Arizona Coyotes

Four takeaways: Blackhawks playoff hopes all but over after loss to Coyotes

Four takeaways: Blackhawks playoff hopes all but over after loss to Coyotes

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 1-0 loss to the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on Tuesday:

1. Dagger?

The Blackhawks had three critical matchups this past week: at Colorado, vs. Colorado and at Arizona. They needed to pick up at least four points to legitimately stay in the playoff hunt because both of those teams were ahead of them in the standings. Instead, they earned only two and allowed the Avalanche and Coyotes to combine for five of six points.

With the regulation loss, the Blackhawks went to bed on Tuesday five points out of the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference with six games remaining and three teams to jump. Their postseason hopes are all but over at this point.

2. Running out of gas

For the sixth straight game, the Blackhawks scored two goals or fewer. They've found the back of the net just nine times over that span and were shut out for the first time since Nov. 10 and third this season. While secondary scoring has been a challenge for most of the year, it's the horses that haven't gotten it done as of late.

Patrick Kane has been held off the scoresheet in seven of his past 14 games after recording at least a point in 20 straight and has one goal in his last 12 games. Alex DeBrincat has two goals in his past 12 games and is on a five-game point drought, which is now the longest of his NHL career. Dylan Strome is also pointless in five straight and goalless in 10 straight.

It starts and ends with the Blackhawks' top players. But to be fair, they carried a huge load all season long and it appears they've simply run out of gas down the stretch. All those heavy minutes add up, and when you're in a must-win situation for the final month, it's taxing both mentally and physically. This is why having depth is so important.

3. Penalty kill reaching all-time bad level

The Blackhawks' power play is in a nasty drought after it was scorching for months. We know that. But all season long the team hasn't been able to put together a strong stretch on the penalty kill, and it can't go unnoticed even during a time where lack of scoring is the focal point.

After giving up another power play goal, the Blackhawks' penalty kill percentage dropped to 73.1. If that number holds, it would be the worst percentage since 1988-89 when the Toronto Maple Leafs had a 72.7 percent kill rate. That was 30 years ago.

The Blackhawks' power play has bailed out the defensive struggles countless times this season. The same can't be said for the penalty kill. There needs to be a reciprocation when one isn't clicking, and it's been far too one-sided this season.

4. A low-risk game

In the first meeting on Oct. 18, the Blackhawks and Coyotes combined for five goals, 65 scoring chances and 28 high-danger chances, according to naturalstattrick.com. In the second on March 11 they combined for eight goals (the Blackhawks had seven of them), 41 scoring chances and 21 high-danger chances.

In the third? They combined for one goal, 42 scoring chances and 19 high-danger chances. But 24 of the 42 scoring chances and 13 of the 19 high-danger chances came in the third period. It was clearly a defensive battle between two teams that were focused on not giving up much and not making mistakes. Once the Coyotes scored, the game finally opened up. It must be close to playoff time.

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Four takeaways: Blackhawks keep playoff hopes alive with offensive explosion

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AP

Four takeaways: Blackhawks keep playoff hopes alive with offensive explosion

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 7-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center on Monday:

1. A complete victory

All season long the Blackhawks have preached playing a full 60 minutes. They'll often go through stretches where they look great, but somewhere in between there's usually a time where their play tails off and the complete effort isn't there. That wasn't the case on Monday.

From top to bottom, the Blackhawks played one their most complete games of the season and it came at a time where their backs are against the wall. They led in shot attempts (50-39), shots on goal (34-25), 5-on-5 scoring chances (25-10) and 5-on-5 high danger chances (14-4), according to naturalstattrick.com

"We haven’t been great at home as of late, so for us to be able to buckle down again and score some goals, I know everyone’s feeling good about ourselves," Brandon Saad said. "We’ve got a tough road trip and we look forward to the challenge ahead of us."

2. Brendan Perlini and a four-line rotation

The Blackhawks shook up their lines after they returned to Chicago from a three-game West Coast trip because they weren't satisfied with the balance they were getting. But Monday was exactly what they were looking for, and easily their best four-line rotation of the season.

All 12 forwards got on the scoresheet except for Dylan Sikura, who's still looking for his first NHL goal — although he did feed Jonathan Toews a stretch pass that led to his penalty shot goal. Perlini led the way with his first career NHL hat trick against his former team for his sixth goal in five games while Chris Kunitz, Patrick Kane, Saad and Toews each found the back of the net. All four lines scored, so there's not much more you can ask for.

"It’s obviously great," Perlini said. "I just wanted to get the win in general, but to do that was awesome. I’ll never forget that one. ... I had enough breakaways. God. And then I wait until the last second to do it. I think just keeping the fans on the edge of their seat."

3. Defense shuts it down again

Going into Saturday, the Blackhawks hadn't allowed one goal or fewer since Dec. 21. Two days later and they've done it in back-to-back games.

The Blackhawks gave up only 25 shots on goal, which is tied for their second-fewest of the season. And you could make a case it should've been a shutout with Arizona's lone goal assisted by the referee after a pass along the boards fell right into the lap of the Coyotes.

