Putting Saad and Nylander in a position to succeed
The big story may have been the play of Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Patrick Kane, but the first line of Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Alex Nylander had better possession stats and seemed to ignite Toews.
The line had a 66.7 Corsi For rating, 69.2-percent shot share and 65.5-percent expected goal share at 5-on-5. They also had a 75-percent high-danger share, allowing just one high danger chance against. That’s what happens when two of the better two-way forces on the Blackhawks’ roster this season in Saad and Nylander align with Toews.
Toews and Nylander each had one takeaway, and the Captain had a game high five individual scoring chances generated.
Traffic to the net on the power play
The Blackhawks’ two goals on the power play came with traffic around the crease with Strome screening Jacob Markstrom on Kane’s snipe and Andrew Shaw getting a goal from the low slot as Strome camped out next to the net.
That traffic in the high-danger area was something the Blackhawks’ power play has been missing at times. Strome was taken off the power play in favor of Nylander earlier this season and the best screen the Blackhawks had was Toews, who isn’t as consistently able to provide net-front presence as Shaw and Strome.
Strome on the PP: "We changed up the breakout a bit and tried some new things. We've been working on a few plays in practice that kind of paid off tonight. Obviously it's about shots, it's about entering the zone clean and it's about having traffic at the net."— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) November 8, 2019
The Blackhawks now have traffic in front with Strome on the first unit and Kirby Dach on the second and Shaw bouncing around between them. It’s why they went 33 percent on their six chances. Now, they need to keep doing it.
Stop the dump and chase
The Blackhawks went back to carrying the puck into the offensive zone and transitioning with possession instead of dumping and chasing.
It allowed Alex DeBrincat to score his fifth goal this season, the Blackhawks to enter and keep the puck in the zone on Kane’s snipe and gave them a better chance at contending against one of the hottest teams in the NHL this season.
Entering with possession made the Blackhawks fun last season. It allowed them to have an aggressive forecheck and suited their offensive lineup. That hasn’t changed with Dach, Nylander and Shaw, and it’s made that system even more important.
The carry-in part led to 11 giveaways in this game, but if the Blackhawks stick with it and allow their forwards more opportunity to understand it instead of the dump and chase, they’ll improve. It’s why the Blackhawks had far better possession numbers as well, and it will contribute to more success in the future.