1. Zack Smith had a noticeably strong game.
Smith was acquired in the offseason for Artem Anisimov to stabilize the fourth line with a veteran, defensive-minded presence, improve the penalty kill, be reliable with the puck in all three zones and finish checks. In Friday’s victory, Smith had his best game with Chicago. He played 1:15 minutes on the penalty kill where he generated his own high danger scoring chance, while not allowing any scoring chances for the Blue Jackets.
At 5-on-5, Smith wore down Columbus defensemen with a tenacious forecheck and made one of the more memorable plays of the game hustling back to dive and breakup a 2-on-1 in the second period.
He didn’t get on the scoresheet, but his contribution to the Blackhawks overtime victory was noteworthy.
2. Robin Lehner was stellar.
Once again, Lehner had an impressive start. He gave Chicago a chance for two points with numerous high quality saves throughout the game, especially in the first period when Columbus generated 11 scoring chances. Here’s one of those stops:
And a three save sequence late in the third period that likely saved the game for Chicago:
Lehner collected 37 saves on 39 shots, and improved his save percentage on the season to 0.931-percent and goals-against-average to 2.47. It’s exciting to think of the possibility of getting 82 games out of two No. 1 goalies. The opponent will never get the chance to face a ‘backup’. That alone will lead to more wins.
3. Jonathan Toews is not getting enough puck possession with current top six line combos.
Toews struggled at 5-on-5 against Columbus. He had a 28.0 Corsi-For rate, was on the ice for three shots for and 12 shots against and only mustered one shot on goal. He did bury the overtime winner on a rebound that ricocheted off his shin pads, but at 5-on-5 Toews needs more puck possession to get him back to producing near a point-per-game pace like last season.
What’s even more alarming is that in five games at 5-on-5, Toews owns a 35.4 Corsi-For, third worst on the team behind Alexander Nylander and Brent Seabrook. The Captain has also been on the ice for a staggering 51 scoring chances against, the most on the team.
With two powerhouses in the Capitals and Golden Knights coming to town Sunday and Tuesday, the Drake Caggiula - Toews - Patrick Kane unit should be rekindled. In 26 games last season they had a 51.6 Corsi-For and produced 15 goals. Why not go back to what was working last season?