RECAP: Chicago wins a pair from Florida, falls to Nashville

  

The Chicago Blackhawks entered their pair of games against the Florida Panthers having lost three straight games and looked to right the ship. With only a three-point lead for the last playoff spot in the Central Division standings, it is hard to figure out which Blackhawks team you will get on each given night: The one that can score on the power play and receive solid goaltending in order to compete or the team that looks lost 5-on-5 and cannot generate much pressure offensively.

Tuesday, March 23 — Patrick Kane celebrates his 1,000th game with a victory

Chicago ended its four-game losing streak with a 3–2 victory on Tuesday night against the Panthers, a perfect ending to the 1,000th NHL game for Patrick Kane. The Hawks would jump out to a three-goal lead and hang on late with a sigh of relief that could have been heard through the television set. 

Chicago forward Dominik Kubalik extended his six-game point streak early in the contest after beating Florida goaltender Chris Driedger. Kubalik now has 11 goals this season and continues to show an offensive flair in his second season on this side of the pond. The goal was assisted by forward Brandon Hagel and defenseman Connor Murphy.

Goals from forwards Pius Suter and Carl Soderberg, both assisted by Kane, gave Chicago a 3–0 lead early in the second period. Forward Alex DeBrincat and defenseman Nikita Zadorov assisted on the goals, as well. Chicago needed to hang on late, as Florida pulled Driedger for the extra attacker, and the Blackhawks did just that to claim the victory.

Chicago received excellent goaltending from Kevin Lankinen again, stopping 33 of the 35 shots faced and 28 of 29 at even strength.

Thursday, March 25 — Lankinen stands on his head

Rinse. Repeat. Lankinen continues to show he deserves all the time in net, pitching a 41-save shutout on Thursday in Chicago. The Finnish netminder had arguably his best game, even stopping a 3-on-0 midway through the game. The 25-year-old was also outstanding on the penalty kill, helping Chicago kill off all six Florida power play opportunities. The victory gave Lankinen 12 this season.

As Blackhawk fans have grown accustomed to, Kane scored a highlight-reel goal after he dug the puck out of a mad scramble in front of the Florida goal, showed patience to drag the puck into an open area of the ice and netted his 13th goal of the campaign.

Suter scored in his second consecutive game, beating Florida goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, for the Switzerland native’s 10th goal this season. Hagel scored his fourth goal this season into an empty net, giving Chicago the 3–0 victory.

Saturday, March 27 — Nashville too much for stale Blackhawks

On Saturday night, Nashville scored on their first shot of the game and controlled all three periods of play in a 3–1 victory against Chicago. The victory was Nashville’s fifth straight victory. Chicago could not capitalize on either of its power play chances, and although once down by only a goal midway through the second period of action, never really seemed to be in the game.

Suter scored for Chicago, tapping home a rebound off a Kane shot, and was the only bright spot for the Hawks on the evening. The goal was Suter’s third straight game with a tally and his 11th goal of the season, which ties him with Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov for the league lead among rookies. With only five assists, Suter is sixth overall among first-year players with 16 points.

Saturday’s game also saw the return of second-year forward Kirby Dach after his wrist surgery only three short months ago. The early return was definitely a surprise to Blackhawks fans, as he was expected to miss another couple months. Head Coach Jeremy Colliton wasted no time trusting Dach with 20:08 of ice time. The 20-year-old center finished with one shot and won 40% of his draws.

Analysis

According to HockeyReference, the Blackhawks currently rank 26th in 5-on-5 actual goal differential with a -12, but do generate 52.4% scoring changes for, which ranks 14th in the league. Chicago also scores at a 11.7% clip on their high-danger chances, ranking them 22nd overall. The team as a whole needs to do a better job scoring goals 5-on-5 and taking advantage of their opportunities. If the young team expects to hang onto the last spot in the Central Division playoff race, they cannot continue to rely on their 28.3% rate on the man advantage, which ranks third among all teams in the league. Let’s hope the Blackhawks can sustain some more pressure against Nashville on Sunday and in their following two games against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Center Ice Forums RECAP: Chicago wins a pair from Florida, falls to Nashville

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