The Blackhawks scored two goals in the shootout to defeat the Panthers 3-2 at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida. Chicago (29-28-8) trails Nashville, Winnipeg and Arizona by six points for the second wild card in the Western Conference with 17 games remaining.
The Blackhawks followed a set precedence of losing momentum as the game went along against the Panthers. Sure, the Blackhawks came back strong in overtime, getting three shots to the Panthers’ four and dominating the puck for a stretch of time that included two personnel changes, but Chicago had two shots on net in the third period.
Chicago continues to start out strong — they dominated the Panthers 25-7 in shot attempts in the first period and 14-4 in shots — but they slowly worsened during the game, a metric tracking both all strengths and even strength.
It’s been the rule all season that the Blackhawks will have a better first period than their third, broken a notable few times — including a 5-2 win Thursday at the Lightning — but moving forward, the Blackhawks need more effort across all 60 minutes.
Crawford continues to excel
Corey Crawford made 40 saves (34 in regulation, four in overtime, two in the shootout), and continues to set the bar high for himself. He’s had one bad start in five straight starts. In the other four, he allowed two goals, giving the Blackhawks a chance in each game.
Since the beginning of 2020, Crawford is a top 10 goaltender with a .928 save percentage and 8.87 goals-saved above average. He’s saved 5.17 goals-above expected in that time frame. He has entered a mode he hadn’t been in since October, and it’s clear to see why the Blackhawks brass had faith in him moving forward. If Crawford can stay healthy like this season, he continues to be the ideal goaltender for Collin Delia, Kevin Lankinen or Malcolm Subban to learn from.
It feels now more than ever like Crawford will retire in a Blackhawks’ sweater. So far, that’s a sweet relief.
The Blackhawks gave up too many breakaways on Crawford, but for the large part he defended them well. Both goals were on breakaways, however, and from the beginning of the game — with Mike Hoffman’s goal at 4:07 — to the end of overtime, the Blackhawks were allowing odd-man chances and gave Florida uncontested space around Crawford’s crease.
Cracking down on poor pinches by defensemen and coverage mishaps that led to 11 high-danger scoring chances for Florida will only serve to make the goaltender’s job easier. With Subban taking the net eventually, the Blackhawks should want to make his first start a comfortable one.