New York Islanders

NHL 20 sim: Blackhawks battle for playoff lives vs. Islanders

NHL 20 sim: Blackhawks battle for playoff lives vs. Islanders

With the Blackhawks down to their final two games on the would-be NHL schedule, we decided to wrap up their season by simulating the New York swing in NHL 20. The Hawks finish up with two games in the Empire State; first a matchup with the Islanders followed by a showdown with Artemi Panarin’s Rangers.

These games are must-wins as the Blackhawks fight for a playoff berth. How did we get to this point? Here's the scenario: The Hawks surged through mid-March largely due to a heavy home schedule. Chicago defended home ice with a record of 6-1-1 in their last eight games at the United Center, coupled with a 2-0-1 record in their remaining three road games of the month, good for an 8-1-2 record leading up to the final two games of the season. Getting four of four points in their home-and-home against the Minnesota Wild was crucial. 

Despite the late playoff push, the Blackhawks still need all four points in their East Coast visit to potentially earn a wild card spot in a crowded Western Conference. Can they continue their hot streak and vault themselves into the playoffs?

Blackhawks at Islanders (4/2)
 
Result: Blackhawks win 5-2
 
Three Stars:
 
1st Star: Dylan Strome (2 G, 1 A, 6 SOG)
2nd Star: Leo Komarov (2 G)
3rd Star: Brandon Saad (2 G, +1)

The Blackhawks’ big men were key to the win in Brooklyn. Strome and Saad both stepped up with multi-goal performances and were vital to the Blackhawks success on the man-advantage. The Hawks will need both to continue to play important roles on special teams if they want to get into the postseason and make a run.
 
Scoring Summary:
 
1st Period
-       11:01: Leo Komarov (B. Nelson, D. Toews) 1-0
-       13:17: Brandon Saad (A. DeBrincat, A. Boqvist) 1-1
-       14:38 PP Brandon Saad (A. Nylander, D. Strome) 2-1
 
2nd Period
-       9:55 PP Dylan Strome (A. Nylander, D. Keith) 3-1
 
3rd Period
-       5:05 DeBrincat (J. Toews, K. Dach) 4-1
-       12:04 Leo Komarov (M. Martin, J. Boychuk) 4-2
-       19:20 EN Dylan Strome (A. Nylander, P. Kane) 5-2

Box Score:
 
Shots on Goal:
-       Chicago: 37
-       New York: 26

The Blackhawks defense stepped up in a big way limiting the Islanders to just 26 shots on goal. The six Chicago power plays certainly helped swing things in their favor, but limiting shots has been a Blackhawks weakness all season (35.1 shots allowed per game). If Corey Crawford is seeing close to 10 less shots per game than the team average, the Hawks stand a chance against anyone.
 
Goalies:
-       Corey Crawford: 24/26 (.923 SV%)
-       Semyon Varlamov: 32/36 (.888 SV%)

Corey Crawford was consistent in net for the Hawks yet again, as he has been since the deadline day trade of Robin Lehner. The first goal was one he might want back, but it was still conceded to an open shooter in the slot. The second was a perfectly placed shot Crawford had very little chance on.
 
Power Play:
-       Chicago: 2-6
-       New York: 0-3

Special teams success is key to any postseason run, and for a team like Chicago that has had major struggles on the power play this season, this game was a welcomed sight. A pair of goals on the man-advantage and a perfect penalty kill is a recipe for success.
 
Notable Blackhawks performances
-       Alex Debrincat (Goal, Assist)
-       Alex Nylander (3 Assists)
-       Kirby Dach (Assist)
-       Adam Boqvist (Assist)

The Blackhawks had several young players step up and play big roles in a big situation. Alex Nylander chipped in with 3 assists (2 on the PP). Adam Boqvist notched an assist on the game-tying goal early. Alex DeBrincat set up the go-ahead goal and netted the goal that effectively put the game out of reach, a goal that Kirby Dach assisted on. For the Blackhawks to make a deep playoff run, they’ll need contributions like this from their youth. With their postseason hopes on the line, it’s a positive performance out of the team’s young players hoping to get their first taste of the playoffs.

Four takeaways: Power play heater continues as Blackhawks go into break with shootout win

Four takeaways: Power play heater continues as Blackhawks go into break with shootout win

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 shootout win over the New York Islanders at the United Center on Tuesday:

1. Cam Ward bounces back

After allowing six goals on 25 shots in an 8-5 loss to New Jersey last Monday, the Blackhawks gave Ward a chance to redeem himself going into the break. And he did just that.

The 14-year veteran turned aside 34 of 36 shots for a save percentage of .944, which was his second-best percentage in a game this season. He stopped 18 straight to close out the game, including both shots he faced in the shootout. IT was a perfect bounce-back performance.

"We knew coming into this game it was gonna be on our minds for the next eight days here over the break, and it was important that we leave on a good note," Ward said. "I certainly thought that our effort was deserving of the win tonight against a very tough team that’s been one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference. It’s a credit to the guys for the way they battled back despite being down, and to come up with a shootout win always feels good for a goaltender.”

