Resiliency seems to be the theme across the NHL this season — down two goals, score two goals is how it goes most nights. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the Blackhawks found themselves down two goals before the first period was over Saturday night at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida.
Chicago led in shots on goal during its 5-4 overtime win against the Panthers, with a 41-38 advantage, despite going down by two goals twice. Florida edged the Blackhawks in face offs with a 51.6 win percent, and went 1 for 3 on its power play opportunities. The Blackhawks failed to convert again, but that’s where our stock report begins.
Could it be? The Saad of old, the one we know and love so dearly? He’s not back completely, but he’s inching his way there, and his play lately as been making Blackhawks fans giddy with excitement.
When the Blackhawks traded for him in June 2017, they had hoped he would spark Jonathan Toews for the upcoming 2017-18 season. It seems as though he’s finally coming around to doing that, just a season later than expected.
Known for playing a strong north-to-south game, Saad showed his speed and passing ability on Patrick Kane’s goal in the second period. After streaking along the boards, Saad throws a saucer pass over a sliding Panthers defenseman right on Kane’s tape, who puts it upstairs, making it a 2-2 game.
Here’s another angle of the goal:
When Saad gets hot, he gets hot. He’s becoming a key factor in the Blackhawks seemingly barren offense, and his persistence is coming through loud and clear.
After scoring only one goal in his last 12 games, DeBrincat found the back of the net in the best way possible Saturday. With only 0.8 seconds left on the clock, DeBrincat somehow stuffed the puck past Panthers goaltender James Reimer to send the game to overtime tied 4-4.
DeBrincat began the season seemingly on fire, scoring nine goals through 18 games. Since then, he’s cooled off a considerable amount. His last goal came on Nov. 12 in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Hurricanes in Carolina.
But his play the last few games, despite lack of scoring, has been promising. After recording a point Friday against the Lightning on Artem Anisimov’s goal, DeBrincat has been noticeable in areas of both speed and puck possession.
The Blackhawks will need DeBrincat to continue to provide his skill and scoring.
The story of the Blackhawks season has been the power play, and their mere 13 conversion percentage that sits 30th in the league. Though the results haven’t been immediate, the pressure and possession has been increasingly better.
With head coach Jeremy Colliton going with the three forward and two defensemen format on the top power play unit, the Blackhawks big guns are logging long minutes in critical situations. These were their times on ice on the power play during the second period:
To be fair, #Blackhawks forwards never got off either. For some reason I thought they did.— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) November 25, 2018
Here was ice time on that shift:
Results and goals will come once the offensive gets a spark, and that comes with shots on net. The more the Blackhawks can find ways to get the puck on net, the more the chances will turn in their favor. Patience, my friends.
Sounding like a broken record here, but Manning isn’t the answer to the Blackhawks defensive woes, and the impacts of their blue line are being felt night in and night out.
Through 17 games, Manning has posted only two points — one goal and one assist. During Saturday’s game, he contributed to two of the four Blackhawks penalties (more on those later), including 5 minutes for fighting former Blackhawk Troy Brouwer.
With seven minutes served in the penalty box in the first period, Manning attempted to make himself a healthy scratch. Mad respect, dude.
While he’s not the only player that can be pointed to for the lack of defense on this team, he’s a big contributor in that area. Depending on Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook can only get them so far, and contributions from all areas of the roster are necessary for continued team success. Manning has some ability and time to turn it around this season, but either he makes positive strides right away, or he finds himself in the press box.
The Blackhawks ended Saturday’s tilt with four penalties and 11 total minutes spent in the box between two players: Kane and Manning. The latter accounted for 7 minutes (holding, fighting) in the first period, while Kane sat for 4 minutes with a hooking call in the second and high-sticking in the third.
While the fighting penalty didn’t count for power play chances on either end, the Panthers capitalized one of their three chances on Manning’s first penalty, going up 1-0 early. Florida’s power play was ranked third in the league entering Saturday’s game, with a 25.3 conversion percentage.
If the Blackhawks can eliminate silly mistakes, their chances of defending are greatly increased. It’s pretty simple. Chicago’s penalty kill currently ranks 24th with a 75.4 percent success rate with a Blackhawk down. For reference, the Coyotes rank top of the league with a 91 percent success rate. It’s a problem that can be fixed simply by making smarter plays on the ice.
If you asked the Second City Hockey team to describe the Blackhawks’ first period performances during the last three games in three words, it would be this gif:
Since embarking on their latest road trip, the Blackhawks have been outscored 8-1 in the first period alone. Crawling back from behind in every game has proved to be a hole the Blackhawks can’t get themselves out of more often than not, winning just one of those three games.
Scoring in today’s NHL has become stronger and faster than ever, and the Blackhawks have been feeling that pressure all season long. With the team’s slow start and struggles defensively, not to mention the lack of offense, it’s a perfect storm for finding themselves behind early.
The Blackhawks have a chance to turn it around — limit defense miscues, play strong on the puck and resist the urge to dump the puck for the sake of it being the easy play. Making smarter decisions with how the puck is played can be instrumental to how the team handles the puck in all ends of the ice, and can limit the opponent’s opportunities while both 5 on 5 and shorthanded.
“What’s next?” — Josiah Bartlet
The Blackhawks play one more home game in November when they host the Golden Knights on Tuesday at the United Center. Chicago is the only NHL team to fail to record a point against the league’s newest team, so hopefully some home-cooking can turn that narrative around.