After two consecutive games of offensive struggles, the Chicago Blackhawks managed to post a seven spot in a 7-5 road win against the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday. This was important for two reasons: 1) After one goal in the previous six periods, a large output like this could lift the offense moving forward, and 2) it was a road win for a team that has struggled to earn them.
But this was a confusing win for the Blackhawks. You’ll take the points any way you can get them, and it’s ultimately beneficial for the offense to have a breakout night, but this isn’t one of those games where you’ll go back to the drawing board and say, “The ’Hawks need to do it like they did in Arizona.”
Still, the team picked up two points on a night the Blues won in the division and the Stars lost to Columbus (Dallas cannot beat bad teams), and that’s the ultimate key. Let’s take a look at three key points of emphasis from this game.
Defensive questions abound. Giving up five goals to a team like the Coyotes (yes, they’re currently in a playoff spot; welcome to the Pacific Division) is far from optimal. Giving up three of them to Shane Doan, who Pat Foley was amazed only had one hat trick in his career before Tuesday (I certainly wasn’t), is especially putrid. And allowing 37 shots on net is certainly troublesome. Still, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook each had a goal on the powerplay, and Erik Gustafsson looked solid in his first action since returning to Chicago.
It’s a very mixed bag at this point, and this game demonstrated that very well. You’re not going to obtain a lot of confidence allowing five goals on the road, even in a win, and it makes you wonder how much longer it might take for Stan Bowman to make a blue line move. Or for Ville Pokka to get a shot in the NHL.
Oh, and despite the statline Corey Crawford walked away with Tuesday, he probably kept Arizona from putting up a 10 spot. Yes, he biffed the first goal, but he was pretty solid after that. Sometimes you have a great night in spite of your defense, and sometimes you have a terrible night due in part to your defense. And you can win in both scenarios. Hockey is fun like that.
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The offense isn’t exactly fixed. While I did say a performance like this can lead to bigger and better things for a team’s offensive production, you have to look at how this goal total came about. The first three were on the powerplay, and while it was nice to see that unit finally putting some shots on net and making them count, you should generally be more likely to score than not with a man advantage. The final goal was an empty netter, and both of Andrew Desjardins‘ goals were straight garbage.
Now, one great thing about Desjardins’ strikes is that they produced some bottom-six scoring, and they also paid homage to the old adage “Get the puck to the net.” Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. The Blackhawks should be glad it worked tonight and use that knowledge moving forward, versus trying to pass their opponents into submission and ending up with nothing to show for it.
So there’s still plenty of room for improvement here, especially at even strength. A lot of it is still the Patrick Kane show, co-starring whoever he’s skating with. It should be noted, however, that Andrew Shaw‘s pass to set up Kane’s goal — the only one I didn’t mention above — was very pretty. So interesting how Shaw shows that brilliance in flashes, and then takes 15 offensive-zone penalties to make us forget. And speaking of penalties …
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Blackhawks need to use their heads. Okay, so the officiating on Tuesday wasn’t anywhere near what you’d call stellar. Still, eight minor penalties? Of course there was a bench too many men penalty, which the Blackhawks excel in receiving for whatever reason. An unsportsmanlike conduct from Niklas Hjalmarsson? He’s got to be smarter than that. Three tripping, two interference and one high stick rounded it out, and the Blackhawks should probably thank their penalty killers and Crawford that the Coyotes didn’t at least have this game tied after 60 minutes.
The Blackhawks are typically not penalized often, but they’ve had a few games like this where they’ve just racked up the penalty minutes. At a certain point (being up 6-2), maybe the officials are trying to make it so the game is a little less out of hand, but you also can’t put yourself in the situation to be rung up each time. Some more control and on-ice awareness would be nice moving forward.