Four takeaways: Blackhawks penalty kill 'excellent' in overtime win over Blue Jackets

Four takeaways: Blackhawks penalty kill 'excellent' in overtime win over Blue Jackets

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at the United Center on Friday:

1. Blackhawks stringing together points

The Blackhawks turned in their best 60-minute effort of the season on Monday and they wanted to build on that performance after a three-day layoff. The start was slow against Columbus, but the finish was strong and it ended on a Jonathan Toews overtime goal.

After starting the season with back-to-back losses in regulation, the Blackhawks have picked up five out of a possible six points in their past three games. They're starting to climb in the standings.

"That's a hard-working team," Toews said. "They've got some skill, they played well as a team and they didn't give us much room out there. It's probably not our best start, there's a lot of things that we know we can do better, but for us to hang in there and tie things up, give ourselves a chance in overtime, get the crowd into it, you've got to find ways to win those games, can't let them slip, so it's nice to get two points."

2. Penalty kill 'excellent'

The Blue Jackets came into the game with a bottom-third-ranked special teams, converting on 17.8 percent of their power plays and killing off 73.7 percent of their penalties. This was an area the Blackhawks could exploit, and they did.

The Blackhawks went 1-for-4 on the power play thanks to an Alex DeBrincat goal, but it was the penalty kill that allowed the team to be in it till the very end. The Blackhawks killed off all four penalties, including a crucial one late in the third period to keep the game knotted up at 2-2.

"I thought the penalty kill was excellent," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We were really good. At any point, if they score and they had multiple chances, it really changes the game. It allowed our power play, in the end, to come through and make a difference for us. That was big, and I thought they were full value for not getting scored on, too. We didn’t give up much. Just as likely to score going the other way."

3. Coming out on top in the first period 

The Blackhawks were outplayed in the first period, which hasn't usually been the case this season. The Blue Jackets led in every statistically category except the one that matters the most and that's the scoreboard. It easily could've gone the other way.

But the Blackhawks survived when they weren't at their best, and Drake Caggiula opened the scoring with a beautiful shot at the 15:35 mark of the opening frame. It's the fourth straight game the Blackhawks have scored first.

"Didn’t love our first period," Colliton said. "I think we were fortunate to be in the lead. I did like our response in the second. Even though they tied it up I thought we played much better in the second period. And after that, I thought we were reasonably solid. ... It wasn’t perfect but it’s also a positive that we found a way to win anyway."

4. Robin Lehner turns in another strong effort

The Blackhawks don't get out of the first period with the lead without Lehner, who finished with 37 saves on 39 shots for a save percentage of .949. He stopped all 13 shots in the first 20 minutes, a majority of which were high quality.

The first goal to Pierre-Luc Dubois, Lehner committed to the poke-check but then got caught too far out of the net. Otherwise, he was strong between the pipes for the Blackhawks.

"I felt really good," Lehner said. "Feel like I see the puck well but the first two games I've played I've also made some mistakes and the good thing those mistakes are pretty easy to clean up. So I felt like the first goal is unacceptable but I made up for it. So just got to go and keep trying to get better.

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Instant reaction: Jonathan Toews lifts Blackhawks past Blue Jackets in overtime

Instant reaction: Jonathan Toews lifts Blackhawks past Blue Jackets in overtime

FINAL SCORE:

Blackhawks 3, Blue Jackets 2 (OT)

Snap judgments:

—  The Blackhawks didn't play their best, but they'll take it. Jonathan Toews scored the overtime winner for his first goal of the season after the puck hit off his leg from a Patrick Kane shot.

— The Blue Jackets were the better team in the first period. They led in shot attempts (22-17), shots on goal (13-10), scoring chances at even strength (11-5) and high-danger chances at even strength (3-2), according to Natural Stat Trick. But it was the Blackhawks who left the opening frame with a 1-0 lead.

— The Blackhawks took some uncharacteristic penalties. Andrew Shaw committed two of them, the second of which came in the offensive zone when he was whistled for interference. And then Robin Lehner got penalized for tripping late in the second period. 

— Fortunately for the Blackhawks, their penalty kill was terrific. They went 4-for-4 and killed off a crucial late third-period penalty to keep the game tied at 2-2. Lehner stopped all seven shots he faced with the man advantage.

