High five: Blackhawks top Wild 4-1 for fifth straight victory
It’s beginning to look a lot like Hawks-mas
Playing in their final home game this calendar year, the Chicago Blackhawks made it a five-game winning streak with a 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild.
It was the type of game the Hawks haven’t had too many of this season: building an early lead then keeping their opponents firmly in the rearview mirror to earn two more points. And facing a divisional opponent that had the same number of points entering Sunday’s action makes this win all the more important.
Chicago grabbed the lead in the first period when Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz did things that Kane and Schmaltz do. A couple of passes across the ice, a one-timer on net and, boom, a 1-0 lead.
Kane doubled Chicago’s advantage in the second period, taking in a sweet pass from Jordan Oesterle and darting towards the Minnesota net on a breakaway. He went five-hole on Wild goaltender Alex Stalock to make it a 2-0 Hawks advantage.
Jordan Oesterle with a gem of a pass to Patrick Kane...just like they drew it up. 2-0 #Blackhawks pic.twitter.com/Q2xsbqUXNr— Cristiano Simonetta (@CMS_74_) December 18, 2017
Ryan Hartman scored his first goal in 18 games with a nifty drive to the net early in the third period to put Chicago up by a field goal. Minnesota ended Crawford’s shutout hopes with a goal from the point about four minutes later. But Tommy Wingels pushed Chicago’s advantage back to three with a shorthanded goal later in the period.
Five wins in a row immediately after a five-game losing skid. That’s how good teams respond.
MIN GOALS: Dumba (6)
CHI GOALS: Kane 2 (14), Hartman (5), Wingels (6)
Power play improvements
It’s still frustrating to see a team with so much offensive talent struggle to find the net with the man advantage. After going 0-for-6 on Sunday night, Chicago’s power play is now 2-for-39 in its last 10 games. But the power play looked quite good at several points on Sunday night, generating a multitude of chances while blanketing Stalock in shots. It even hit the post on a slapper from the point off the stick of Oesterle. It’s hard to imagine the power play won’t find the net more often if they can generate chances like that in the upcoming games. And speaking of Oesterle ...
Jordan Oesterle is giving Joel Quenneville a difficult decision
When Jan Rutta and Cody Franson each went down with injuries, the assumption was that one or both would be back in the lineup as soon as they were healthy. But the Michigan native has made good use of his first consistent stretch of game time since October. He’s been ran the point well on the power play and had the aforementioned sweet pass to Kane, setting up a breakaway goal. Quenneville has been given Oesterle the benefit of many offensive zone faceoffs in the last four games, but his positive possession metrics suggest he isn’t letting that decision go to waste. Charlie Coyle did blow by him late in the third period for a scoring chance, but there have been enough good moments from Oesterle to make Q think twice about sending him back to the press box when the other injured D-men return.
[Updated] Quenneville again praised Oesterle after the game, too:
Joel Quenneville on Jordan Oesterle: "He’s been really good. He was good again today."— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) December 18, 2017
Quantity over quality
If there’s one minor gripe from tonight’s game, it’s the number of high-danger chances the Hawks surrendered. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Wild had a 12-5 advantage in high-danger chances on Sunday night. Looking at the heatmaps for each team (also available at the Natural Stat Trick link), the Wild clearly had success in getting the puck to the net, forcing Crawford to make some tough saves to preserve the lead. This hasn’t been a common occurrence during the 2017-18 season yet, but it’s worth keeping an eye on to make sure that it doesn’t trend that way.
- Patrick Kane (CHI) 2 goals
- Corey Crawford (CHI) 27 saves
- Ryan Hartman (CHI) 1 goal
The Hawks have the next three days off embarking on a six-game road trip that begins Thursday night against the Dallas Stars.