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3 takeaways from Blackhawks 4-2 loss vs. Lightning

Searching for answers on DeBrincat’s scoring drought and Colliton’s odd decision to dress seven defensemen.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

The Blackhawks lost two in a row for the first time since Oct. 26 after falling 4-2 to the Lightning on Thursday at the United Center.

1. Questionable lineup decision by Jeremy Colliton.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around why Dominik Kubalik was sat for Slater Koekkoek to give Chicago seven defensemen on the bench. Koekkoek was barley used and didn’t add much value with 8:13 minutes of ice time, one shot and two giveaways.

It did give Patrick Kane an opportunity to double shift, which he took full advantage of with an assist to extend his point streak to 11 games, a team high eight shots and he generated three individual high danger scoring chances in 27:52 minutes of ice time.

However, Kubalik’s offensive skillset could have been used late in the game and Jonathan Toews said what most of us were thinking with his post-game comments:

Did Koekkoek get added to the lineup to face his former team? What specifically was Kubalik doing wrong to deserve a healthy scratch?

When the Captain calls out a coach’s decision, he’s likely sharing the sentiment of the locker room. Hopefully, this was a learning moment for Colliton that seven defenseman often doesn’t work. It breaks up the chemistry of defensive partners that have to switch personnel to give the extra defenseman ice time and is a risky play if one of the forwards gets injured or takes a major penalty.

2. Alex DeBrincat’s goal scoring drought.

DeBrincat is a sniper. It’s what earned him a 3-year, $19.2-million extension in October. He has an elite quick release and one-timer that played a prominent role in the Cat burying 41 goals last season. However, his goal scoring pace has regressed to 19 goals this season and he’s in midst of a seven game goal drought.

The drop off could be because last season’s 18.6-percent shooting percentage was unsustainable and was inevitably going to regress. But, a 48-percent decline to 8.8-percent this season is abnormal. He’s averaging 2.59 shots per game this season, which is slightly above the 2.44 mark from his first 164 career games.

Here’s the location and shot type from all his attempts this season:

Alex DeBrincat’s shot map
Sean Tierney - Charting Hockey

Additionally, Chicago’s power play conversion rate is down to 13.2-percent, which consequently drops DeBrincat’s goal scoring output. DeBrincat had 13 power play goals last season and has only three through 22 games this season.

Combining an expected regression in shooting percentage and Chicago’s power play woes is a start to a hypothesis for DeBrincat’s goal scoring slump, but there’s still more left to uncover.

DeBrincat also seems to be whiffing more often on backdoor plays and one-timers, which can come with a new flex, curve or lie on the stick he’s using this season. I’ll see if I can find out if the Cat using a different stick this season, because that could also be added to the hypothesis if it’s true.

3. Toews continues to be a monster at the faceoff dot and his point production is heating up.

Toews stretched his streak of games with a faceoff winning percentage above or equal to 50-percent to seven with a 56.5-percent effort vs. Tampa Bay. He went 8-for-13 at 5-on-5, 2-for-3 on the penalty kill and 1-for-5 on the power play, which was an outlier as he’s 58.9-percent at the dot on the man advantage this season. He’s also starting to pick up his point production.

With an assist against the Lightning, Toews has 10 points in his last 11 games. He’s been noticeably more creative with the puck on his stick too. He tried a spin-o-rama to get a shot on net during a penalty kill, has been making impressively smooth toe drags on defensemen to open up a shooting lane on rushes into the offensive zone and looks hungrier for the puck.

His best chance of the game was when he hustled to force a turnover in the offensive zone corner, drove the net and almost roofed it on Curtis McElhinney:

Toews is on the verge of going on a goal scoring streak. He has 18 individual scoring chances and seven high-danger scoring chances created in his last seven games, and the hunger and drive he has been playing with lately will lead to more points.

Advanced stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, Hockey-Reference, Evolving Hockey and Corsica-Hockey