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3 up, 3 down after 3 straight Blackhawks wins in a 4-2 stretch

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We check in with the latest trends as the Blackhawks are rising in the NHL standings.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Chicago Blackhawks Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s the seventh installment to Second City Hockey’s stock report series after a 4-2-0 stretch for Chicago beginning with the Jan. 5 game against the Red Wings and continuing through the Jan. 15 game against the Canadiens.

Trending Up

1. Dominik Kubalik

Kubalik occupied the top spot in our last stock report and has done nothing to warrant a different position. In fact, Kubalik has been even more productive during the past six games, scoring seven goals. His five-game goal streak was snapped Wednesday in Montreal, although he still factored in several scoring chances.

In the past 13 games, Kubalik has 10 goals and five assists, significant portions of his season totals of 18 goals and 10 assists through 46 games. And that production is the result of his own surge in shot production. In that same 13-game stretch, Kubalik has 36 shots on goal, peaking with a whopping nine shots on goal against the Senators on Tuesday. That comes after a six-game stretch in late November/early December when Kubalik had a total of five shots on goal.

The equation seems simple here for Kubalik: more shots and more chances are leading to more goals and more points. Now that’s he’s skating on a top line with Jonathan Toews, Kubalik is getting the ice time to find those opportunities and, thanks to his combination of hands and speed, is reaping the rewards.

2. Jonathan Toews

Some griping was noted when Toews tallied two points in the first 11 games this season. In the 37 games since, he has 37 points. Not bad for a rebound effort, eh?

Toews recent partnership with Kubalik can be credited for some of that revival, as the Blackhawks captain has been especially productive in the last seven games (three goals, eight assists). But it was a solo effort Tuesday that resembled vintage Toews, as he used a lengthy jaunt through the Senators defense that culminated in the game-winning goal in overtime.

It’s those type of plays that remind you of the offensive talent Toews possesses and suggests his resurgent 81-point season in 2018-19 won’t be the final offensive spike of his career.

3. Penalty kill

Before the Oct. 26 game against the Hurricanes, Chicago’s ninth game of the season, the Blackhawks’ penalty kill was ranked 30th in the NHL. In the 38 games since, though, it has been on a steady upward trend and now resides in seventh place in the NHL with an 82.98 percent conversion rate.

Some of the team’s numbers have improved from last season’s dreadful PK performance. In 2018-19, the Blackhawks ranked near the bottom of the league in these statistics, expressed as a rate per 60 minutes: shot attempts against (104.54, ranked 29th), scoring chances against (55.95, 30th and high-danger chances against (27.01, 30th). This season, those numbers have improved to 97.48 (ranked 18th), 51.67 (23rd) and 20.11 (19th), respectively. But the biggest change has been in net, where goaltender Robin Lehner has a league-best .934 save percentage while shorthanded.

Trending Down

1. Kirby Dach

Let’s get all the caveats out of the way first. Yes, he’s only 18 years old. Yes, he still has a bright future. No, this doesn’t mean anyone at this website is writing him off already. But it’s worth mentioning Dach is mired in a long, long slump. Since a five-game outburst in mid-November that saw the rookie compile seven points (four goals, three assists), Dach has just one goal in 27 games. This comes in spite of the rookie ranking fourth on the team with 65.38 percent of his zone starts coming in the offensive zone and his recent promotion to the top power-play unit.

There are going to be growing pains for Dach, and this appears to be a prolonged stretch of them. The hope here is he gets them out of the way now, while his career is still in its earliest stages, and learns how to escape these droughts quicker when they’re encountered in the future.

2. Blackhawks strength of schedule

If there’s an encouraging trend emerging during the past few weeks, it’s the Blackhawks schedule is softening after a difficult start to the season. According to these rankings, the Blackhawks have had the eighth-most difficult schedule in the League through the first 48 games, and that includes the recent games against NHL basement dwellers like Anaheim, Ottawa and Detroit. For the final 34 games, though, Chicago ranks 15th in terms of strength of schedule. And that lightened workload should coincide with the return of Brandon Saad and Dylan Strome from right-ankle injuries. It’s also worth noting three teams Chicago is battling in the Western wild-card chase have a more difficult road ahead: Vegas (No. 6), Winnipeg (No. 7) and Nashville (No. 8).

3. Red Wings goal differential

No, this isn’t necessarily Blackhawks related, but who cares? Chicago’s longtime rivals, who were booted to the Eastern Conference by these very Blackhawks when the Red Wings blew a 3-1 series lead in 2013, have a hilariously dreadful minus-81 goal differential.

For those who can recall all the times Detroit waltzed into the United Center in the 2000s and escaped the building with two points despite hardly breaking a sweat ... isn’t it great? Isn’t it wonderful? Doesn’t it fill the petty section of your sports fandom with an uncontrollable glee?

Why stop there, Detroit?! Go for triple digits!

What’s next?

The Blackhawks wrap up their three-game trek through Eastern Canada by playing the Maple Leafs at 6 p.m. at the Scotiabank Arena on Saturday night in Toronto.

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