A late-game Artemi Panarin-patented one-timer was followed by an extraordinarily busy overtime, but the Bread Man came through in the shootout to lift the Chicago Blackhawks past the New York Islanders
The Chicago Blackhawks again found a way to keep themselves in a tight hockey game and earn at least one point Friday night in their hosting of the New York Islanders, and that’s almost more impressive than the manner in which they earned the second of the two points that came with last night’s victory.
Let’s hit on a few of the things that stood out about Friday’s matchup.
1. The Blackhawks can win under testing circumstances
The ’Hawks were without some crucial components last evening, and halfway through the game I found myself almost ready to chalk up a frustrating offensive performance as a manifestation of their current injury situation.
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Playing without Artem Anisimov and Nick Schmaltz, the top six was a little jumbled up, and some chemistry was interrupted. That being said, the Blackhawks found a way to rely on some outstanding play from Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, as well as excellent goaltending.
2. Corey Crawford was a brick wall
Crawford stopped 31 of 32 shots Friday. He was absolutely fantastic throughout regulation, overtime and in the shootout, stopping Islanders star John Tavares on a plethora of chances throughout the night.
I think worth mentioning is the fact that Crow’s rebound control is always an indication of how he’s feeling mentally and confidence-wise. When he isn’t at his best, the puck seems to lay at his feet or in awkward places in front of and behind him.
He handled the puck well Friday and seemed to see every shot that came his way. He was square to the puck all night long and the Islanders couldn’t get him to lose his crease.
3. The Blackhawks continue to struggle at the faceoff dot
It’s difficult for a puck-possession team to win hockey games if it isn’t starting play with the puck, and the ’Hawks have struggled pretty extensively this season at the faceoff circle. They’re at 48.6 percent on the year, leaving them 21st in the league.
Friday, they won 47 percent of the faceoffs, including a crucial one from Jonathan Toews in the final minute of regulation that led to the clean one-timer opportunity for Panarin to tie it.
Da Windy City
If the ’Hawks are going to make a deep run, they’re going to need veterans like Marcus Kruger and Anisimov to consistently keep their faceoff numbers north of 50 percent.
4. Special Teams are becoming a concern
The ’Hawks’ penalty kill has arguably been this team’s biggest weakness all year. They’re 28th in the league in penalty killing percentage at just 76.4. They haven’t taken an obscene amount of irresponsible penalties this season, but if a quarter of the penalties they take are leading to goals against come mid-April, good teams will make the Blackhawks pay.
The powerplay hasn’t exactly been stellar either. At 18.8 percent, it sits at a somewhat healthier 16th in the league. The absence of aforementioned key players likely had some role the Blackhawks failing on the man-advantage Friday, but the ’Hawks’ powerplay did more harm than good by surrendering a shorthanded goal thanks to an ill-advised pinch from Brian Campbell.
The ’Hawks are going to need to iron out their shortcomings on both aspects of the special teams before the playoffs if they want to mount a well-rounded run.
5. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are back together
I can’t emphasize enough how happy I am to see Nos. 2 and 7 back on a pairing together. They both sported almost half an hour of ice time Friday night, and both had an assist on the ’Hawks’ only goal.
They elevate each other’s play and complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses as well as any other pairing in the NHL. The ’Hawks are an extremely difficult team to play against when those two can consistently play together, and the recent addition of Johnny Oduya means as solid of a second pairing as there is in he and Niklas Hjalmarsson. Oduya will keep Dunc and Seabs together on that top pairing.
The ’Hawks are as deep defensively as they have been in the last decade between their pairings and two phenomenal goaltenders. If they can find a way to maintain their scoring touch and continue to get some depth production, I can absolutely see them playing in May and June, my bias aside.
It’s super promising to see this team scratching and clawing at the final inch needed to win close games. Earlier in the season, there were a number of games where they came very close to tying it in the final seconds with the net empty, only to lose at home in regulation. I think Friday’s late-game heroics from Panarin are a huge indication they’ve really righted the ship of late.
More to come soon.
Thanks to our buddies at We’re True Blackhawk Fans for sharing.