Here are four observations from the Chicago Blackhawks’ 5-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Monday.
1. Monday was a positive performance for the Blackhawks’ penalty kill. The Blackhawks killed off all three of the Oilers’ power plays. The Oilers came into the night scoring five power-play goals in their previous two games. The Blackhawks used forward combinations of Marcus Kruger-Michal Handzus, Kruger-Ben Smith, Jonathan Toews-Handzus, Toews-Brandon Saad, Saad-Brandon Bollig and Handzus-Saad during the game. The Blackhawks’ penalty kill is still a work in progress, but Monday could be another confidence booster. They improved their penalty-kill percentage to 73.6 on the season.
2. Goaltender Corey Crawford took some criticism for his recent struggles and now deserves some credit for the way he’s responded. He’s bounced back from allowing an average of 3.33 goals from Nov. 10-21 to giving up just one goal in each of his last two starts. He didn’t need to work as hard Monday as he did against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday, but he was solid again. He made 11 saves in the third period against the Oilers and was especially impressive when he leapt backward and batted a puck out of the air which was heading toward the net in the third period. He’s now played in 15 consecutive games and has a day off coming soon. He leads all goaltenders with 23 games played and is second in time on ice. He’s 16-4-3 with a 2.43 goals-against average and .911 save percentage on the season.
3. Forward Andrew Shaw was only a few inches away from a hat trick. He just missed getting his stick on the puck before it slid into the net from his leg kick during a power play in the third period. Even with the goal being waved off, Shaw had a quality game. He made himself a nuisance around the net all game and was rewarded with an assist off Patrick Kane’s goal, a goal from a 2-on-1 with Jeremy Morin and a goal when he redirected a Nick Leddy shot. He also set up the odd-man rush with Morin when he broke up a pass and deflected the puck to Morin. Shaw has already matched his point total of last season. He has 15 points, including seven goals and eight assists, in 25 games this season. He had 15 points in 48 games last season.
4. The Blackhawks continue to get it done at the dot. The Blackhawks have won more faceoffs than they’ve lost in their last five games. The last time they lost in faceoffs was to the Nashville Predators on Nov. 16. The Blackhawks rank sixth in the league with a 52.6 faceoff winning percentage. They were tied for 10th last season with a 50.8 percentage. The Blackhawks were 31-28 at the dot Monday, and that was despite Shaw going 1-of-8. Toews led the way and was 10-of-18. He’s sixth in the NHL with a 57.7 percentage.