After losing five games in a row, the Chicago Blackhawks switched up the lines in hopes of a different outcome against the reigning Stanley Cup Champions. Their wish came true with an 8-5 defeat of the Washington Capitals. Here are my five thoughts on this afternoon’s win.
1 – Jokiharju scratched
Before the game even began, the Chicago Blackhawks did something ridiculous by scratching rookie defenseman Henri Jokiharju and putting newcomer Slater Koekkoek in the lineup over him. I understand the team is terrible this year and head coach Jeremy Colliton is trying to play around with lineup to see what works. However, scratching the best defenseman your team has after just allowing him to miss ten games for World Juniors is unacceptable.
Yes, he didn’t have the best game against the Rangers on Thursday. He was on the ice for 11 scoring chances against and six high-danger scoring chances against. But only one player in the Blackhawks’ lineup managed to be on the ice for more scoring chances and high-danger scoring chances for than against and that was David Kampf.
As a rookie on a terrible team, he leads all Blackhawks defensemen who have played 20 games or more in Corsi-for percentage (54.03) and has recorded 12 assists. But ever since he came back from World Juniors, Colliton has given him a shorter leash than any of the other defensemen on the team. Against the Rangers, he only played for 14:10, the least of any Blackhawks D-man. His average time on ice has dropped to 19:25 since his return after being an even 20 minutes on December 16th.
I’ve advocated for scratching players due to bad performances many times. I understand wanting to get Koekkoek in the lineup to see what you’ve got. However, this is the wrong move no matter how you look at it. Jokiharju is part of the future and the Blackhawks’ coaching staff is losing trust in a guy who’s had a bad game here and there way too easily.
2 – Power forward Brandon Saad
In the first period, Brandon Saad had a goal that I think made everyone scream “Oh my God!” at their television screen. With a ridiculous individual effort, Saad skated from the Blackhawks’ own blue line to the offensive zone while deke-ing around Capitals defenseman Madison Bowey in the process. It was the most Brandon Saad goal he could’ve scored. This is what he’s exceptionally good at.
In his last six games, he has four goals and now has 15 on the season. He had a really rough start to the year and he may not score 53 points again like he did a few seasons ago, but Saad is still a difference maker on the ice when he wants to be. His strength and fantastic skating, clearly on display in that goal, allows him to be a great power forward. Don’t be surprised if he keeps scoring and finishes with 25+ goals this season.
3 – DeBrincat keeps on scoring and scoring and scoring
Somedays, I think about how almost every team in the 2016 NHL Draft passed Alex DeBrincat and allowed him to fall to the Chicago Blackhawks at 39th overall. That thought crossed my mind again today when DeBrincat tallied his 25th goal of the season and his seventh goal in the last seven games.
In his first 132 games, DeBrincat has 53 goals. That’s good for 0.39 goals per game. This season, he’s on pace for 41 goals. In a graphic the NBC Sports team put up during the game, DeBrincat has scored the eighth-most goals before age 22 in Chicago Blackhawks history. All of these stats are really good. Alex DeBrincat is really good and fans should be excited about all of the goals he’s going to score in his career.
4 – Colliton’s effective new lines
Most of us looked at the practice lines from yesterday wondering what the heck Jeremy Colliton was doing putting that lineup together. Somehow, the line blender turned up a lineup that was effective and led the team to an 8-5 win over the reigning Stanley Cup champions.
The first line, obviously, was phenomenal. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane combined for ten points today and even though he didn’t record a point, this was Drake Caggiula‘s best game since being traded to Chicago. That line had a 51.61 Corsi-for percentage at 5-on-5 play.
The second line of Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, and Dominik Kahun was overshadowed by the top line but still played well. Strome and DeBrincat combined for two goals and three assists. Kahun had a quality scoring chance and drew a penalty on the same play. This trio had a Corsi-for of 50% at 5-on-5 and only allowed one scoring chance against in 8:19 of ice time.
Even though Brandon Saad had a goal, the third line didn’t have their best game. Not one of Saad, David Kampf, or Marcus Kruger had a Corsi-for percentage above 50 and they allowed five scoring chances against to their three scoring chances for.
Surprisingly, the fourth line had a really great game at 5-on-5. John Hayden, Chris Kunitz, and Artem Anisimov didn’t record a point, they had five scoring chances for when together and a Corsi-for percentage of 56.25.
Basically, the moral of the story is that the Chicago Blackhawks should try this lineup again and see what the result is in a game that isn’t as bizarre as today’s game.
5 – Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane rekindle old chemistry
Oh man, what a game these two superstars had today. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews recorded nine points today, which included the captain’s sixth career hat trick. Toews had a primary assist on both goals Kane scored and Kane had the primary assist on two of the goals Toews scored.
At all strengths, Kane and Toews had nine scoring chances for and four high-danger scoring chances for. They had Corsi-for and Fenwick-for percentages above 50 (52.78 and 59.26), which basically means that had possession of the puck more often than not when they were on the ice together.
This isn’t new for these two, either. When they first joined the league, they dominated when they were on the same line. Eventually, former head coach Joel Quenneville decided to spread the wealth and split Kane and Toews up. He constantly hesitated to put them back together and only did so when the team was desperate for scoring.
Well, Jeremy Colliton was desperate for scoring after their fifth loss in a row on Thursday. He put 1988 back together and they did not disappoint. Toews had three goals and two assists while Kane had two goals and three assists.
If I’m going to be honest, I expected this type of scoring today with the incredible seasons these two are having. Patrick Kane now has 69 points (29 goals, 40 assists) on the season and currently sits 6th in scoring in the NHL. He’s on pace for 114 points. Jonathan Toews has 47 points (21 goals, 26 assists) in 50 games. He’s on pace for a career-high 39 goals and 77 points.
Kane and Toews have fires lit under them and it doesn’t look like they’ll be put out any time soon.
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The Chicago Blackhawks will face the New York Islanders at the United Center on Tuesday night before a nine-day break that includes the NHL All-Star Game in San Jose. The Islanders currently sit in first place in the Metropolitan Division and have been red hot as of late. We’ll see if the Blackhawks’ valiant effort from today translates into Tuesday’s game.
As always, let’s go ‘Hawks!