Blackhawks

NHL Power Rankings: Rangers surpass Blackhawks for No. 1 spot

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NHL Power Rankings: Rangers surpass Blackhawks for No. 1 spot

The standings almost always look upside down after the first week, so we'll try not to overreact.

Check in with CSNChicago.com for updated rankings every Monday throughout the 2015-16 campaign. Here's where we're at so far: Preseason rankings

 

Rank Team
Last Week Record/Comment
1 9

3-0-0, 6 points: No team is off to a hotter start than the Rangers, who have scored 12 goals in three games. 

2 1

2-1-0, 4 points: The defending champions bounced back from a slow home-opener by taking four of four points from the Islanders in back-to-back games.

3 2

2-0-0, 4 points: The Lightning won the NHL's first career 3-on-3 overtime, and it certainly won't be the last. 

4 8

2-0-0, 4 points: Justin Abdelkader already has two game-winning goals while rookie sensation Dylan Larkin leads the league with a plus-6 rating.

5 4

1-0-0, 2 points: Only one game to show for it, but the Capitals showed the type of resiliency any Stanley Cup contender needs to have with a three-goal third period in their opening win.

6 10

3-0-0, 6 points: Three road wins to start off the season. Not too shabby.

7 14

2-0-0, 4 points: Martin Jones is quickly paying off for the Sharks after allowing just one goal in his first two starts.

8 21

2-0-0, 4 points: An early statement by the Jets, who are looking to prove last year wasn't a fluke.

9 30

2-0-0, 4 points: If this is the Mike Smith the Coyotes will get all year, they may not be as bad as people think.

10 19

2-0-0, 4 points: Two wins against a pair of division rivals, including a "wild" three-goal comeback win over Colorado.

11 18

1-0-0, 2 points: Putting up seven goals in your home opener? Now that's how you start a season. 

12 3

0-1-0, 0 points: The Ducks started their season much later than everyone else, so they only have one game on their resume. Let's pump the brakes a little bit.

13   16

2-0-0, 4 points: Good luck scoring on the Predators this season.

14 23

1-0-1, 3 points: The Canucks took three of four points from the improved Flames, with Ryan Miller off to a great start.

15 7

1-1-0, 2 points: Vladimir Tarasenko is on pace to score 82 goals this season. One day we may be able to say that with a straight face.

16   20

2-1-0, 4 points: The Senators picked up right where they left off last spring with a pair of wins, led by Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman.

17   11

1-1-0, 2 points: The Stars flashed their ceiling in a 3-0 win over the Penguins, and their floor in a 6-3 clunker to the Avalanche.

18 13

0-1-1, 1 point: Back-to-back games against the reigning champions was a tough early draw for the Islanders, especially without starting goaltender Jaroslav Halak.

19 15

1-1-0, 2 points: The bolstered Flames defense allowed 44 shots in their opening loss to the Canucks. 

20 22

1-1-0, 2 points: The Avalanche blew a three-goal lead in the third period on opening night, but responded with a three-goal win over the Stars.

21   5

0-2-0, 0 points: Sidney Crosby has yet to register a shot on goal through two games.

22 6 0-2-0, 0 points: A rough start for the Kings, but there's too much experience and fire power there to overreact to two games.
23   12

0-2-0, 0 points: Not exactly the start we anticipated from the Blue Jackets after allowing a combined nine goals to the Rangers in both games.

24   27

0-2-0, 0 points: The Hurricanes outshot the Red Wings 47-19 in their second game, yet still lost 4-3. 

25 26

0-2-0, 0 points: An unfortunate start for the Sabres, who will be without starting goaltender Robin Lehner (high ankle sprain) for 6-10 weeks.

26   29

0-2-0, 0 points: Even with Cory Schneider, the Devils allow too many goals and don't score enough.

27   25

0-2-0, 0 points: Connor McDavid's debut is officially in the books. Now he can focus back on hockey.

28 24

0-1-1, 1 point: A players only meeting after two games? That was quick.

29 17

0-2-0, 0 points: The Bruins have allowed 10 goals through their first two games, and just lost Brad Marchand with a concussion.

30 28

0-2-1, 1 point: It's going to be a long season.

