The boo birds were roasting the Oilers during the offensive blitzkrieg pulled off by the Blackhawks during the third period in a 6-2 victory Tuesday night. It seemed like the Hawks had the puck on a string for the entire period and fans left in disgust.
As depicted below, it took some time for the Hawks to regain control of the game after four straight penalties to end the first period.
Once they regained their composure and got back to their game plan, it was clear that Hawks were the better team 5-on-5. They were generating significantly more offensive zone time and puck possession time than the Oilers during the second period, and just missed on multiple chances that were stymied by some impressive goaltending by Cam Talbot.
If the Hawks continued to attack the net the way they were throughout the second period, it was inevitable for a couple bounces to go their way in the third period and end up in the Oilers net.
In the third period alone, the Hawks had a 64.7-percent corsi-for rating, which led to 14 shots on goal and only 4 against. The Hawks were relentless all over the ice and earned the offensive eruption that happened in a matter of minutes.
A month ago, the playoffs were essentially ruled out. Hashtags like #LoseforHughes and #CrappoforKakko for all over the Hawks’ twittersphere, and fans were preparing for a long February and March.
Now, the squad is brimming with confidence, and have a legitimate shot at capturing a wild card spot in the Western Conference.
Here are the updated standings after Tuesday night.
Once again, the power play has been lethal. They were 2 for 4 in Edmonton and have converted 20 times in their last 49 opportunities. That is a 40.8-percent conversion rate, which is 11.7-percent better the Tampa Bay Lightning, who hold the top spot in the NHL with a 29.1-percent conversion rate on the season.
On the season, the Hawks’ power play is now tied for 11th in the NHL with the Washington Capitals. The top unit of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, and Erik Gustafsson deserve most of the credit, but we can’t forget to throw some kudos to Jeremy Colliton. He put this unit together after a couple weeks of trial runs and used lots of practice time at the beginning of his tenure with the Hawks to get the power play rolling.
Even though Toews didn’t find the back of the net Tuesday night, he was flying around the ice, driving the net with confidence, kept Connor McDavid from making a major impact in 5-on-5 play, and started to take over the game in the second period along with his co-star, Kane.
Toews had two primary assists in the win. The first came right off a face-off win on the power play. Throughout the game, Toews won 56-percent of his draws.
His second assist came on a 2-on-2 with Drake Caggiula. Instead of rushing the play when he was forced to the left of the Oilers net, Toews drew the eyes of the Oilers’ defenseman as he skated behind the net patiently waiting for a seam to open up to Caggiula.
Toews now has 53 points in 54 games played. Last season he had 52 points in 74 games. He has 11 points in his last five games, is on a five game point streak, and is undoubtedly having one his best seasons of his career.
Sure, he has not gotten on the scoresheet in his four games with the Blackhawks; however, he has done nothing too alarming in his four starts on the third pairing. He is getting shots through to the net, getting more ice time every game he plays in, and is starting to look like a solid option as a 7th defenseman on the Hawks.
In Edmonton, he played a season high 21:02 minutes, had two hits, two blocks, and a 55.0-percent corsi-for rating. So far, he has been a better option than Jan Rutta and Brandon Manning.
The one sour spot that continues to plague the Hawks is their penalty kill. It is still ranked dead last in the league with a 73.4-percent success rate. If the Hawks want to make a legitimate playoff run this season, cleaning up the kill will be a major factor. Now that the power play is rolling, look for Colliton to spend more time in practice on remodeling the penalty kill strategy.
It seems like he wants the defenders to be more aggressive instead of passively waiting in a box formation. It will take some time for the change to take effect, but the Hawks should target a 77 - 79-percent success rate. That will move them up to the 20-25 range of the penalty kill rankings, which could help them escape with a couple wins down the road.
In the 6-2 win, Kunitz had a 27.3-percent corsi-for rating. He is three games away from reaching the 1000-game milestone in his NHL career. Once he gets there, I would much rather see Perlini in his spot on the fourth line or a prospect come up from the AHL.
Dahlstrom had a tough game last night. He took two penalties in the first period due to a poor gap and reckless poke checks, which almost gave the Oilers a two goal lead going into the second period. He continues to be an interesting case on the blue line. There are multiple games in a row where he will act as a shutdown pair with Connonr Murphy. Then there is always one or two games within those stretches that are worrisome. Dahlstrom is only 24-years old and is still a work in progress. One of the most important improvements he can make this season is to find consistency.
The Blackhawks host the Canucks, who hold the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference, on Thursday at the United Center in Chicago.