Montreal Canadiens

Four takeaways: Corey Crawford steals the show in hometown of Montreal as Blackhawks win fifth straight

Four takeaways: Corey Crawford steals the show in hometown of Montreal as Blackhawks win fifth straight

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Saturday:

1. Hometown kid steals the show

Going into Saturday, Corey Crawford had an 8-2-2 record with a 1.67 goals against average, .949 save percentage and one shutout in 12 starts against the Canadiens. He also was 4-0-2 with a 1.32 goals against average and .964 save percentage in his hometown of Montreal.

Somehow, those numbers improved.

On a night where Carey Price was honored for becoming the Canadiens' all-time winningest goaltender (315), it was the hometown kid that stole the show. Crawford stopped all 48 shots he faced — 20 of which were from high-danger areas — for his second shutout of the season, and tied Dave Dryden for the most saves (48) in a shutout performance in Blackhawks history when he did so on Feb. 15, 1969.

It's the fourth consecutive contest Crawford has given up only one goal or fewer — although he left after two periods in Toronto because of an illness. He's stopped 115 of 118 shots for a save percentage of .975 over that span. 

2. Blackhawks silence one of NHL's top lines

The line of Phillip Danault, Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Tatar is one of the most productive in hockey.

When the three of them are on the ice together at 5-on-5 this season, the Canadiens control 62.7 percent of the shot attempts, 62.2 percent of the scoring chances and have a plus-19 goal differential, according to naturalstattrick.com. When they're not on the ice, the Canadiens control 52.3 percent of the shot attempts, 50.8 percent of the scoring chances and have a minus-2 goal differential.

On Saturday, that trio was on the ice for 10:39 of 5-on-5 time and controlled only 42.3 percent of the shot attempts and 36.4 percent of the scoring chances. They largely went up against the Blackhawks' first line of Brandon Saad, Dylan Sikura and Jonathan Toews, who generated 10 scoring chances for and two against. They set the tone.

3. Hot March continues for pair of Blackhawks

After being benched for four straight games, Brendan Perlini has bounced back in an enormous way. He scored a goal for the third straight contest, has eight goals in seven games this month and seven points (five goals, two assists) in his past three games. This wasn't even one of his stronger games, but he found a way to make an impact. And that's what the Blackhawks have been preaching.

Connor Murphy has also had a strong month of March. He scored his second goal in seven games, has a plus-5 rating over that span and has points in three of his last four. His goal against Montreal turned out to be the game winner, which was fitting on a day Chicago celebrated St. Patrick's Day.

4. Dylan Sikura knocking on the door

Sikura played in his 30th career NHL game on Saturday. He's still looking for his first goal. But when coach Jeremy Colliton shows him the tape of this game, he's going to be smiling from ear to ear. And so should Sikura.

The 23-year-old winger easily had his best game in a Blackhawks sweater, recording six shot attempts (four on goal), one takeaway, and was the only player with positive possession metrics for the Blackhawks. He was on the ice for 13 scoring chances for and only five against during 11:33 of 5-on-5 time. Six of those 13 scoring chances came from high-danger areas. He even hit a crossbar. 

If Sikura carries over this performance to Monday and beyond, he's bound to break through sooner than later.

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Four takeaways: Blackhawks power play can't crack Carey Price in third period

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USA TODAY

Four takeaways: Blackhawks power play can't crack Carey Price in third period

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at United Center on Sunday:

1. The second goal is more important than the first

For the 10th straight game, the Blackhawks have given up the first goal. What's become a more concerning trend, however, is how quickly they're allowing the second.

Of those 10 games, the Blackhawks have allowed at least two first-period goals in nine of them. That's way too many. On Sunday, the Canadiens scored two goals in 1:31 to put themselves ahead 2-0 and the Blackhawks again found themselves chasing the game.

"For whatever reason the last few games, teams probably sense that we're a little vulnerable and they come out really hard," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We need to match and exceed that intensity. If it means playing 25-30 seconds like it's the last minute of the game, that's what we got to do."

