Buffalo Sabres

Four takeaways: Kirby Dach lifts Blackhawks to fourth straight win

kirby_dach_ap.jpg
AP

Four takeaways: Kirby Dach lifts Blackhawks to fourth straight win

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Blackhawks keep rolling

The Blackhawks were coming off their biggest win of the season, a 7-2 rout against the Predators just 24 hours ago in Nashville. And they followed that up with a strong 60-minute effort against the Sabres, who started out the season 8-1-1 but are since 1-6-2.

The Blackhawks have scored the first two goals in five of the past six games, and 21 goals during their four-game winning streak. They also improved to 4-0-0 on the second leg of a back-to-back this season.

"It’s nice to get on a little bit of a run here," Patrick Kane said. "It’s something we’ve been waiting for all season. We play pretty well in these back-to-backs so nice to put a little stretch together and feel good about our game. Obviously we’re getting production from all over the lineup right now and I think that’s key if you’re going to go on some winning stretches."

2. Corey Crawford stays hot

The Blackhawks are getting elite goaltending from Crawford and Lehner this season, especially as of late. Crawford came into the matchup with a 10-0-0 record, 2.04 goals-against average and .924 save percentage against the Sabres.

He improved those numbers on Sunday, turning aside 33 of 34 shots for a save percentage of .971. He is now 3-0-2 in his past five starts after starting the season 1-4-0.

"I thought we played great defensively," Crawford said. "Even after playing last night, we really didn’t give up that much, I thought. And then got a lot more goals, too. That seems to be rolling for us right now."

3. Kirby Dach extends point streak

After recording only one point in his previous seven games, the Blackhawks' top prospect is starting to heat up. He scored twice on Sunday night to tally his fourth goal in as many games and fifth of his NHL career. He also finished with four shots on goal.

With the goal, Dach extended his career-high point streak to four games. He has four goals and two assists over that span, and is up to nine points (five goals, four assists) in 14 games on the season.

Dach is the third 18-year-old in Blackhawks history to record a multi-goal game (regular season or playoffs), joining Eddie Olczyk (two goals vs. Detroit on April 10, 1985) and Patrick Kane (two goals vs. Columbus on Oct. 23, 2007). And he really tried completing the hat trick on his final shift with the help of Kane."

“I obviously wanted it pretty bad," Dach said. "Kaner gave me a couple of nice chances and I might owe him a steak dinner for missing those ones.”

4. Henri Jokiharju returns to Chicago

For the first time since being traded to the Sabres, Jokiharju returned to the United Center and did so as a member of the visitors. In fact, on his way into the arena he briefly got lost trying to find the changing room.

The Jokiharju trade was a controversial one because he was one of the Blackhawks' best defensemen last season, especially at the beginning of the season, and was traded for Alex Nylander, who was viewed as a reclamation project.

Jokiharju led the Blackhawks in even-strength ice time in his first 15 games under Joel Quenneville. But after the coaching change, Jokiharju's ice time averaged slipped and he was eventually sent to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

"I think it's a little bit how the coach see you as a player and as a person," Jokiharju said. "I think that was one of the issues in here."

Whether that's true or not, both teams seem to be benefitting from the trade so far. Jokiharju has seven points (two goals, five assists) in 19 games with the Sabres. Nylander has nine points (four goals, five assists) in 18 games.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks live to fight another day with shootout win over Sabres

Four takeaways: Blackhawks live to fight another day with shootout win over Sabres

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-4 shootout win over the Buffalo Sabres at the United Center on Thursday:

1. Live to fight another day

It wasn't pretty. The Blackhawks went up 2-0, then down 3-2, then tied it at 3-3, went back down 4-3 in the third period and eventually tied it back up at 4-4 before sealing the victory in a shootout. But they'll take it.

Every game feels like a do or die at this point, and even though they didn't gain any ground in whatever's left of their playoff race, the Blackhawks are happy that they lived to fight another day.

"Two points for the team, keeps us in it," Patrick Kane said. "We knew it was kind of a must win tonight. We get the two points, we know we can be better and get some confidence going into Dallas."

2. Balance evident under new lines

The Blackhawks rolled out a new set of lines on Thursday. The goal was to even out the ice time and find more balance in the lineup with Drake Caggiula (concussion) out. It's fair to say they got what they were looking for. 

