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After an ugly 2-1 shootout win over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, the Blackhawks headed to Buffalo looking for their first back-t0-back wins since December 9th.
Arvid Söderblom got the start in goal for the Blackhawks, and put together his third solid start in a row after a rough start to the season. The goaltender stopped 27 of 30 Buffalo shots, including a perfect first period during which the Blackhawks were outshot 13-4. He was nearly as strong in the second, but Sabres veteran forward Zemgus Girgensens redirected a Ryan Johnson point shot, making it 1-0 Buffalo.
That score would hold until the third period when JJ Peterka sniped a puck off the back of Söderblom’s mask and into the net. It was a perfect shot from a tough angle, but as soon as the Blackhawks trail by two goals, their games are pretty much over.
A few minutes later, Philipp Kurashev took a questionable five-minute major boarding penalty after hitting Erik Johnson behind the Sabres net. Johnson turned at the last moment and Kurashev couldn’t hold up on the hit. The penalty was reviewed, and the five minute major was upheld.
Moments into the power play, a Rasmus Dahlin shot ricocheted off of Alex Vlasic’s stick and past Söderblom.
3-0 Sabres and that was all she wrote.
Jay: Arvid Söderblom beginning to stack solid starts
Despite the loss, Arvid Söerblom put together his third consecutive solid start. He stopped 27 of 30 Sabres shots, including 12 shorthanded saves.
He’s seeing and tracking the puck much better than he had been earlier in the season. In January, he’s carrying a solid 2.55 goals against average and an excellent .924 save percentage.
If Arvid Söderblom is to earn Luke Richardson’s trust back, this and the previous couple of starts will go a long way. “I thought he was strong all game,” Richardson said after the game. “Unfortunately, they had a tip-in on the first goal, then we tipped the third one in ourselves. The second one, those are just unfortunate, those side shots that go in off the goalie. I’m sure he’d probably want that one back, but other than that, he had a strong game for us. We need to give him a little more goal support.”
It’ll be interesting to see if Söderblom gets a bit more action down the stretch, here. If the Hawks DO have plans to move, or even consider moving Petr Mrazek, they might want to cut down his workload as the deadline approaches.
Greg: Penalty Kill Hitting Its Stride
After Tuesday’s loss to the San Jose Sharks, I wrote about the baby steps the Blackhawks’ power play made. They were unable to carry that momentum into Buffalo as they went 0-for-3 with the man advantage.
Tonight, I’ll tackle the other side of the special teams coin. The Blackhawks penalty kill has taken strides, not baby steps, over the past few games. They entered the game 75.7% kill rate, 27th in the NHL. However, they had killed off 17 of their last 19 chances before Thursday night.
The penalty kill was on the ice for 13 minutes in Buffalo. They killed off the four minor penalties. The only goal allowed came on the third-period five-minute major to Kurashev, which was deflected in by Vlasic. Soderblom was strong in net, which you need for a successful kill, by stopping 12 of the 13 shots he faced.
It is no surprise that the penalty kill numbers are improving after the return of Colin Blackwell. He has been a great addition to an already solid rotation of Taylor Raddysh, Boris Katchouk, and Jason Dickinson. Having Seth Jones back on the blue line is a huge help too.
Mario: The Chicago Blackhawks Non-Existent Offense
Here lies the Chicago Blackhawks. They never scored.
Not having Connor Bedard, or Taylor Hall, or Nick Foligno, or Andreas Athanasiou, or Anthony Beauvillier, stinks. There’s no one that the Blackhawks can rely on offensively to produce anything of substance and there’s no one that is going to be able to step up at this point of the season from the healthy bodies that are still taking the ice.
Over their last ten games, the Blackhawks have 12 goals scored total. They have scored one or zero goals in their last five games in-a-row and eight times in their last ten games. Their four goals combined over their last five games is also the lowest total in a five-game stretch since the 2006-07 season, before Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews were NHL players. It’s an inept offensive stretch that is not going to be getting better anytime soon.
Over their last ten games, starting with their 8-1 drubbing against the Dallas Stars on New Year’s Eve, here is where the Blackhawks rank in these offensive categories (via Natural StatTrick):
- Shots per game: 23.9 (last)
- Goal per game: 1.20 (last)
- 5v5 Corsi-For%: 44.21 (28th)
- 5v5 Shots-For%: 44.24 (28th)
- 5v5 Expected Goals-For per 60: 1.95 (tied-last)
- 5v5 Scoring Chances-For per 60: 21.58 (30th)
- 5v5 High-Danger Chances-For per 60: 7.58 (last)
- 5v5 Shooting%: 3.65 (last)
It’s not for a lack of effort, but a lack of talent. With all of the injuries that this club has endured this season and players that are currently out without any timeline for a return, this is the kind of offensive output you can expect.
Philipp Kurashev is doing all he can and the team is getting spirited efforts from Jason Dickinson and Colin Blackwell, but those are not the guys that a thriving NHL offense is going to rely on. With Lukas Reichel being a non-factor offensively, there’s essentially no hope for this team to generate chances or score goals until Connor Bedard and the rest of the walking wounded return to the lineup.
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