Anisimov scored the game-winner on the power play with less than six minutes remaining in regulation. Alex DeBrincat finished off the proceedings with his second empty-net goal in two games to put the game away
This was one of the Hawks’ better all-around performances of the season. The team jumped out to a strong start with a 16-9 advantage in shots on goal through 20 minutes, then didn’t relent with the game hanging in the balance. We’ve seen lots of games where the Hawks had one good period, but this resembled something closer to a complete effort.
DeBrincat and Richard Panik each hit a post in the first two periods, and the fourth line created some really good chances with its relentless energy. Compared to some of the lethargic performances we’ve seen from the Hawks of late, this was a much more watchable game, aside from the lack of goals.
The game-winner came on a four-minute power play that resulted from Cody Franson taking a stick to the face late in the third period. Duncan Keith fired a shot from the blue line that Anisimov deftly deflected past Devan Dubnyk.
Franson had another really good game on the top pairing with a plus-15 Corsi during nearly 18 minutes of 5-on-5 action. He may not be the fastest guy out there, but it seems apparent at this point that he’s one of the Blackhawks’ best six defensemen right now. The past couple games with Keith have been particularly encouraging, even if “Cody Franson, top pairing defenseman” is still something to wrap your head around.
Franson isn’t the prettiest defender, and the Blackhawks aren’t playing the prettiest hockey right now. But that’s two wins in two games, and now the team is creeping back up the standings with a 7-5-2 record. It’s a better place to be in than a week ago.
CHI GOALS: Anisimov (5), DeBrincat (3)
MIN GOALS: SHUUTTTTTTTOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUTTTTTTT
Two pairings had a very good night
It helps that they’re getting easier assignments relative to the other two pairings, but Michal Kempny and Connor Murphy were really good against Minnesota. The same goes for Duncan Keith and Cody Franson, who were taking on the Wild’s top line much of the night. That’s two of three, so we’ll take it even if Jan Rutta and Brent Seabrook didn’t do so hot.
Kempny-Murphy and Keith-Franson were respectively plus-10 and plus-13 in 5-on-5 Corsi against the Wild. Rutta-Seabrook, however, finished minus-1. Not to beat a dead horse here, but Seabrook’s 5-on-5 Corsi away from Keith this season has dropped to 41.1 percent, per Natural Stat Trick. Keith without Seabrook is at 56.2 percent.
The Blackhawks are getting closer to finding three good defensive pairings. But they’re not quite there yet.
Corey Crawford, so hot right now
That’s two shutouts in two games for Crawford, who has been incredible of late. He entered Saturday with the second-best GSAA (Goals Allowed Above Average) in the NHL behind Jonathan Quick. He’ll likely close in on the top spot with another stellar effort against the Wild.
There’s really not enough that can be said about how important Crawford is to this team right now. The Blackhawks might be a work-in-progress in general, but they’ll keep winning games as long as Crow is in the zone.
Ryan Hartman thrives in the bottom six
Hartman was handed a spot on the second line to open the season and recorded five points in the season opener. At that point, it seemed like he might be destined to stay in the top six all season. However, things didn’t keep going so well, and we all know what Joel Quenneville does when that happens.
Over the past four games, Hartman has played well on the fourth line next to Tommy Wingels and Lance Bouma. He’s generating far more shots on goal in that smaller role (16.9 SOG per 60) than he did in the first 10 games of the season (5.8 SOG per 60). He’s also posted an improved 5-on-5 Corsi of 55 percent, up from 43.9 percent.
Hartman may eventually turn into a top six forward, but he’s not there yet. In the meantime, it makes sense to let him loose in a smaller role against easier opponents where he can do some real damage.
- Corey Crawford (CHI) — 24 saves on 24 shots
- Artem Anisimov (CHI) — 1 goal, 3 SOG
- Duncan Keith (CHI) — 1 assist