Artem Anisimov scored twice for the first time all season, Brendan Perlini notched his third goal in as many games after scoring only three goals in his first 29 games with the Blackhawks and even Duncan Keith chipped in for his fourth goal of the season to double last year's total. Plus, only one player logged fewer than 10 minutes of ice time and that was John Hayden, who started the game on the first line.

That's the kind of secondary scoring and minutes distribution the Blackhawks have been looking for all season, which helps alleviate the pressure from the top guys.

"I think we did some good things," coach Jeremy Colliton said of the new lines. "I really liked the checking line, [David Kampf's] line. They were great. They went head to head with [Jack] Eichel all night. We looked pretty under control throughout the whole game. I think that's been an issue for us lately playing against top competition. That's been hurting us. If we can get that sorted out then we got the horses on the other lines to come through."

3. Special teams woes

The Blackhawks made it a priority to work on their penalty kill during Wednesday's practice. They're last in the league in that department, and have been for a while now.

But the power play hasn't been as effective as of late. Converting at a 40 percent clip was never going to be sustainable, but the real concern is that they've allowed three shorthanded goals in their last six games and have scored only four while on the power play for a plus-1 differential.

The Blackhawks went 0-for-5 on the power play against the Sabres, and allowed a shorthanded goal. They're in a little bit of a weird rut right now.

"Tonight I just think we were a little bit late to react to get back and then just kind of a sorting situation where there was a little bit of confusion," Colliton said. "And then obviously the guy made a good play but he was there by himself. We were a little bit out of sync tonight on the power play. We still had some good looks, we didn't convert. That was a tough one to give up."

4. Patrick Kane back on track

After being held off the scoresheet in back-to-back games and three of the last four contests, Kane bounced back in a nice way. He registered a pair of assists for his 27th multi-point outing of the season, and surpassed Steve Larmer for fourth on the Blackhawks all-time points list with 924 — only Stan Mikita (1,467), Bobby Hull (1,153) and Denis Savard (1,096) have more.

Kane now has 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists) in 17 career games against his hometown Sabres, six of which have come in their two meetings this season. And it was fitting that it came on a day where he skated in his 888th career NHL game.

"It's special," Kane said of his latest achievement. "Larmer was a great player, probably should be in the Hall of Fame. Obviously had a great career here with the Blackhawks and one of those guys who played the game the right way. To get by him is pretty special. Just keep trucking along here, hopefully rack up some more points as my career goes on. More importantly tonight, you know got the two points to keep us in the race and gets confidence from that."

The pros and cons of reuniting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on Blackhawks top line

toews_kane.jpg
USA TODAY

The pros and cons of reuniting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on Blackhawks top line

Jonathan Toews' offense usually comes in spurts. We're seeing it again right now.

But it's no coincidence his numbers have spiked since Patrick Kane joined him on the top line.

After recording another two points in Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the Blackhawks captain has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in his past eight games; he had 11 points in his previous 23 games total.

Toews also reached the 20-goal mark for the 11th straight season, joining Kane and Alex Ovechkin as the only three active players to accomplish that feat to open their NHL careers.

Kane has seen his offensive production pick up, too. He has 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in his past 13 games after going five straight without one, which was his longest point drought of the season.

When the two of them are on the ice together at even strength, they control 57.9 percent of the shot attempts. It hasn't quite translated on the scoresheet (14 goals for and 17 goals against) maybe the way it should, but they are certainly spending far more time in the offensive zone than the defensive end and are generating a high volume of shots.

So yes, reuniting the dynamic duo has worked stats-wise.

But it comes at a cost:

— Vinnie Hinostroza and Nick Schmaltz haven't scored in six straight contests.

— Alex DeBrincat's season-long goal drought is up to 13 games.

— Artem Anisimov's last even-strength goal came nine games ago.

When you put Kane and Toews together, you risk losing some balance across the lineup and that's why Joel Quenneville has always been reluctant to go to that nuclear option. He prefers when opposing teams are forced to play 'Pick Your Poison.'

Ideally, you'd like to spread out the scoring, but one thing is for certain: The Blackhawks are better when Kane and Toews are each producing offensively, whether they're apart or together. 

When the wins start to dry up though — and they have — that's normally when it's time to try something different.

Perhaps more importantly, the last thing you want are those scoring droughts mentioned above to stretch even further and get inside the younger skaters' heads, then carrying it with them into the offseason.