Despite being eliminated from playoff contention for the second straight season, Chicago was able to raise their compete level and give St. Louis, who are in contention for the top seed in the Central Division, a hard fought battle.
In even strength play, the Blackhawks owned a slight advantage in puck possession with a 50.4 Corsi-For (CF) rating.
As seen below, Chicago had the majority of puck possession in the first and second period where they generated 23 scoring chances, while allowing 16. However, the Blues took over in the third period with 13 high danger scoring chances compared to only three for the Blackhawks. In the entire game, the Blackhawks generated 13 high danger chances. The Blues had 13 in the final period of regulation, which made it inevitable for this game to go to overtime.
Net Front Presence
Not often do the Blackhawks produce a shot heat map with all their goals coming from directly in front of the opposing net.
Coach Jeremy Colliton, Eddie Olczyk, fans and even a few of the Chicago players have been preaching about creating more havoc in the slot and around the crease. Obviously, NHL goals come from many different sources; however, a healthy proportion are produced by deflections, rebounds and screens. In recent seasons, the Blackhawks have played a perimeter game and rarely create scoring opportunities by taking the necessary hacks and cross-checks to drive the net or impair the vision of the opposing goalie.
In the victory over the Blues, the first goal came from Jonathan Toews splitting the defenseman on a zone entry and driving the net. The second was from a nifty deflection by Artem Anisimov right out front. Then the third was by Patrick Kane who roofed a backhand after streaking to the net with a St. Louis defender right on his heels.
Making a habit of driving the net and hanging around the blue paint will only increase the likelihood of a bounce to go your way. It is an intangible that needs to be more evident in the Blackhawks’ offensive scheme next season if they want to compete in the Central Division and in playoff-style hockey.
Coming into Wednesday’s showdown with the Blues, Kane had only scored once in his previous 11 games. During that stretch, Kane looked fatigued and not himself at times. Against the Blues, Kane turned his game up a notch, was buzzing around the ice all game, set up Toews with a slick backhand sauce and scored a Kane-esque goal.
Patrick Kane snaps a 10 game goal drought AND sets a new career high in points with 107 pic.twitter.com/9UyoiviTbq— Blackhawks Talk (@NBCSBlackhawks) April 4, 2019
With the goal and assist, Kane set a new career high in points surpassing his previous mark of 106 set during his 2015-2016 MVP campaign.
Signing an additional top 6 scoring threat to lessen the ice time load on Kane should be a priority for general manager Stan Bowman this offseason. It will keep Kane fresh for crunch time in March and April, and will make it harder for opposing teams to match-up against Chicago. Instead of focusing solely on Kane, they’ll have to worry about Toews, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, Brandon Saad and hopefully another consistent scorer.
Dennis Gilbert’s Third Period
It was a tough start to Gilbert’s NHL debut. He took a penalty in his second shift of the game and did not look comfortable. However, as the game went on his confidence noticeably increased and he started to play the physical game that made him successful at Norte Dame and in the AHL with Rockford. He finished the game with one block, a game-high 6 hits and played 12:46 minutes.
Gilbert was reassigned to the AHL Thursday morning; however, it was still an intriguing debut for the 22-year old.
Closing out games
In their 5-4 win over the Sharks, 3-2 OT loss against the Kings, and the 4-3 shootout victory over the Blues, the Blackhawks had tons of trouble shutting down the opponent’s attack when it was most needed.
For example, in the waning minutes of the third period against St. Louis, Tyler Bozak snuck backdoor to tie the game.
Artem Anisimov was caught puck watching instead of locking down Bozak, and Duncan Keith had his stick a couple feet off the ice when Patrick Maroon’s only option was to throw the puck towards the net. Mental lapses late in games, especially ones where you’re holding a lead, can not happen if the Blackhawks want to win more often in regulation. 3-on-3 overtime is captivating, but it’s usually a coin flip. Chicago has given up the extra point in OT twelve times this season, which is tied for third most in the NHL.
A handful of these OT losses could have been avoided with a more sound and structured defensive strategy when protecting one or two goal leads in the third period. Hopefully, it will be a major aspect of Colliton’s training camp in September.
The Blackhawks turned the puck over twelve times against the Blues. On the other hand, St. Louis only had three giveaways.
The most memorable turnovers were ones by Carl Dahlstrom at center ice, Dominik Kahun in the defensive zone high slot and Brandon Saad behind the offensive zone net. Luckily, Cam Ward came up huge on a number of chances that were a direct result of a turnover.
The fourth line of Marcus Kruger, Chris Kunitz and John Hayden did not have an impact against St. Louis. On Monday against Winnipeg, the opposing fourth line was dominant and had two goals. Against Los Angeles, their fourth line also produced two goals.
Having a fourth line that can play 10-13 productive minutes a night (driving possession, finishing checks and spending time cycling the puck and tiring out the opposing defenseman) is a significant factor in attaining two points. Hopefully, a prospect like Matthew Highmore can join David Kampf on the fourth line next season and allow Colliton to role all four lines more often.
The Blackhawks face the Dallas Stars in their last home game of the season at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the United Center.