Three stars:

1. Blackhawks C Jonathan Toews — Overtime goal, three shots on goal in 22:06 of ice time

2. Blackhawks G Robin Lehner — Stopped 37 of 39 shots for a save percentage of .949

3. Blackhawks RW Alex DeBrincat — One goal, one assist, four shot attempts (two on goal) in 17:13 of ice time

Must-see highlights:

—  Toews overtime winner 

— Caggiula goes top shelf

— DeBrincat buries power-play goal 

What's next:

The Blackhawks host the Washington Capitals on Sunday, Oct. 20 at 6 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago.

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Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to Blue Jackets: Looking at the bigger picture

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to Blue Jackets: Looking at the bigger picture

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday night:

1. Blackhawks squander two leads.

For the 13th time in their past 16 games, the Blackhawks scored the first goal of the game. They had won their previous three instances when doing so, but couldn't seal the deal this time and fell to 5-6-2 in those 13 games.

What strung even more is that the Blackhawks held two one-goal leads and couldn't hang on to either of them. They have the seventh-worst win percentage (.571) when scoring the first goal this season with a 20-10-5 record.

2. Vinnie Hinostroza continues to produce offensively.

If you're trying to look for a rare bright spot on the Blackhawks roster this season, here's one. Hinostroza registered a secondary assist on David Kampf's goal for his fifth point in six games, and was on the ice for 16 shot attempts for and seven against during 5-on-5 play for a team-leading shot attempt differential of plus-9 (also known as Corsi).

For the season, Hinostroza has 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 32 games and he's doing so while averaging only 13:27 of ice time. His point-per-game average is up to 0.63, which is tied with Jonathan Toews for third on the team; only Patrick Kane (0.92) and Nick Schmaltz (0.71) are producing at a higher rate.

Hinostroza deserves more minutes, but at the same time his ability to produce on any of the four lines has allowed Joel Quenneville to put him in a bottom six role for balance.

"I like his speed," Quenneville said recently on why Hinostroza has been so effective. "I think with the puck, he's been good with it as well. More strength, on it, managing it, better decisions with it, and good plays off it. He definitely brings you energy and some speed, he can catch people with that quickness."

3. Ryan Hartman's benching.

Hartman was part of the fourth line that contributed to the Blackhawks' first goal of the game, and he was on his way to having a strong one. But that changed quickly after he took an ill-advised penalty in the first period.

Already leading 1-0, the Blackhawks had a 2-on-1 opportunity developing involving Hinostroza and David Kampf but Hartman was whistled for high-sticking at 17:06 behind the play. The Blue Jackets converted on the power play, and that was the end of Hartman's night.

He took only five shifts and finished with a season-low 4:16 of ice time, with Quenneville using it as an opportunity for a teaching moment.

4. Tomas Jurco building confidence back up.

It's been a tough season mentally for Jurco. He started the season with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs after failing to make the team out of camp, and compiled 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 36 games. 

It earned him a call-up on Jan. 8, with Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman praising the way he progressed: "He looks like he's totally different, in terms of his composure and ability to make plays. That's why we brought him up here."

The problem? He was a healthy scratch for five straight games and went two weeks without seeing game action with the Blackhawks. Not exactly the best way to keep someone's confidence building. And since then, he's been fighting for a spot in the lineup.

For the last three games, Jurco has been given a shot on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane and he cashed in for his first goal of the season tonight and first since March 27, 2017. It's also the second straight game he's recorded a point.

While he may not be worth much if the Blackhawks were to deal him ahead of Monday's deadline, perhaps a change of scenery to a team that believes in him as a fit will bring out the best of his abilities. The Blackhawks tried and it just hasn't worked out.

5. Blue line observation.

This is more of a big-picture takeaway, but the Blackhawks have gotten only 20 goals from their defensemen this season. The Blue Jackets have gotten a combined 19 from just Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. Last season the Blackhawks had 30 total.

The Blackhawks just haven't gotten the offensive production needed from their back end and it's so important as it helps alleviate some of the pressure off the forwards.

I asked Quenneville about this after Friday's game and here's what he had to say: "Whether you score or not, you need the D to be part of your attack, be it off the rush, in zone. But I think the whole game, the whole league is four-man rush game, five-man attacks, coming at you, night-in, night-out, wave after wave.

"But you need to get your D involved in your support on the attack and you need them on the offensive zone off the point. You need some shooters on the back end that can get them through as well. I think offensive production from the back end in today’s game really enhances your offense and your possession game."