Five Things from Blackhawks-Wild: Keith suspension coming?


Five Things from Blackhawks-Wild: Keith suspension coming?

You know how the Minnesota Wild felt the past three postseasons? Well, the Blackhawks may have felt a smidge of that this season, considering the Wild pushed them around for five victories. It’s not easy taking a season series against the Blackhawks, but the Wild did it with authority, putting an exclamation point on it with a 4-1 victory on Tuesday night.

Yeah, that’s the way it goes some seasons. But the Blackhawks may have bigger concerns than their regular-season record vs. the Wild. So before we head home, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ latest loss to Minnesota.

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1. Duncan Keith could be out a bit. The defenseman’s stick-swing at Charlie Coyle was a costly one, as he was assessed a match penalty for “intent to injure.” Coyle was bloodied and Keith was gone for the night. Will Keith be suspended another game or two moving forward? It’s possible. The league will review the match penalty and Keith is suspended indefinitely as of now – the Blackhawks’ next game isn’t until Friday against Winnipeg. Keith’s last suspension was more than 18 months ago – the league deems repeat offenders as those whose most recent suspension came in that time frame. But it’s still another stick-swinging incident that could have Keith sitting longer.

2. A critical penalty kill. The Blackhawks went on a five-minute kill with Keith’s penalty and they passed the massive test well. Not only did they keep the Wild from scoring but Marian Hossa also scored a shorthanded goal to tie the game, 1-1, at the time. The Blackhawks, down 1-0 at the time, could have buckled during that kill. Instead, they made the first period end a lot better than it could have.

3. The Wild are too tough in the third. It didn’t help that the Blackhawks were down two defensemen (Keith and Brent Seabrook, who was ill) but the Wild weren’t messing around in the final period. Three unanswered goals gave the Wild their fifth regular-season victory over the Blackhawks. Yes, fifth. The Wild have turned things around under coach John Torchetti in recent weeks. But be it now or earlier this season, the Wild just had the Blackhawks’ number this season.

[MORE: Wild complete season sweep of shorthanded Blackhawks]

4. Hossa nears another milestone. His scoring numbers may not be as high as he’d like this season but Hossa is nevertheless closing in on 500 career NHL goals. “That was a nice goal, great play,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Pretty amazing career. That’s a big number, [and it’s] especially hard to score in today’s game. I’m looking forward to the next one.”

5. Missing Seabrook never helps. The Blackhawks were already in a tough spot entering this one with Seabrook out due to illness. The team hasn’t had the same depth on defense this season, and it’s that much more evident when the Blackhawks are missing a key player. The good news is, according to Quenneville, Seabrook should be fine for Friday’s game against Winnipeg. But the Wild were opportunistic in the third period against a Blackhawks defense that was missing two top defensemen by that time. 

Four takeaways: Jets win in overtime, but Blackhawks building momentum

Four takeaways: Jets win in overtime, but Blackhawks building momentum

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets at the United Center on Friday:

1. Top guns lead the charge for Jets

The Jets are one of the best teams in the NHL because they're absolutely loaded up front and get their scoring from everywhere. The Blackhawks know this of their Central Division foes and after seeing them for the third time in two weeks.

On Nov. 29, it was Nikolaj Ehlers who had a hat trick. On Tuesday, Kyle Connor had a two-goal night. On Friday, it was Mark Scheifele (two goals, one assist) and Blake Wheeler (three assists) leading the way for the Jets with three-point efforts. The top guys have been a thorn in the Blackhawks' side this season, with Scheifele scoring the game-winner 50 seconds into overtime for their third victory against Chicago in 15 days.

"You can play really well against them for 58 minutes, but it only takes just an instant and then it’s in the back of your net," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "That’s something that we gotta learn, to play against those guys and in those situations if you’re going to be able to go head-to-head. A lot of it we were really good, we had let downs and it made it tough for us. But we did a lot of good things."

2. Last-minute goals

In all three periods, there were last-minute goals that changed the flow of the game. 

After the Jets took a 1-0 lead in the first period, Jonathan Toews responded for the Blackhawks with 10.2 seconds left to even it at 1-1. In the second, Mathieu Perreault scored on a breakaway coming out of the penalty box with 18 seconds remaining to put the Jets back in front 3-2. And then in the third, Erik Gustafsson tied it at 3-3 with 7.5 left to force overtime. 

"It's tough after a loss in overtime, but it felt good," said Gustafsson, who missed the previous two games with an illness. "I didn't know it was 7 seconds left, but it was good to see it go in. ... It was good to be back here with the team, too. I wasn't in the last game. We came out hard the first period and I think we played a solid 60 minutes. Tough break in the overtime."

3. Captain Consistency

Toews usually produces on the scoresheet in spurts. Historically, he'll go through stretches where his offense dries up for several games in a row. And then he'll follow that up by getting really hot. This season has been different.

The Blackhawks captain's longest point drought this year is three games. After scoring two more goals, his season total is up to 16 through 34 games, taking over the team lead from Patrick Kane. He had 20 goals in 74 games last season, showing just how far he's come from a year ago.

Toews is on pace to finish with a career-high 39 goals — his current personal best is 34, set in 2008-09. The Blackhawks need him to continue producing at that rate, and there's no reason he can't.

"Our line played well and created a lot of chances," Toews said. "If it's me scoring or [Dominik Kahun] or [Brandon Saad], it doesn't really matter. As long as we're making plays when we've got the puck out there, we're happy about that."

4. Jets power play stays hot

The best advice when you play the Jets: Stay out of the penalty box. Because they'll make you pay.

Entering Friday, they had the top-ranked power play with a 30.4 percent success rate. The Blackhawks gave them three opportunities and they cashed in on one, giving them eight power-play goals on 17 attempts in their past four games (47.1 percent conversation rate). They also improved to 5-for-11 (45.5 percent) in three games against the Blackhawks.

To the Blackhawks' credit, they killed off two key penalties in the third period before the first TV timeout and it allowed them to keep it a one-goal game and ultimately force overtime by scoring the next goal.

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Is Dylan Strome the key to the Blackhawks success?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Is Dylan Strome the key to the Blackhawks success?

SportsTalk Live hits the road. Jimmy Greenfield and Scott King join Kap at Queenie's Supper Club and Cocktails at the United Center.

0:00- Pat Boyle joins the panel to discuss the Blackhawks' much-needed win over the Penguins and look ahead to what young players will be key when the Hawks compete for a playoff spot once again.

5:00- It's a big game for the Bears Sunday night. The guys debate whether or not the Beloved can finally beat Aaron Rodgers at Soldier Field to clinch the NFC North?

8:00- Will Perdue joins the panel to talk about the state of the Bulls. He discusses the Jabari Parker trade rumors, the Bulls leadership committee and the former NBA champ gets emotional when he talks about how the Bulls dysfunction affects him.

21:00- Patrick Sharp joins the guys to talk about the Blackhawks' mindset to end their 8-game slide and tells the guys why Dylan Strome may be the key to the Blackhawks success in the future.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast