonton Oilers, but it was easier to swallow because it came in a win. It wasn't so easy in a Game 2 overtime loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday.

Patrick Kane, who leads all skaters this postseason with three shots off the post, hit another one with 43 seconds left in the first period on Thursday when the Blackhawks were trailing 2-0. He beat Robin Lehner five-hole, but the puck rang off the pipe and bounced out. 

You could see the frustration in his face:

The Blackhawks did, however, get a nice break on Dominik Kubalik's power-play goal that tied the game at 2-2. His shot went off the inside of the post and in.

But the one that kept Chicago awake is the crossbar shot in overtime. 

Just 1:53 into extra time, Dylan Strome fired a 35-foot wrist shot from the right faceoff circle and rang it off the bottom part of the crossbar. He lifted his hands in the air thinking it was a goal. It was centimeters away from going bar down but bounced out instead.

The Blackhawks are certainly getting their chances. It's challenging to stick with it when the puck luck isn't going your way, but you have to earn your bounces and the Blackhawks must keep pushing through. That's the message.

"We've had our chances," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Sometimes it's like that. The key is, how long can we stick with it? How long can we be persistent when we face adversity? We've faced some adversity here over the first couple games. Do we have the character to overcome it? It's an opportunity for our guys.

"You play all year to be in these games, so now we're here and we've faced some adversity. So what? Just keep playing and believe in what we're doing and believe in the guys in the room and we're going to give them a run."

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Former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner remains unbeaten with Vegas Golden Knights

Former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner remains unbeaten with Vegas Golden Knights

On Thursday in Game 2, the Blackhawks tested Robin Lehner more than they did in Game 1 of the first round Stanley Cup Playoff series, when he only had to save 19 of 20 shots.

The Hawks were able to put 25 pucks on the Golden Knights' net, with three getting past Lehner to take the game to overtime where Vegas would triumph to take a 2-0 series lead.

"It was a little bit of a weird game," Lehner said following his Game 2 win. "There was not that much to do and I thought they had some good chances. I thought that Chicago played really well. Everyone keeps saying they're (the) underdog, but you look at their team: the experience, the skill... it's Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane out there. It's a lot of skill and they're world class players, so when they get opportunities it's hard. I got to look at the tape, I think I can be a little bit better, but a win's a win."

Related: Former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner's birthday cake is ureal

With the victory, Lehner remains unbeaten in the 2020 postseason (4-0) and unbeaten as a Golden Knight. 

The 29-year-old netminder went 3-0-0 with 1.67 goals-against average and .940 save percentage with the Knights during the regular season ahead of the NHL Pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 12. 

Related: Robin Lehner opens up on getting traded by Blackhawks

Lehner was traded from Chicago to Vegas ahead of Feb. 24's trade deadline. He was 16-10-5 as a Hawk this season with a 3.01 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage prior to the move.

Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, a three-time Stanley Cup champ with the Pittsburgh Penguins, may have lost the starter job to Lehner, at least for now. Fleury was only in net for one Golden Knights' round-robin game, with Lehner starting the rest of the postseason contests so far.

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