Blackhawks Weekly: The Bright Side of 3 More Losses

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Last week the Chicago Blackhawks were on top of the world with four wins in a row. This week paints a slightly different picture, to say the least. Now the Blackhawks are staring at three consecutive losses, having only picked up one of a possible six points with Saturday’s shootout loss to the Dallas Stars.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The Blackhawks are playing pretty good hockey of late. They’re a talented group and they’re progressing, albeit slowly. Let’s look at last week’s matchups and some positive takeaways.

Blackhawks Matchups of the Week

Vs. Carolina Hurricanes, Tues. Nov. 19, Loss 4-2

Vs. Tampa Bay Lightning, Thurs. Nov. 21, Loss 4-2

@ Dallas Stars, Sat. Nov. 23, Loss 2-1 (SO)

Patrick Kane…Again

I feel like I’m highlighting Kane every week. Frankly, I’d rather be writing about someone else’s success for the sake of something new and exciting to talk about. But we really can’t complain, can we? Kane continues to be one of the most dynamic players in the league, and he always finds a way to contribute to his team. He’s been up to a few things lately.

Related – Blackhawks Weekly: Dach Dazzles, Kane’s Point Streak & More

It was Kane’s 31st birthday last Tuesday when the Blackhawks took on the Hurricanes. The old man extended his point streak to 10 games by providing the primary assists on both Erik Gustafsson’s and Connor Murphy’s goals in the third period. Thursday night against the Lightning he added another helper on Dylan Strome’s late goal. This turned out to be his 600th career assist. He accomplished this in 925 games, which is good for the fourth-fewest games among U.S.-born players.

Head coach Jeremy Colliton also chose to ice only 11 forwards against the Lightning. With one less forward than usual, Kane was consequently the recipient of double shifts most of the night. He played a hefty 27:52 minutes and recorded eight shots on goal.

Versus the Stars on Saturday, Kane set up the play and was credited with the secondary assist on Olli Maatta’s lone goal for the Blackhawks. This puts star winger on a 12-game point streak, with eight goals and 13 assists in that span.

Can he keep his streak going? And more importantly, can he contribute to some wins for the team?

What Was Colliton & Co. Thinking?

It’s mentioned above that Colliton and the coaching staff decided to dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen Thursday night against the Lightning. This is a tad bit unorthodox and is usually only done because of an injury. But Colliton indicated after the game he wanted to get defenseman Slater Koekkoek in against his former team, and was sending a message to Dominik Kubalik to improve his game. This by the way was the second healthy scratch for Kubalik; the first being for similar reasons.

Former head coach Joel Quenneville utilized this 11F, 7D lineup a handful of times in the past as well. I can’t remember it ever resulting in a win. As a matter of fact, our friend John Dietz of the Daily Herald found six times when the Blackhawks utilized this method since the 2016-17 season, with a result of 1-5-0 in those games. Not exactly a recipe for success.

The players certainly don’t like this, as it involves a lot of rotating in and out with different players. It’s hard to get into a groove. Jonathan Toews made his displeasure known to the media after the game. Said Toews, “I mean, things were going pretty good with four lines and the lineup that we had. You’ll have to ask the coaches on that one.”

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews wasn’t happy his coach decided to play 11 forwards and seven defenseman in a recent matchup. [photo: Amy Irvin]

When the captain publicly calls out the coaching, that’s not usually a good sign. I would have to say I agree with Toews on this one. Would the Blackhawks have won the game with a normal lineup? Unfortunately, we’ll never know. The good news is the coaching staff went back to their previous lineup of 12 forwards and six defensemen for the next tilt against the Stars. Hopefully this will be the end of a very bad experiment.

Defensemen Pitching In

Of the five goals scored in the past week, all but one of them were scored by defensemen. On Tuesday it looked like the Blackhawks might get shut out once again by the tenacious Hurricanes. But a late third period push brought goals from Gustafsson and Murphy just 70 seconds apart. It was Murphy’s first goal of the season, and Gustafsson’s third.

Related – Blackhawks Stock Watch: Toews, Dach Up, Power Play Down

Thursday against the Lightning, defenseman Brent Seabrook contributed the first Blackhawks’ goal of the game. No, it wasn’t his trademark howitzer shot from the point. It was a much more Kane-like score from a difficult angle. So much so that the media teased him about it after the game. He played right along.

Finally, Maatta was the blueliner to contribute a goal Saturday night versus the Stars. Like Murphy it was also Maatta’s first goal of the season, as well as his first as a Blackhawk. Speaking of Maatta, he’s been quite noticeable of late. In the last three games, he’s recorded nine hits and six blocked shots.

I guess this would be a good time to point out only five goals in three games is less than ideal, and usually it’s customary for the offense to score. But this added layer of production from the back end is nice to see. As a matter of fact, the Blackhawks have eight goals from defensemen in the past six games after having only three in the first 17 games. This extra threat is only going to help moving forward.

Other Blackhawks Notable News & Notes

  • The Blackhawks power play continues to struggle. They’ve gone 0-for-10 in the last three games on the man advantage, despite changing up the units. My solution? Put Kubalik back out there and let him shoot his shot. It will help his confidence as well.
Dominik Kubalik Chicago Blackhawks
Would it help to put Dominik Kubalik on the power play on a regular basis? (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
  • On the flip side, the Blackhawks penalty kill has been stellar. Of eight kills in the past three tilts, they’ve only given up one goal.
  • Defenseman Duncan Keith suited up for his 1100th NHL game Saturday night. Seabrook hit the same milestone three games back on Nov. 11.
  • Forward Drake Caggiula was placed on injured reserve Saturday retroactive to Nov. 10, which was the last time he played in a game. Caggiula has been in concussion protocol since he started having symptoms on Nov. 13. In his absence, the Blackhawks called up Matthew Highmore from the Rockford IceHogs Monday morning.

Related – 5 Teams the Blackhawks Consistently Struggle Against

Saturday’s matchup against the Stars was the first of five divisional games in a row. The Blackhawks meet the Stars again this Tuesday as the first of two home-and-home matchups. They then face the Colorado Avalanche at the United Center Friday afternoon as well as Saturday night at the Pepsi Center. Finally, the Blackhawks host the St. Louis Blues on Monday, Dec. 2.  

So far this season the Blackhawks have only had three other divisional matchups (against the Winnipeg Jets and the Nashville Predators twice), going 1-1-1 in those contests. It goes without saying this stretch of the schedule is very important for the team’s hopes of a playoff berth. Each game could involve a four-point swing in the ever-important standings. Here’s hoping the Blackhawks are on the cusp of another win streak.

Let’s get ready to rumble!