Quick Hits: 'Wow factor' shows up in Blackhawks' win over Penguins

Quick Hits: 'Wow factor' shows up in Blackhawks' win over Penguins

See four lines roll. See a player get hurt. See the Blackhawks plug another player into the injured party's slot. See the Blackhawks keep going.

It's been a successful formula lately, and the Blackhawks applied it again to great results in their 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night. We'll see how Artem Anisimov (lower body) is on Thursday. Coach Joel Quenneville said the second-line center, who was out after just one shift in the second period, could miss some time.

If that's the case the Blackhawks may have to shuffle some things around but, on first glance on Wednesday, they did fine with the quick fixes they needed to apply immediately.

Now onto the notables.

What Worked: Scott Darling. Corey Crawford felt better on Wednesday and, in a pinch, could have started against the Penguins. But since Darling was 100 percent and not coming off an illness, it was a chance to play him instead. Darling once again did his job, stopping 36 of 37, including a big one on Matt Cullen early in the third period. His performance needed to be good, because Marc-Andre Fleury was pretty good on his end, too.

What Didn’t Work: Evgeni Malkin's defense. At least on one play, when Richard Panik slipped past him en route to scoring what would be the game-winning goal in the second period. Apparently it's a move Panik's practiced. "That was an amazing play. We don’t want to advertise trying that play too often in the offensive zone, but he times that stuff and we see it in practice. In a game it's hard to do; we don't encourage it," Quenneville said with a laugh. "But he has confidence. He had the wow factor tonight."

Star of the game: Patrick Kane. OK, you could put Nick Schmaltz in here, too (look at the plays Schmaltz made to set up Kane's first two goals). But two hat tricks in your last three games are two hat tricks in your last three games. That, and the goal that earned him the hat trick was a no-look stunner.

He Said It: "Whatever he did when he went down to Rockford is incredible. He came back with a whole new edge and a whole new intensity and now you're seeing the results. He's playing to the full capability." Scott Darling on Nick Schmaltz

By the Numbers:

27-0-0 – The Blackhawks' record this season when scoring four or more goals.

5 – Consecutive games in which Schmaltz has a point (two goals, seven assists), including his two primary assists on Patrick Kane's goals on Wednesday night. Since Feb. 8, Schmaltz has at least a point in nine of 10 games.

10 – Points in his last seven games for Richard Panik (five goals, five assists). The seven-game point streak is the longest of Panik's career.

406 – Consecutive sellouts at the United Center.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks offense finally opens things up as Patrick Kane starts streaking

USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks offense finally opens things up as Patrick Kane starts streaking

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis break down the changes made to the Hawks defensive zone coverage (1:50) and Patrick Kane’s current points streak (7:30). They also discuss how most of the players that have been scratched recently have had bounce-back efforts (11:20), as well as the improved play of Erik Gustafsson (18:12) and both special teams units (20:16). Plus, the debut of “Checkpoint Charlie," where Charlie gives us a taste of life on the road and his encounter with Chris Rock’s brother (29:00).

Listen here or in the embedded player below. 


Blackhawks Talk Podcast


Jeremy Colliton explains schematic change and why Blackhawks made it

Jeremy Colliton explains schematic change and why Blackhawks made it

The Blackhawks made a schematic change after their four-game road trip and they've seen the benefits of it immediately. They're 2-0-1 in their past three games and have scored 12 goals over that stretch.

We broke down on Monday what changes were made systematically and how it has freed up the offense, but head coach Jeremy Colliton elaborated on it Tuesday and explained the reasoning behind the decision.

"All it is is, our weak side forward, we pushed him up higher in defensive zone coverage," Colliton said. "Before, we had four low a lot of times, to try and overload in certain situations. That's good, it gets you out of D-zone, but the problem is when you win the puck back, a lot of times you're very close together and it's harder to make clean plays, it's harder to exit with space to make plays. So we were having trouble entering the zone.

"There's been a lot of talk about how we have been dumping too many pucks in. Well, we're not trying to dump the puck in, but when you're attacking and you don't have numbers, you don't have space in behind, you have to, you're forced too. I think we're doing a much better job of getting from D-zone clean, because we have a forward a little bit higher, there's a little more space, it happens quicker. And then I think we've done a good job with the low three [of] someone jumping by and then we can create a little bit more space off the rush and we don't have to chip it in. We can enter clean, make some plays and I think the guys are doing very well."

Patrick Kane, who has erupted for seven points (four goals, three assists) in the past three games since the change, sees the change opening up more opportunities for the Blackhawks on offense.

"I think a lot of us probably stressed that there wasn't as much flow to it, for whatever reason that was," Kane said. "They made a change and all of a sudden it seems like we have more options coming out of our end, we have more motion, more speed coming out of our end, which is always a good thing."

The Blackhawks' dump-in rate, as Colliton noted, has been much higher this season and it’s noteworthy because they generated a lot of their offense off the rush last season from mid-December and on. But what we didn’t know was the exact reason why the Blackhawks altered the way they entered the offensive zone.

Aside from the obvious answer of cutting down on neutral zone turnovers and limiting the amount of odd-man rushes against, Colliton notes the Blackhawks were forced to dump it in more because they weren’t entering the zone with numbers. The defensive scheme didn’t really allow them to.

But with the recent fundamental change, the Blackhawks have more options to exit their own zone cleanly, pick up speed through the neutral zone and do what they do best: by carrying the puck in and having more freedom to create offense. It’s something the coaching staff and players discussed with each other, and the consensus is it will maximize the talent of this group.

"We kind of felt it was time," Colliton said. "I mean, we're always talking with them for sure and guys, they want to score more. They want to produce, guys want to make plays. And so we're just trying to find the balance. We want to continue to work on being good defensively, but we've got to score more than them. I think we can still hold onto those defensive gains we've made and score more goals."

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