Patrick Kane

Four takeaways: Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews put on show as Blackhawks snap losing streak

Four takeaways: Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews put on show as Blackhawks snap losing streak

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 8-5 win over the Washington Capitals at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Dueling five-point games by 19 and 88

When you play the defending Stanley Cup champions, your top guys need to play like it. And the Blackhawks' did just that.

Reunited on the top line as the nuclear option, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews each registsered five-point outings, with Kane having two goals and three assists and Toews netting a hat trick and two assists. 

Toews also became the third active player to score at least 20 goals in his first 12 NHL seasons, joining Kane and Alex Ovechkin.

"We can play together for a long time and might not always get games like that, obviously," Toews said. "I think today the chances that we did get we converted and he was doing a good job in his own end chipping pucks out and their D men really pressuring, so we got some odd-man rushes. Drake [Caggiula] did a great job of going to the net and creating space. The two of us, Drake and I, know that it's kind of our game to go play puck possession and try to give it to Kaner when he has time and space. It was nice to see a bunch go in for us."

2. A whacky first period

We hope you didn't oversleep because there was a whole lot of action from the moment the puck dropped during NBC's Game of the Week.

The Blackhawks and Capitals combined for four goals in the first period, three of which were credited to Chicago but one that received a major assist from Washington after Dmitri Orlov swatted the puck into his own net. There was even a disallowed goal in there with Chris Kunitz scoring from underneath the net when the moorings were off, but it was reviewed and waved off.

The Blackhawks had three goals on five shots at one point for a shooting percentage of 60, and took a 3-1 lead into first intermission. The Capitals finished with one goal on 15 shots in the opening frame.

"It was a fun game," Kane said. "Kind of like a playoff-type atmosphere, playoff-type game. It was back and forth, it seemed like no matter how big our lead, we couldn't make it big enough to feel comfortable. Overall I think it was a good win for us."

3. A crazier second period

The first period was highly entertaining. But that was just a warm-up to what the second period offered. Because things got chippy.

Kane and Ovechkin were seen jawing at each other near center ice, which led to an exchange shortly after. Kane whacked Ovechkin, who responded by shoving Kane's helmet off. It eventually led to a larger scrum at the end of the shift, with Connor Murphy and Ovechkin getting penalized for roughing.

Less than one minute later, Tom Wilson laid a hit on Duncan Keith, which prompted longtime partner Brent Seabrook to come to his defense. That's when things went off the rails. Four penalties were assessed on the play, and each of them fell under a different category: roughing, unsportsmanlike conduct, hooking and slashing. At one point the Blackhawks had four skaters in the box before it was determined that Seabrook was not part of it.

In total, seven penalties were assessed in the second period and six of them came within a 39-second span. It had an old-time hockey feel to it.

"Yeah, there was a lot happening," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "But I think there was a lot happening the whole game, it just wasn't wasn't the second period. That third period pucks were going in the net like crazy also. Entertaining game. Hopefully the fans got their money's worth, but they still get to get home at a decent time."

4. Save of the Year?

Collin Delia was solid for the Blackhawks. He gave up a few goals from low-danger areas that he certainly would've loved to have back, but he made up for that by making the big stops from high-danger areas and at key times.

Most notably, Delia provided hockey fans with the potential Save of the Year candidate when he made an acrobatic stop on Wilson, which drew a standing ovation from the United Center crowd:

"Just trying to get something in front of the net, keep the puck out of the net at whatever cost," Delia said. "Just trying to fill space, quite honestly. I think it was a shot, guy wrapped it and I thought he was going to try to tuck it, so I just made a desperation [save] and then I had to somehow get to my feet or get to my knees again to seal the bottom of the ice."

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How Blackhawks power play went from dead last to NHL’s hottest

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AP

How Blackhawks power play went from dead last to NHL’s hottest

When Jeremy Colliton took over as head coach of the Blackhawks, one of his top priorities was fixing the power play. In fact, for the first chunk of home games, he would trot his team out 15 minutes early ahead of morning skate to work on it.

It took a while, but the results have finally come. And they're producing at a remarkable rate.

