New York Rangers

Four takeaways: Strong start wasted as Blackhawks winless streak extends to five games

Four takeaways: Strong start wasted as Blackhawks winless streak extends to five games

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday:

1. Strong start wasted

The Blackhawks came out of the gates flying. They recorded the first nine shot attempts (four on goal) and didn't allow the Rangers to get their first shot on net until the 6:35 mark.

The Blackhawks were rewarded when Brandon Saad scored at 5:41 to put his team up 1-0. But the Rangers responded with a pair of goals within 4:18 of each other towards the latter stages of the frame to go up 2-1.

It was a tough way for the Blackhawks to go into the first intermission, happy with the start but not the result.

2. High-quality scoring chances

The Blackhawks gave up three goals at 5-on-5 and one empty-netter. And they'll quickly realize when reviewing the tape that they didn't do Collin Delia any favors.

Each of New York's first three goals came from the lower slot area, and they were seemingly all preventable. That's the positive, but also the negative because the Blackhawks are making it tough on themselves.

The Rangers finished with 14 high-danger chances at even strength compared to the Blackhawks' three. Below is a heat map of the shot chart at 5-on-5, courtesy of naturalstattrick.com:

3. Power play stays hot

The Rangers aren't a great team in the penalty kill department. They went into Thursday's game ranked 26th with a 77.1 percent success rate. But they were coming in hot, having killed off 14 in a row in the last three games.

That wasn't enough to stop the Blackhawks' scorching power play, which potted two more on three opportunities (goals by Saad and Alex DeBrincat). It's the seventh straight game the Blackhawks have scored at least one power-play goal, upping their percentage to 37.2 (16-for-43) since Dec. 18 — a span of 14 games, which ranks first over that stretch.

The power play continues to be a bright spot, and the Blackhawks have to be pleased with the consistency of it over the last month now.

4. Strome vs. Strome

For the third time in his NHL career, Dylan Strome went head-to-head with older brother Ryan, the latter of whom had gotten the best of his younger brother in the first two meetings — once when Ryan was with the Islanders and the other when he was with the Oilers, both against Dylan's Coyotes.

But Ryan stayed 3-for-3 against Dylan even though they were both on different teams this time.

Dylan was on the ice against Ryan for 8:46 of 5-on-5 time, which is the most he faced against any other Rangers skater. Ryan's line generated nine scoring chances and allowed only one during that time.

Dylan did get the better of his older brother in the faceoff department (58.3 percent vs. 53.3 percent), but it was Ryan that came away with the result that matters to both of them and that's the two points in the standings.

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Four takeaways: Blackhawks top guys lead the charge again

Four takeaways: Blackhawks top guys lead the charge again

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 win over the New York Rangers at the United Center on Thursday night:

1. The hottest start of Patrick Kane's career

With the Blackhawks leading 2-1 late in the third period, Kane scored to extend the lead to two goals and it essentially sealed the deal. It was his ninth goal of the season, becoming the first Blackhawks player to score nine goals in the first 10 games of the season since Jeremy Roenick in 1993-94.

"In some ways, yeah," Kane said on whether this is the best start of his career. "It'd be nice to have a little bit more production on the power play and still control the puck a little bit more, things like that. It's always a work in progress, but nice to be producing and hopefully just keep getting better as the season goes on here."

Seven of Kane's goals have come in the third period or overtime, showing just how important they are coming too.

2. Jonathan Toews climbing up franchise record books

After going pointless in his past three games and goalless in his previous six, The Captain got back on the scoresheet by scoring the Blackhawks' first goal of the game. Toews received a pass from Duncan Keith in the neutral zone, sliced through two Rangers defensemen, both of whom tripped and fell down, and beat Henrik Lundqvist short side for his sixth of the season.

With the goal, Toews tied Dennis Hull for sixth on the Blackhawks' all-time list with 298.

3. Depth scoring

The Blackhawks haven't gotten much offense from their bottom-six this season, with their top guys carrying the load through nine games. But with Nick Schmaltz getting moved to the third line, part of the payoff is the balance it creates.

And they got some much-needed depth scoring on Thursday. With game tied 1-1 in the second period, Schmaltz fed a terrific pass through the slot and found Alexandre Fortin, who tapped it in from the doorstep for his second goal in three games.

"I had a step on that guy," Schmaltz said. "That's kind of a tough shot when you're coming like that at such a tight angle. The goalie is right against the post so you don't really have much room to find a spot. So once I saw his stick there all alone it was kind of an easy no-brainer pass there."

4. Corey Crawford chips in at both ends

Speaking of depth scoring, the Blackhawks not only got contributions on offense from their bottom-six but also their starting goaltender. Crawford registered a secondary assist on Toews' goal in the first period, and is now tied for 21st among active NHL goalies with six points.

"I got lucky on that one," Crawford joked. "I don’t even remember what the play was. It’s always nice to steal that from one of our guys, though."

Crawford finished with 18 saves for his third straight win, and has allowed only one goal in each of them. Crawford's goals against average improved to 1.52 and has the third-best save percentage (.946) among goaltenders who have started at least four games.  

Blackhawks finish road trip on high note

Blackhawks finish road trip on high note

Heading into the six-game road trip the Blackhawks completed on Wednesday, the team was on a five-game winning streak and appeared to be surging back into a playoff spot.

Then the first three games of the roadie were all losses and the Blackhawks' inconsistency this season showed once again. The Blackhawks finished the road trip with a 5-2 win at the New York Rangers to claim five points from the final three games of the trip.

Rookie goaltender Jeff Glass started all three games to close out the road trip, a 4-3 overtime win in Edmonton, a 4-3 overtime loss in Calgary and this 5-2 win against the Rangers. Glass, who made his NHL debut in Edmonton, once again proved to be a competent fill-in while Corey Crawford is out injured. He had 23 saves on Wednesday.

The Blackhawks are still on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs are concerned, but earning five points out of a possible six and getting at least one point from the final three games out of the road trip gives the team some momentum as it returns home.

Vinnie Hinostroza and Nick Schmaltz both had go-ahead goals for the Blackhawks, but it was Patrick Sharp's third-period goal that ended up being the game-winner.

Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane added empty-net goals.

Even though the Blackhawks are returning home, it doesn't get easier in the short-term with the Western Conference-leading Vegas Golden Knights heading to the United Center on Friday. While the Golden Knights aren't a bad road team (10-7-1), they have done most of their damage in Nevada with a 17-2-1 home record. Watch the video above to see Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd and Adam Burish preview that game and the following home game against Edmonton on Sunday.