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Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Hawks rewind: Observations from Game 9

By Scott Powers

Here are four observations from the Chicago Blackhawks' 3-2 shootout win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday.

1. The new line combinations aren’t yet exactly boosting the offense, especially the front end of it. The Blackhawks have scored five goals in the last two games since Joel Quenneville opted to change the lines. Of those goals, two have come off the power play, two from the third line and one from the fourth line. Bryan Bickell has certainly benefited from the switch to the third line and has scored his first two goals of the season, but the top-6 forwards haven’t produced in even-strength situations. The top line of Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa did create a number of scoring chances on Tuesday.

2. It might be time to give Brandon Pirri that second-line center opportunity. Pirri’s offensive game could be exactly what’s needed to get Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp going on the second line. Kane hasn’t scored in the past four games, and two of his four goals this season have come from the power play. Sharp has been goalless in the past three games and still just has one goal on the season. Michal Handzus brings something to the table and has especially been effective on the penalty kill this season, but his role could be just as important on the fourth line. Against the Panthers, he was cutting his second-line shifts short and Marcus Kruger was getting on the ice early. Handzus played 13:28 of even-strength ice time on Tuesday. Pirri may not exactly be where Quenneville wants him defensively, but he’s been solid so far. The Panthers’ goal scored with Pirri on the ice Tuesday wasn’t his fault. The Blackhawks could benefit from having him on the ice more. His 10:24 of ice time was the second lowest on the team on Tuesday.

3. Corey Crawford has found his groove. Crawford has allowed two or fewer goals in the last five games. During that span, he’s had a 4-0-1 record, a 1.60 goals-against average and stopped 125-of-133 shots for a .940 save percentage. He’s also saved one penalty shot and has been 6-for-7 on shootout attempts. The Blackhawks' slight power-play improvement has also helped Crawford as of late. Of the 17 goals he’s given up this season, 10 have been at even strength and seven from the power play.

4. The Blackhawks’ third-period collapses have been difficult to understand. The Blackhawks have now been outscored 8-0 in the third period over the last eight games. During that time frame, they have outscored opponents 18-7 in the first and second periods combined. The Blackhawks aren’t exactly being dominated in third periods aside from the goal tally. Their shots-on-goal totals are similar to their opponents. They’ve had three games where they’ve outshot their opponent in the third period, three where they were outshot and two where they were tied. It does seem the Blackhawks’ mistakes are being capitalized on more in the third period. On Tuesday, the Blackhawks outshot the Panthers 7-6 in the third period, but the Blackhawks didn’t transition well on the Panthers’ first goal and the Panthers turned a Duncan Keith turnover into their second goal. The Blackhawks still got the two points for the shootout win and the extra point given to the Panthers isn’t significant because they play in the Eastern Conference, but the same result would be a bit more costly against Western Conference teams.