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3 takeaways from Blackhawks 5-4 loss to Sharks

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Saad and Kuablik impressed, Shaw is back and Crawford gave Chicago a fighting chance.

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Chicago Blackhawks David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

1. The Saad - Kampf - Kubalik line was on fire in the first period and shouldn’t have been broken up.

From the first shift to their last of the first period, the trio dominated puck possession and scoring chances. In addition to their 11 shots on goal, they generated eight high-danger chances for and gave up zero, and had a 87.5 Corsi-For rate. Saad had an extra jolt to his step, Kampf won numerous puck battles to keep plays alive and Kubalik could have two or three goals in the first period alone. Here’s a cut from one of their shifts:

The Sharks had no answer for this line in the first period. So why change it?

One reason was to jumpstart Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, who struggled with Alexander Nylander in the opening period. They were on the ice at 5-on-5 for 5:52, recorded zero shots for, gave up four shots and two scoring chances and had a 14.2 Corsi-For rate.

Head coach Jeremy Colliton dropped Nylander to the third and fourth lines and promoted Kubalik to the top line. Almost immediately in the second period, Kubalik got a breakaway pass from Kane, but couldn’t convert. However, that line wasn’t much better the rest of the way. They gave up a goal and seven scoring chances against, and had a 14.2 Corsi-For rate.

The third line should have stuck together, Nylander should have dropped to the fourth line and Drake Caggiula, who has experienced success with Toews and Kane, should have been promoted to the first line.

2. Shaw is back!

One of the positives from Thursday was Andrew Shaw’s performance.

He scored two goals, had five shots that were all from a high-danger area and led the team with seven hits. Plus, when Kane got run over by Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon, Shaw took matters into his own hand and went after Dillon drawing a penalty in the process. He knew his job was to protect Kane in that moment and he did it without any hesitation.

Yes, he did cross-check Dillon near the end of the second period and took a penalty, but the Blackhawks killed it off and Kane was barely touched again the rest of the game.

Shaw brings an element to Chicago’s game that was missing for most of last season until Caggiula was acquired. Shaw could get slashed, cross-checked, punched in the face, but that wouldn’t stop him from screening the opponent’s goalie, defending his teammates, finishing his check on the forecheck or driving the net with defenders draped all over him.

3. Don’t blame Corey Crawford

No NHL goalie could withstand the amount of pressure, net front presence and scoring chances against Crawford dealt with. The Sharks had 17 high-danger chances and 31 scoring chances throughout the game. It was inevitable for them to score multiple goals.

The goals against:

1. Shot from the point on the power play, rebound bounces right to Evander Kane in the slot who swats the puck off the post. Kevin Labanc gets a friendly bounce off the iron and scores an impressive goal from a bad angle. Crawford could have controlled the rebound better, but why was Kane all by himself in the slot in the first place. Kampf, Connor Murphy and Toews attacked the shooter and left three Sharks down low.

2. Patrick Marleau tipped an Erik Karlsson shot in the slot. Not much Crawford could do there.

3. Brent Burns flipped the puck trying to sauce it over to a Shark going backdoor, but it deflected off Murphy’s hand right over Crawford’s shoulder as he was sliding over and following the expected direction of the pass. Tough bounce.

4. Burns got a shot from the point through multiple bodies, it was tipped and Marleau outmuscled Maatta to the rebound.

5. Barclay Goodrow won a puck battle against Erik Gustafsson and passed it to Melker Karlsson on the boards. Karlsson cycled it to Joe Thornton, who outpowered Slater Koekkoek behind the net and gave a wide open Goodrow a tap in, while Nylander and Gustafsson were in no-man’s land trying to both defend Karlsson.

Additionally, on Shaw and Dylan Strome’s goals in the second period, Crawford made two impressive stops to get the goal-scoring plays started.

This loss was not on Crawford. It was on a defensive structure that broke down, not clearing opponents out of Crawford’s line of sight and the 12 turnovers committed by the Blackhawks. Calvin de Haan will be back in the lineup soon, but he isn’t going to be the defensive savior. All five Blackhawks on the ice need to buy into Colliton’s defensive system to give it a chance to work or Saturday’s game against Winnipeg will have a similar result.