Four takeaways: Brandon Saad breaks out in strong bounce-back performance by Blackhawks

Four takeaways: Brandon Saad breaks out in strong bounce-back performance by Blackhawks

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks at the United Center on Tuesday:

1. Brandon Saad's breakout game

After turning in one of his best efforts of the season on Sunday against Tampa Bay, the Blackhawks rewarded Saad with a promotion to the top-six again. And he took advantage of that opportunity.

In the first period alone, Saad recorded four shots on goal, scored his first of the season on the power play, drew a penalty and had a takeaway in 7:42 of ice time, which led all forwards. He finished with nine shot attempts (a season-high seven on goal) and 18:56 of ice time.

On his power-play goal, Saad battled for position in front of the net, called for the puck and scored on his second effort. He did all the right things and got rewarded, including on the empty-netter that sealed the victory.

"I've had some chances, especially as of late," Saad said. "But it's definitely nice for them to get in and get a win on top of that."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "He was excellent tonight. ... I thought he had great speed all over the ice, had the puck way more. We’re happy for him. Big factor in the win."

2. Erik Gustafsson's slap-pass becoming a thing

For the second time this season, Gustafsson contributed to a game-winning goal that involved a fake shot and slap-pass from the point. Patrick Kane was the recipient of the cross-ice pass and buried home the one-timer from the right faceoff circle

"I can’t score by myself, so it’s better to pass it," Gustafsson joked. "No, I know Kaner is out there. He’s always getting open when someone else has the puck so it’s easy to find him and there was one guy in front of me so I wanted to pass it."

3. Blackhawks cut down on high-danger chances

On Sunday against Tampa Bay, the Blackhawks allowed 25 high-danger chances at even strength. It put them at the very bottom of the league for most on average per game, ironically falling below Anaheim.

Through two periods on Tuesday, the Blackhawks allowed zero and only five at 5-on-5 for the entire game. Certainly a 180 from two nights ago, and an area they will continue to build upon.

"We just took away those quality chances," said Corey Crawford, who made 24 saves and picked up his first win at home since Dec. 17, 2017. "I don't think they really had too many where they had time in front of the net to really think about where they wanted to shoot and our guys were on the right away in the middle of the ice and that'll give you a great chance to win a hockey game."

4. Special teams battle

There were a total of 20 penalty minutes (10 for Anaheim, 10 for Chicago), which meant lots of power play opportunities and not as much even-strength time.

The Blackhawks had four of them in the first period, and converted on the second try when Saad scored his first of the season. The penalty killed went 4-for-4, allowing a combined eight combined shots on goal but limiting the quality chances.

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Anton Forsberg cleared waivers on Tuesday morning and was assigned to the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League.

That's good news for the Blackhawks organizational depth chart, with Forsberg as the No. 3 in goal. But it also complicates things in Rockford, where Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen have been sharing the duties.

Delia is 3-1-0 with a 3.26 goals against average and .910 save percentage while Lankinen is 0-1-1 with a 3.39 GAA and .825 save percentage. Perhaps the most likely scenario is Lankinen gets sent to the ECHL with the Indy Fuel while Delia and Forsberg split the load in Rockford.

It's certainly a good problem to have, but it's still unclear how that dynamic will play out.

"We haven’t talked about that," coach Joel Quenneville said. "But we expect [Forsberg] to play."

Luke Johnson recalled

With a spot opening up on the 23-man roster, Johnson is being brought back up after he was squeezed out by Corey Crawford's return. He had a goal and an assist in two games with Rockford.

Brandon Saad returns to top-six role

After turning in arguably his best performance of the season on Sunday, Saad is back playing on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane. He had seven shot attempts (three on goal) against Tampa Bay and led the team in 5-on-5 possession numbers.

"[Saad] is coming off a game where we liked what we saw," Quenneville said. "Playing with Kaner can help him get going."

Nick Schmaltz to play right side for first time in NHL career

Eight games into the season and Schmaltz has spent time at both center and left wing. Now he'll get a look on the right side with Alexandre Fortin on the left and David Kampf centering the third line.

Part of the reason for Schmaltz’s move to the right side was because Quenneville said they like Fortin on the left. It's not unfamiliar territory for Schmaltz, but could take some time getting used to.

"I played a little while back, not sure when," Schmaltz said "Just a little bit different. Catching pucks on your forehand now instead of your backhand. It's not a huge adjustment, just play with speed and compete hard and hopefully the skill on our line will take over."