2. Power play heater continues

What else can be said about the power play other than it's on fire? The Blackhawks went 2-for-3 in that department, with one of the goals coming during a 5-on-3 advantage.

It's the ninth straight games the Blackhawks have scored a power play goal and the fifth time in the past 12 games they've scored at least two power-play goals in a game. They didn't score more than one in any of their first 39 games of the season.

The Blackhawks are now 19-for-48 on the power play since Dec. 18 for a success rate of 39.6 percent. The second-best team over that span is the Pittsburgh Penguins with a 31.8 percent conversion rate. It's come such a long way in a short period of time.

"We got our confidence," said Jonathan Toews, who scored the second one. "We're relaxed. We know how to get pucks out of tough areas when we take shots or if there's broken plays. Everyone's just feeling confident that if we're mixing around or if I'm in the middle on the wall [Alex DeBrincat] can fill in or [Dylan Strome], [Patrick Kane]. We're filling different positions at different times. We just know where guys are and and we're relaxed. We know that if they dump it down it's no big deal, we're confident in our breakout. We're not forcing anything.

"We're doing a good job of wearing teams down and then eventually the plays work out. It's nice for us to be able to make a big difference for our team right now. For a long time it was almost not a great feeling. When we went on the power play it was almost taking the wind out of our sails, but at the end of the day it should be giving us momentum if we're not scoring. It's huge for us to turn that around. Sometimes when it's snowballing in the wrong direction it's really hard to turn things around and we've done that."

3. Buckling down

On Sunday against the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals, the Blackhawks gave up only eight high-danger chances at 5-on-5, according to naturalstattrick.com. The Blackhawks allowed seven in the first period alone against the Islanders, and 15 total — 20 in all situations.

That's an area the Blackhawks have been trying to fix all season long, and will continue to be a work in progress going forward. But they responded with a much stronger second period, outshooting the Islanders 18-7 and generating 19 scoring chances to their six.

"I did, I loved our second period," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Obviously the power play came through but our 5-on-5, I thought we carried the play and put ourselves in good situations a bunch of different times and I'd like to see more of that. I'd like to see us control the territorial battle a little bit more and make it easier on ourselves."

4. Rare first-period blank

Going into Tuesday, the Blackhawks had scored at least one first-period goal in 13 of their past 14 games. But the Islanders, who rank No. 1 in the NHL with a 2.42 goals against average, shut the door in the opening frame and held them to only nine shots on goal — three of which came in the final minute.

It was, however, the 31st consecutive contest the Blackhawks have played in where there was at least one first-period goal (from either Chicago or its opponent), according to NBC Sports Chicago's stats guru Christopher Kamka. Only three out of the 51 Blackhawks games this season have been 0-0 at the end of the first period.

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Four takeaways: Collin Delia steals a point for Blackhawks

Four takeaways: Collin Delia steals a point for Blackhawks

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday:

1. Bending, then breaking

"We have to do a better job of surviving when we're not in control of the game and get more out of the moments where we're controlling it."

That's a quote from Jeremy Colliton after his second game as head coach of the Blackhawks. It's a good way of thinking, and the Blackhawks did a decent job early on of surviving when they weren't in control of the game.

The Islanders recorded 14 shots on goal compared to the Blackhawks three, which was their lowest first-period shot total of the season, yet went into the first intermission in a 1-1 tie when it could've — and probably should've — been much different.

But in the end, the Islanders outshot the Blackhawks 50-21 — 18-3 in the third period — and eventually the away team cracked.

2. Mathew Barzal unstoppable

John Tavares is no longer in Long Island, but the Islanders still have Barzal and he's been an absolute force over the last month.

With two goals against Chicago, he has three multi-goal efforts in his past four games and has recorded 11 points (eight goals, three assists) in a season-long six-game point streak. He has seven goals in his last four games and nine goals in his past nine contests after scoring only three times in his first 30.

Barzal also recorded eight shots on goal, which is a new season high. The Islanders controlled 77.1 percent of the shot attempts when he was on the ice at 5-on-5 for 17:43 minutes. Barzal was buzzing all night and the Blackhawks had no answer.

3. Collin Delia steals a point

The Blackhawks had no business picking up a point in this one, but they did because of a career-high 47-save performance by Delia. It's the second time in four starts this season that Delia has faced at least 48 shots.

He has given up only three goals at 5-on-5 this season, stopping 127 of 130 shots for a save percentage of .977, according to naturalstattrick.com. Delia may have suffered his first defeat of the season, but he's lost only once in regulation in six career NHL starts and has given his team a chance to win every night.

4. Rough night at the dot

The Blackhawks went into Thursday with a 50.1 percent success rate at the faceoff circle, which ranked 16th. The Islanders had the second-worst faceoff win percentage at 47.6.

But it was the latter who dominated in that department, with the Islanders winning 38 of 58 faceoffs for a win percentage of 65.6. Josh Bailey was a perfect 11-0 for New York while David Kampf was the only Chicago player with positive numbers (7-for-11 at 63.6 percent).

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