2. Eight power plays

The Blackhawks had a season-high eight power play opportunities against the Canadiens, who came in ranked 20th with a 78.3 percent kill rate. The Blackhawks capitalized on one of them, when Patrick Kane scored in the final minute of the first period to make it 2-1. 

But they had exactly 10 minutes of 5-on-4 time in the third period and came up empty on each of them, despite recording a combined 12 shots on goal during those five man advantages. The game was there for the taking, but Carey Price came up large and the Blackhawks couldn't make him crack.

The Canadiens eventually scored with 1:17 left in regulation to hand the Blackhawks their seventh consecutive defeat, and it's not hard to look at those missed five power-play opportunities as a reason why they couldn't come up with at least a point.

"I don’t know if we could’ve done much more, to be honest with you," Kane said. "We moved it around well, we had good motion, we had good shots. They did a good job of blocking them, could’ve been a bounce either way. I thought the power play was pretty good tonight even if you look at the numbers and we’ve only got one goal on so many opportunities."

3. Patrick Kane breaks out

In the first 11 games of the season, Kane had just as many goals. He was among the league leaders in that category at the end of October.

Since then, he's been on a dry spell as he entered with only two goals in his previous 18 games. Kane broke out of that by scoring twice, including a power-play goal to put him at a team-leading 15 for the season.

The Blackhawks are 7-3-1 when he scores a goal, so it's important for Kane to build on that production.

"It’s always nice to produce," Kane said. "It’s been a while for me here lately. I could kind of feel it coming the last couple games. It’s nice to get on the score sheet. Would’ve been nice to get another one there in the third or get something, especially on the power play. But it didn’t happen."

4. Connor Murphy's return

The Blackhawks could use all the help they could get on the back end. And with Gustav Forsling out because of a shoulder injury, Murphy's return came at a good time.

In his season debut, he had five shot attempts (four on goal), three hits and a takeaway in 16:46 of ice time. He committed a high-sticking penalty in the third period, but also drew one that led to a power play opportunity. 

"Physically, I felt good," Murphy said. "It was nice to get into a normal rhythm at the start of the game. Just getting into the flow of it was good. It was nice to have a home game. I felt like the guys were skating pretty well tonight and didn't have too much time defending, which is always nice to play a little more offense. So that part of it was good."

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Five takeaways from Blackhawks-Canadiens: Shutout streak snapped

Five takeaways from Blackhawks-Canadiens: Shutout streak snapped

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 2-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday night.

1. Good show, Charlie.

Montreal goaltender Charlie Lindgren was making just his fourth career NHL start on Sunday but he looked like he’s been here a while, stopping 38 for his fourth NHL victory and first career NHL shutout. Could the Blackhawks have made life harder on him? Sure. But full marks for his work nonetheless. And as one goaltender celebrates a shutout…

2. Corey Crawford’s streak ends.

Crawford has been outstanding lately but he finally gave up a goal for the first time since the third period against Colorado on Oct. 28. Crawford got more work as the night wore on, stopping 33 of 35 shots. But Jonathan Drouin got through early in the third period, snapping Crawford’s shutout streak at 173 minutes, nine seconds.

3. Captain’s chances.

Jonathan Toews had several good scoring opportunities on Sunday but came up empty. Lindgren thwarted him early and there were a few near misses (he hit the post not long after the Blackhawks’ power play early in the second period). Toews was all around the net against the Canadiens but couldn’t get one past Lindgren.

4. More line changes coming?

The Blackhawks tinkered with a few more combinations late Sunday night but to no avail. Guess what they’ll likely do when they reconvene for practice on Tuesday. “We probably went longer than we would’ve liked without production, so we’ll look at it again,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “But if you don’t like the results or the production end of it, we’ll look to try something else.”

5. Time to worry?

The Blackhawks have rarely been concerned about 5-on-5 scoring because they’ve always had plenty of it. Can’t say that right now. Nothing is working, and the Blackhawks have to come up with answers – and goals – fast.