Blackhawks

Five Things from Winter Classic: Blackhawks' quick start doesn't translate to strong finish

Five Things from Winter Classic: Blackhawks' quick start doesn't translate to strong finish

ST. LOUIS – OK, the outdoor games are just not friendly to the Blackhawks.

Yes, as the Blackhawks players and coach Joel Quenneville told us, this one was a close one that could’ve gone either way. But it’s the fourth of five outdoor games that went against the Blackhawks, as they fell 4-1 to the host St. Louis Blues on Monday.

We talk about the not-so-good outdoor record knowing full well it won’t matter: commissioner Gary Bettman said on Sunday that the league is planning on three outdoor games next season and we’ll be floored if the Blackhawks aren’t in one of them.

But we digress. The Blackhawks are struggling whether they’re outside or in right now, and they’ll have a few things to fix early in the new year. Before we get to that for an off-day story, let’s look at the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ Winter Classic loss.

1. Maybe not on the quick starts. The Blackhawks haven’t gotten off to very many fast starts this season but they did on Monday. Michal Kempny’s knuckleball shot put the Blackhawks up 1-0 just 62 seconds into the game. But for the second consecutive game a quick start didn’t translate into a strong finish. Oh, it was another good game for Kempny, who now has two goals in as many games. But the Blackhawks couldn’t muster enough at the end to build off that early lead.

[SHOP: Gear up Blackhawks fans!]

2. Conditions were just fine. Hey, we were all wondering how this one was going to go, considering the forecast leading up to this game and the rain falling at the start of it. The concerns were unfounded, however, as there were no real issues. Duncan Keith said the ice was, “probably the best we’ve had in an outdoor game.” Trevor van Riemsdyk, one of many players who wears a visor, said that wasn’t a problem, either. “You gotta wipe it off more than in a normal game. Just being outdoors it may fog up on you a couple of times but once you get moving it clears up.”

3. Vladimir Tarasenko does it again. Tarasenko was close a few times before breaking through in this one, including hitting iron on a third-period power play. But he got his goals against the Blackhawks, as he often does. Tarasenko, who scored twice in less than two minutes in the third period, now has 12 goals in 19 career regular-season games against the Blackhawks. The guy just loves torturing the Blackhawks – and their fans.

4. Too quiet start to the third. The Blackhawks had to start the third period on the penalty kill. But they didn’t get much momentum off recording their fourth kill of the game. The Blues just kept the pressure on while the Blackhawks couldn’t get a shot on goal for about 10 minutes. Their first shot came on their power play midway through the third period – Jonathan Toews – but it took way too long for the Blackhawks to get going in those final 20 minutes.

5. Blackhawks 1-4-1 in their last six games. We’ll get to this more on Tuesday, which we’ll assume is going to be a Blackhawks off day. The Blackhawks are still atop the Western Conference but they’ve looked shaky lately. It doesn’t help that Marian Hossa is out – just in case anyone still doubted his impact on every freaking game. The Blackhawks are hoping to get Hossa back on Thursday, when they host the Buffalo Sabres. They need to get more of a complete game back, too.

Four takeaways: Strong start wasted as Blackhawks winless streak extends to five games

Four takeaways: Strong start wasted as Blackhawks winless streak extends to five games

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday:

1. Strong start wasted

The Blackhawks came out of the gates flying. They recorded the first nine shot attempts (four on goal) and didn't allow the Rangers to get their first shot on net until the 6:35 mark.

The Blackhawks were rewarded when Brandon Saad scored at 5:41 to put his team up 1-0. But the Rangers responded with a pair of goals within 4:18 of each other towards the latter stages of the frame to go up 2-1.

It was a tough way for the Blackhawks to go into the first intermission, happy with the start but not the result.

2. High-quality scoring chances

The Blackhawks gave up three goals at 5-on-5 and one empty-netter. And they'll quickly realize when reviewing the tape that they didn't do Collin Delia any favors.

Each of New York's first three goals came from the lower slot area, and they were seemingly all preventable. That's the positive, but also the negative because the Blackhawks are making it tough on themselves.

The Rangers finished with 14 high-danger chances at even strength compared to the Blackhawks' three. Below is a heat map of the shot chart at 5-on-5, courtesy of naturalstattrick.com:

3. Power play stays hot

The Rangers aren't a great team in the penalty kill department. They went into Thursday's game ranked 26th with a 77.1 percent success rate. But they were coming in hot, having killed off 14 in a row in the last three games.

That wasn't enough to stop the Blackhawks' scorching power play, which potted two more on three opportunities (goals by Saad and Alex DeBrincat). It's the seventh straight game the Blackhawks have scored at least one power-play goal, upping their percentage to 37.2 (16-for-43) since Dec. 18 — a span of 14 games, which ranks first over that stretch.

The power play continues to be a bright spot, and the Blackhawks have to be pleased with the consistency of it over the last month now.

4. Strome vs. Strome

For the third time in his NHL career, Dylan Strome went head-to-head with older brother Ryan, the latter of whom had gotten the best of his younger brother in the first two meetings — once when Ryan was with the Islanders and the other when he was with the Oilers, both against Dylan's Coyotes.

But Ryan stayed 3-for-3 against Dylan even though they were both on different teams this time.

Dylan was on the ice against Ryan for 8:46 of 5-on-5 time, which is the most he faced against any other Rangers skater. Ryan's line generated nine scoring chances and allowed only one during that time.

Dylan did get the better of his older brother in the faceoff department (58.3 percent vs. 53.3 percent), but it was Ryan that came away with the result that matters to both of them and that's the two points in the standings.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Inside the White Sox prospects trip to the Dominican Republic

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Inside the White Sox prospects trip to the Dominican Republic

Thirteen of the White Sox top American born prospects are in the Dominican Republic this week for a cultural exchange trip organized by the White Sox, giving players like Dylan Cease, Nick Madrigal, Zack Collins and Dane Dunning a first-hand experience to learn about the country where many of their Latin teammates like Eloy Jimenez call home. Chuck Garfien speaks with Ryan McGuffey who is covering the trip for NBC Sports Chicago. They talk about the White Sox training academy in the Dominican Republic (3:50), what the players are learning and how they're bonding on the trip (6:30), the crazy atmosphere going to a Dominican Winter League game (11:10), going with Reynaldo Lopez to the home where he grew up (14:40), personal stories from the trip (23:15) and more.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: