In Thursday’s matchup against Columbus, the Blackhawks showed they can hold onto a lead late in a game. It was a quite different story than their previous meeting on Tuesday that saw the Blackhawks allow two goals in the final ten minutes before eventually winning in the shootout.
For prolonged success this season, this is exactly the type of game the Blackhawks will need to continue to win.
Low-Scoring Games Are Good
In Malcolm Subban’s fifth start of the season, he looked sharp early. In the first ten minutes of the game, the Blackhawks recorded just two shots on goal but Subban shut the door and made multiple quality saves to keep the game scoreless. In the first 20 minutes, the Blackhawks mustered up just three shots on goal, but they also didn’t allow many either (eight).
It may not be as exciting as a three- or four-goal first period, but the Blackhawks being able to grind out a period and not let the game open up is something they have struggled with this season.
Building Momentum in the Second
Five minutes into the middle frame, the Blackhawks’ game plan started to pay off. They were keeping the Jackets to the outside, while offensively they were wearing down the Jackets in their own end, cycling the puck and winning board battles. After just four shots in the first 15 minutes of the game, the Blackhawks doubled their shot count in a two minute span and tilted the ice in their favor.
The game remained scoreless after two periods, while the Blackhawks allowed a mere three shots on goal in the second, tied for the fewest they’ve allowed in a period this season.
Subban Shuts the Door and Kane Snipes
The Blue Jackets had a great push to start the third period but the Blackhawks and Subban stood tall. In the first seven minutes of the final frame, Subban turned away all ten shots he faced, including two tremendous stops shorthanded to keep the game tied at zero.
Nearly halfway through the period, Patrick Kane finally scored the first goal of the game. He rushed down the right side like he has done thousands of times, pulled the puck into his body, and shot back to the far side to beat the Columbus netminder. Kane now has ten goals on the season and is one shy of 400 in his career.
Unlike Tuesday’s game, the Blackhawks were able to hold onto their lead and Carl Soderberg tallied the insurance marker into an empty net to seal a 2-0 win for the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks are now 11-6-4 and have 26 out of a possible 42 points. Their record of 8-2 over their last ten games is one of the best records in the league over that stretch of games.
The Blackhawks showed tonight they are willing, and able, to play a tight-checking game. In 16 of their 21 games this season, the Blackhawks and their opponents have combined for five or more goals. The Blackhawks are willing to play a wide-open game with both teams trading chances, but last night they were able to limit the Blue Jackets’ chances and secure a close win. They allowed just three shots on goal in the entire second period and were able to weather the storm in the third period when Columbus was pressing.
Furthermore, the Blackhawks were able to win without scoring a goal on the power play. Their 21 goals on the man advantage rank second-most in the NHL, while their 5v5 production is near the bottom. For sustained success this season, the Blackhawks need to generate more scoring chances at even strength and convert at a higher rate. Their average of 1.83 goals/60 minutes of 5v5 play is the third-lowest in the league. Though the Blackhawks scored just one goal at 5v5 tonight (Soderberg’s was an empty-netter) it bodes well moving forward if they can win close games by scoring at even strength.
What’s On Tap Next?
The Blackhawks return home to the United Center this weekend for back-to-back games against the Red Wings on Saturday and Sunday. The series opener gets underway at 7:00 PM CT and the finale will be one of those great six o’clock starts! The Blackhawks are 4-0 against the Wings this season and have outscored Detroit 15-5.