Coming into the Wednesday night’s matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Blackhawks held a lead for only 41 seconds in 662:32 minutes. Additionally, during the Hawks eight game losing streak, which started Nov. 27 against the Golden Knights, the Hawks have a -17 goal differential and have allowed the first two goals in seven out of eight of those losses. Here are a few more numbers from this brutal stretch.
It is nearly impossible to muster two points when you are constantly behind by multiple goals before the tilt even hits the second period. It builds up frustration in the locker room, the team starts to lose confidence in the systems coach Jeremy Colliton is preaching, and moral victories start to go in one ear and out the other. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and the rest of the core get tired of answering the same questions after every loss.
For most of the season, the leaders have been reiterating how vital it is to focus on playing every shift like it is your last and focusing on winning every period. The positivity starts to build and before you know it, the team starts to hustle and buy in to the systems for a full 60-minute game.
Finally, the Hawks put together a complete 60-minute effort with only a few lapses here and there. Toews put it best after the 6-3 win.
Jonathan Toews on snapping losing streak: “It’s a relief. We’ve got something to celebrate. We’ve got something to enjoy." #Blackhawks— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) December 13, 2018
The team and the fans can breathe a sigh of relief. The dreadful streak of not scoring first for 11 straight games is over. The eight game losing streak is over. Corey Crawford got a win on home ice for the first time since Nov. 18. Toews reached the 700-point mark and is moving up the rankings on the Hawks all-time scoring list.
Though it's been a dreary team start to 2018-19, Jonathan Toews's 2nd of 3 points in a win over the Pens Wednesday made him the 7th on this list of superb, long-serving @NHLBlackhawks scorers pic.twitter.com/l7GPZ0skQF— StatsCentre (@StatsCentre) December 13, 2018
Pierre McGuire was awkward as usual. Andreas Martinsen had his first two-point game of his NHL career. The Penguins lost their ninth straight game at the United Center. All things to be happy about.
Let’s jump into the stock report.
Dahlström was called up before the game from the AHL and placed in the lineup for Jan Rutta, who struggled Tuesday night in Winnipeg. Last season, the left-handed defenseman had three assists, was a minus-2 and averaged 17:31 minutes of ice time in 11 NHL games. Last night against the Penguins, Dahlström played for 22:34 minutes, had three shots, and deflected one of his shots on target off of Martinsen and into the net.
Dahlström looked comfortable on the back end and did not look out of place. His seasoning in Rockford has noticeably improved his defensive technique and positioning, and Collition should give him another shot in the lineup on Friday night against Winnipeg. If Dahlström continues to play 20-plus minutes a night with confidence and barely any glaring mistakes, look for Bowman to make a move with Rutta or Brandon Manning to clear up some space on the blue line.
The Cat has turned his goal scoring powers back on recently. In his last 5 games, including last night against the Pens, DeBrincat has three goals, one assist, and 12 shots on goal. Before the recent stretch of strong play, DeBrincat had one goal in 10 games, was whiffing on the majority of his shots, and was not as noticeable as most fans expect. Skating on a line with his former Erie Otters teammate Dylan Strome has turned his game up a notch. DeBrincat and Strome have apparent chemistry together and it seems like every period they dominate a shift or two, make a few gorgeous passes, or generate high quality chances on net.
DeBrincat’s goal had a slick pickup on a pass behind him from Kane, a quick cut to the middle to give him a wide open lane to the net, and a smooth bar down forehand that put the Hawks up 3-2 on the power play.
Here is an interesting look at DeBrincat’s last five games. He is generating shots in dangerous areas of the offensive zone and will continue to score at a high rate if the puck finds his stick around the net. Now he has a line-mate in Strome that knows DeBrincat’s tendencies and style of play more so than anyone else on the Hawks. Looking forward to seeing what they can accomplish together the rest of the season and beyond.
Let me lead off with this beauty of a post game interview from Martinsen following his first two point game of his career.
Martinsen is not the most skilled player or the fastest, and will most likely never score more than 10 goals during an NHL season. However, he provides a few intangibles that the Hawks have been missing the past two seasons: A net front presence that can screen the goalie and open up space for his line-mates by forcing the opposing defenseman to collapse down to the crease area, and a skater who is not afraid to finish his checks or take a hit to make a play.
He will not play every game and probably will not score again for a while. Yet, whenever Martinsen plays he generates some buzz on the ice with a solid hit, a blocked shot, or a screen that causes a juicy rebound or a near miss. Look for 29 to be in the lineup against a heavy hitting team in Winnipeg on Friday.
It’s tough to put a player in the trending down section after a bomb from the point and an assist, but Seabrook’s defensive performance has been below average lately. It could be a result of having to play with Manning on a nightly basis. However, there have been numerous times in recent games where Seabrook turned the puck over in dangerous spots on the ice, stepped up without taking the body giving the opposing team an odd man rush, and utilized poor defensive technique and positioning near his own net. Here are two examples. One from Winnipeg on Kyle Connor’s goal, and one from last night on Bryan Rust’s second goal of the night.
Seabrook should never turn his feet and entire body towards the net and goal line. If you can not find the puck, the prime objective should be to look for an opposing player near the crease, lift his stick or force him away from the net, so that the goalie can find it and cover it up.
This was a bad decision to step up. Kane was in trouble and most likely was going to turn the puck over. Seabrook made it worse by trying to reach for the puck. Instead, Seabrook should keep his gap and if there is a turnover, he can easily keep the opposing player from cutting to the middle of the ice. Hopefully, Colliton runs some video by Seabrook at practice today. There is always room for improvement in technique and decision making at any point in a player’s career. Look for Seabrook to own up to his mistakes and have a better defensive game on Friday.
He was not on the ice last night against the Pens, but he was in the lineup Tuesday against Winnipeg. He played 7:22 minutes. No hits. One shot. Right now he has two assists this season, which ties him with Crawford who also has two assists. He is making one million and has a no movement clause, so Kunitz will be around for the rest of the year. Colliton will use him sparingly, but when Kunitz gets a chance to play on the fourth line I want to see consistent hustle and grit out of him, especially if this is going to be his last year in the NHL. Show us that you still have one more season left in those legs.
Rutta was a healthy scratch last night against the Pens, and for good reason. In Winnipeg, Rutta took two lazy penalties that resulted in two power play goals for the Jets. His second penalty, a blatant high stick, occurred midway through the third period when the Hawks were only down one and had a chance to get the game to OT. Consequently, Mathieu Perreault scored off a rebound that Cam Ward had no chance on, and his goal pretty much iced the game for the Jets. Rutta is making $2.25 million. It is going to be tough to move his contract, but hopefully Bowman finds a way. It will open up space for our up and coming D-prospects and move even more money off the books. Last week there were rumblings of Bowman shopping Manning and Rutta. Look for Bowman to make this a priority over the next month.
The Hawks get a much needed day of rest before Winnipeg rolls into Chicago on Friday night. Positivity is flowing through the locker room and Marcus Kruger told reporters after the game that Ward is the new DJ. Keep the aux chord with Wardo and let’s get two points in back to back games for the first time since late October.