The Blackhawks swept their second straight back-to-back with a 6-2 win over the Maple Leafs on Saturday in Toronto then returned home to beat the Jets 5-2 on Sunday. Chicago (24-20-6) has won a season-high five straight and is three points out of the Western Conference wild-card spot with a game in hand.
Saad no more
Brandon Saad returned after missing almost a month with a right-ankle injury Saturday against the Maple Leafs with a first-period goal, contributing to the Blackhawks’ initial three-goal jump and claiming the game-winning goal. His goal in the third period against Winnipeg came in conjunction with Patrick Kane’s 1,000th point to give Chicago a 4-1 lead.
If goal scoring wasn’t enough, the Saad — Ryan Carpenter — Kane line had a 53.7-percent Corsi, 82.4-percent shot share and 67.4-percent expected goal share. Those are great numbers, especially in relation to their 53.9-percent offensive zone start percentage.
The return of one of the best Blackhawks this season is great news for a surging Chicago team. If Saad can counterbalance Kane defensively with Carpenter’s help and provide more scoring touch for Kane, the line can provide additional depth.
Keep the foot on the gas
The Blackhawks kept their foot (skate?) on the pedal and continued to build momentum as the game went along. While the Blackhawks had great starts to each game — building 3-0 and 2-0 leads against the Maple Leafs and Jets, respectively — they had even better ends to each game.
Chicago had a 54.1-percent shot share, 56.4-percent expected goal share and 53.3-percent high-danger share in the third period at five-on-five over the weekend. The Blackhawks didn’t slow down and play conservative, like they had previously, and their system allowed them to keep control of the puck. That led to a 100-percent goal share at five-on-five and 75-percent goal share at all strengths in the combined third periods.
If the Blackhawks are going to truly be “back,” then this sustained pressure in the third period will need to continue.
No goal unanswered
Another positive from the weekend was whenever the Maple Leafs or Jets scored, the Blackhawks answered right back. They never let either team build momentum.
When Toronto’s William Nylander scored to start the second period, Jonathan Toews scored to extend the lead to three. When Patrik Laine scored to give the Jets a little bit of life in the third period, Dominik Kubalik squashed that life with an empty-net goal.
This graph helps explain why the Blackhawks were able to beat better opponents than the ones they had previously faced during their five game winning streak. If the Blackhawks are able to answer goals against with sustained pressure in the other end, the team will continue to grow and build off this hot streak.