In the first 35 games of the season, the Blackhawks were 12-for-105 on the power play for a conversion rate of 11.4 percent. In the past 12 games, they are 13-for-36 for a success rate of 36.4 percent. No team has a better percentage since Dec. 18 than the Blackhawks, a span of nearly a month. 

"We've been together for awhile, so I think that's kind of the nice part about it," Patrick Kane said following a 2-for-4 effort against the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday. "We know each other's positions. We know where we're going to be when we're in trouble. I think the guys did a really good job of moving the puck around quick tonight. Break-ins are solid and you end up going 2-for-4. It's been a confident part of our game lately."

The Blackhawks have been so hot that they've gone from dead-last in the NHL to middle of the pack in less than a month.

How have they done this? It's a combination of reasons.

"We gained our confidence on there," Dylan Strome said. "We've had this unit now for maybe 10 games or nine games. We're feeling good, obviously. We're getting pucks back, [Jonathan Toews] is doing a great job winning faceoffs. [I] try to do the best I can to screen the goalie. [Erik Gustafsson] is really good up there, a threat to shoot always with a bomb of a shot, but very deceptive where he can pass to [Patrick Kane] or [Alex DeBrincat]. And obviously when you can have a guy like [Kane] on the power play, so deceptive, you think he's going to shoot and then he passes to [DeBrincat] and then [DeBrincat] does what he does and puts it in the net, so we've got a good thing going. Our work ethic is definitely a big reason why we're doing so well."

The Kane to DeBrincat connection has been lethal. They've gotten together for a one-time goal in each of the past four games, and they're giving opposing goalies nightmares. Gustafsson has been a difference-maker running the point. Consistency in the units is always a positive.

The Blackhawks have generated 39 scoring chances on the power play in their last 12 games, which ranks 21st over the stretch that started on Dec. 18, according to naturalstattrick.com. But their shooting percentage on those chances is 25.0, which ranks second. Everything is going in for them.

Having experienced a lengthy drought and now a ridiculous hot streak, the Blackhawks know they have to keep their foot on the gas pedal and continue to build on that success or else it can turn the other way in a hurry, particularly their confidence.

"Yeah, it's been clicking," DeBrincat said. "But it can go away just like that, too. We just got to try to keep it rolling and keep the power play going."

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Patrick Kane selected as lone Blackhawks representative for 2019 All-Star Game

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USA TODAY

Patrick Kane selected as lone Blackhawks representative for 2019 All-Star Game

Patrick Kane has been selected to the Central Division's All-Star team and will be the lone Blackhawks representative when the NHL's top stars collide on Jan. 26 in San Jose. It's his fifth consecutive appearance and eighth of his career.

In 41 games this season, Kane has 50 points (22 goals, 28 assists) and is on pace to crack the 100-point mark for the second time in his NHL career. His personal best is 106 points set in 2015-16 when he won the Art Ross Trophy as the league's top scorer and Hart Trophy as MVP.

Kane is coming off a week in which he was named the NHL's first star by recording back-to-back three-point outings, including his fifth career regular-season hat trick.

"He's been dynamite, really all year," Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman said. "I don't think he's gone more than a game or two without scoring, and obviously he's really ramped it up the last 5-10 games. He just keeps pushing it, and when I say that, he seems to add a new dimension to his game year after year. I guess that's what makes him such a special player.

"You look around the league and you look at the elite players, they seem to find a way to kind of take their game up a level. And as great as they are, they come back the next year and they add a new wrinkle to their game. I think in Patrick's case, he's a creative player offensively, he makes plays, he scores goals, he finds ways no matter who he's playing with, no matter what line he's on, who he's playing against, and he's just a treat to watch."

Here's the full Central Division lineup:

— Forward Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado (captain)
— Forward Ryan O'Reilly, St. Louis
— Forward Mikko Rantanen, Colorado
— Forward Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg
— Forward Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg
— Defenseman Miro Heiskanen, Dallas
— Defenseman Roman Josi, Nashville
— Goaltender Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota
— Goaltender Pekka Rinne, Nashville

For the fourth straight year, the NHL All-Star Game will use a 3-on-3 format where the two divisions in each conference go head-to-head in a single-elimination tournament and the winner of each game square off in the championship.

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