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3 takeaways from Blackhawks’ shootout loss to Coyotes

Jonathan Toews is going again and the power play needs a new quarterback.

Arizona Coyotes v Chicago Blackhawks
Conor Garland of the Arizona Coyotes scores in the shootout against Robin Lehner of the Chicago Blackhawks
Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

The Blackhawks lost 4-3 in a shootout to the Coyotes on Sunday at United Center, but captured a point and sit at 12-12-6 after 30 games.

1. Jonathan Toews is getting hot, and Dominik Kubalik helped the first line

Toews added one goal and two assists against the Coyotes, accounting for a point on all three of the Blackhawks’ goals. Kubalik was added to the first line alongside Toews and Brandon Saad and added a goal as well, deflecting Connor Murphy’s shot from the point after a faceoff win by Toews.

In addition to their points, Toews led the team in shots with five and Kubalik added three. Between the two, they had .91 expected goals. Toews had three high-danger chances and Kubalik created one. Saad added a takeaway, one shot, .17 expected goals (seventh on the team) and two high-danger chances.

The line had a 50.0-percent Corsi, 66.7-percent goal share, 51.0-percent expected goal share, and 66.7-percent high-danger share. In other words, exactly what you want out of that line, where they were able to deny chances one way and get it going the other way. It’s a more electric line when all three members find ways to contribute, and that has never been a problem for Kubalik.

2. Give the power play a new quarterback

The power play has been a problem for the Blackhawks this season, but in the last three games, there’s been a noticeable uptick. They’ve scored in their last three games, and very little of that has to do with Erik Gustafsson, the power play’s supposed “quarterback”.

Aside from the assist on Dylan Strome’s goal against Boston, Gustafsson doesn’t have any points in the last three games. He’s struggled to produce this season. He has just 10 points in 29 games. Four of those points have come on the power play. He’s also had two giveaways on the power play, has taken a penalty, and his play in the overtime period in this game may have been the last straw, as his shot, which went straight to the corner, led to Toews taking a penalty, effectively ending the Blackhawks’ man advantage and putting them on the penalty kill in overtime, and ending any chance of winning the game, as Robin Lehner is not a noted shootout enthusiast.

It’s not like Gustafsson’s most recent assist is anything special, either. In this game, Murphy had the exact same type of play off Kubalik’s deflection. Murphy wouldn’t have the same defensive problems Gustafsson has had on the power play, either, leading directly to a shorthanded goal against in the Boston game. Calvin de Haan, who got more involved in the offense in this game, could be a potential suitor as well.

Although the perfect candidate is still in the AHL in Adam Boqvist.

3. The bottom six is noticeable

The Blackhawks’ two best lines against Arizona, although neither of them scored, may have been their bottom six. With the addition of Dylan Sikura and the reassignment of Alex Nylander to the third line, the third line had a whole new look and the fourth line continued to be excellent:

Micah Blake McCurdy

The Kampf line had a 60 percent Corsi, 66.7-percent shot share and 51.8-percent expected goal share. The Carpenter line had a 61.1-percent Corsi, 54.5-percent shot share, and 63.5-percent expected goal share. Both of those are incredible from the bottom six, and a large part was the new additions.

Sikura added two shots, one scoring chance and showed a good bit of jump to start the game, but ended up playing less than 10 minutes. Nylander had a scoring chance, one shot and a takeaway in less than nine minutes. Kirby Dach, who played the fewest minutes on the team, had a shot and won a faceoff (losing one) in eight minutes.

The bottom six, especially the younger members, deserve more time to prove what they can do, and they proved that against Arizona, which has one of the best defenses in the league.