The Blackhawks gained ground in the Western Conference wild-card race with a 6-2 win against the Sharks on Wednesday night at the United Center. Chicago is six points behind Nashville and Vancouver for the second wild card.
Power play was good for once
Chicago scored two goals on the power play after going 0-for-14 in its past five games. Duncan Keith scored the first with a blast from the point that was aided by a screen from Kirby Dach and the second was from Patrick Kane after receiving a pass from Alex DeBrincat.
Part of this was luck — Dach was perfectly placed on the screen and Kane was gifted an open net by a poor Sharks defense and great pass by DeBrincat — but the other part of it was encouraging. In just 3:08 of 5-on-4 time, the Blackhawks had six shot attempts, four shots on net and three high-danger chances. Those high-danger chances paid off — Kane’s goal coming from the definition of the high-danger area — but the Blackhawks also found a way to create .55 expected goals, more than they usually do.
The power play goals were likely not needed, but they’re a substantial lift to the Blackhawks’ weakest aspect in a time it’s most needed.
Alex DeBrincat can’t score but he can contribute
There were no goals for DeBrincat, who has yet to hit 20 goals this season, but he did have three assists. He was perhaps the Blackhawks’ most important player Wednesday. DeBrincat played the second-most minutes on the power play only to Kane, and assisted on both goals.
Becoming a playmaker has been an under-recognized aspect of DeBrincat’s season as he has more assists than goals for the first time in his young career. His 24 assists put him only eight assists away from setting a new career high in assists with 12 games remaining.
Kane had a season-high 11 shots on goal (!) against San Jose. His previous high was nine. It’s the first time in more than a year Kane’s had more than 10 shots in a game, as the last occurrence was Feb. 22, 2019, when Kane had 13.
Kane led the Blackhawks with a full expected goal for his efforts, and his two goals could easily have been more, as he had an 18.2-percent shooting percentage. Kane also created six high-danger opportunities and blocked a shot.
It was one of Kane’s best performances this season, and it was at the time the Blackhawks may have needed it most.