"I think we’re doing a much better job of sorting defensively," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "There’s much less scrambly, we’re patient, protect the middle of the ice, get pressure on the puck and then we’re out and creating offense off that. Hopefully we can continue."

Corey Crawford was solid again, although he didn't have to make many high quality saves. He's now stopped 50 of 52 shots in his past two contests for a save percentage of .962. 

"He’s our anchor," Saad said. "He’s incredible. He comes back, doesn’t miss a beat, creating offense out there, too. It’s pretty good to have him back. He’s been great and I know we all feel confident with him in the net."

4. Making history

The Blackhawks made history on Monday. For the first time since the 2000-01 season when Tony Amonte, Eric Daze and Steve Sullivan accomplished the feat, they have three 30-goal scorers in one season: Kane (41), DeBrincat (37) and Toews (30). The Blackhawks didn't have a single 30-goal scorer last season, with DeBrincat leading the way at 28 goals.

With 13 games to go, it's possible for the Blackhawks to get to four 30-goal scorers. Saad tallied his 22nd goal of the season and is eight away from hitting that mark. His career high is 31, set during the 2015-16 season in Columbus.

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Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 6-1 loss to Coyotes: Time to tank?

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 6-1 loss to Coyotes: Time to tank?

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on Monday night:

1. Slow start dooms Blackhawks again.

The Blackhawks got off to a slow start and it set the tone for the remainder of the contest for the second straight game.

The Coyotes recorded the first four shots on goal through four-plus minutes, and scored on their second one when Max Domi redirected a shot from the point to put his team in front 1-0. Less than eight minutes later, Clayton Keller capitalized on a Jordan Oesterle turnover and made it 2-0.

The Blackhawks ended up finishing the period by registering 10 of the next 16 shots, but they weren't able to convert on any of their 11 scoring chances.

2. Alex DeBrincat continues strong rookie campaign.

Joel Quenneville moved DeBrincat away from the top line, putting him on the third with Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels. Not exactly the kind of skilled forwards he's used to playing with.

But he still found a way to make an impact on the scoresheet after scoring his 20th goal of the season on the power play, assisted by new linemate Bouma and Jonathan Toews.

DeBrincat became the third rookie this season to hit the 20-goal mark, joining Yanni Gourde (21) and Brock Boeser (26). He's also the first rookie aged 19 or younger when the season started to reach that feat since Toews and Patrick Kane did it in 2007-08, according to NBC Sports Chicago's stats guru Chris Kamka.

DeBrincat finished with 17 shot attempts and tied a season-high with seven of them on goal in 14:36 of ice time.

3. Rough outing for Anton Forsberg.

On Saturday, it was Jeff Glass who allowed three goals on 19 shots for an .842 save percentage against Minnesota. Forsberg wasn't much better in this one, giving up three goals on 13 shots (.769 save percentage).

And the third goal was hard to swallow. 

Alex Goligoski fired a 34-foot wrist shot from a bad angle outside the faceoff circle and it found a way to sneak past Forsberg, who would certainly have liked to have that one back.

That signaled the end of Forsberg's night, with Glass recording three saves on nine shots (.667 save percentage) in his relief appearance. It hasn't been a great goaltending showing in the last two games for the Blackhawks. Wonder who will get the start in Vegas.

4. Bouma, Wingels being showcased?

The Blackhawks clearly won't be buyers at the trade deadline, as confirmed by GM Stan Bowman to NBC Sports Chicago, but as the season continues to slip away at a rapid rate — if it hasn't already — they certainly will start either shopping or listening to offers on some of their unrestricted free agents. They have to.

Bouma and Wingels fall into that category as potential depth players for a contending team, and it sure felt like they were awarded some ice time to help showcase their talents and what they could bring to the table.

Each of them saw significant time on the power play (Wingels at 4:14, Bouma at 3:48), with Bouma getting a secondary assist on DeBrincat's goal. You could argue they were on the units to provide net-front presence, but it wouldn't have taken this long to give them a look there if it was just that.

5. Should the Blackhawks shut down Corey Crawford?

For the first time since being placed on injured reserve Dec. 27, Crawford met with the media in Arizona after practicing with the team at morning skate in another positive step in his recovery. There's no timetable for his return yet, but he's making progress and the Blackhawks are hopeful he could return perhaps by next week.

With their playoff chances falling to 1.3 percent though following their sixth straight loss, should they just shut him down for the rest of the season? 

If he's 100 percent healthy to come back and the Blackhawks want to use the final month and a half or so to evaluate their team as a whole with their two-time Stanley Cup-winning goaltender anchoring the crease going into an important offseason, let him play. But if the motivation is to get him back just to salvage whatever's left of their playoff hopes, the Blackhawks should consider sitting him and allow him to regroup physically and mentally for the 2018-19 season.

For what it's worth, Quenneville told reporters there hasn't been any discussion pertaining to that possibility so it doesn't appear to be in the plans, unless their mindset changes as the losses continue to quickly pile up.