There are a lot of things the Chicago Blackhawks do well. They can score goals, sometimes in rapid succession. Their defense is stellar. Their goaltending hasn’t been too shabby, either.
The shootout, however, continues to befuddle them.
Niklas Hjalmarsson and Michal Rozsival scored within two minutes, 34 seconds of each other in the third period, but the San Jose Sharks tied the game late and capitalized in the shootout in a 3-2 victory on Sunday night. The Blackhawks are tied in terms of points with the Anaheim Ducks (67 apiece) but the Ducks now sit atop the Western Conference standings.
Corey Crawford was stellar in his second game back from a groin injury, stopping 40-of-42 shots in regulation and overtime, including 14-of-15 in the third period.
“He was excellent, great,” coach Joel Quenneville said of Crawford. “He responded with several big saves in the second period, some key faceoffs we lost and he was big. He had key saves when the game was on the line as well.”
But while the Sharks got two shots past Crawford in the shootout, the Blackhawks couldn’t get one past Alex Stalock on the other side. Logan Couture got the winner for San Jose.
As for those shootouts, in which the Blackhawks are now 4-6 this season, sometimes they’ve gotten goals but haven’t made the stops on the other end. More often it’s been like tonight, where the Blackhawks’ shooters can’t connect.
“We’ve lost a few in a row here and it could be a little uncomfortable or lack of confidence,” Quenneville said. “We have to work our way through it, knowing we’ve left a lot of points on the board here. We could’ve put ourselves in a better spot than where we’re at, but it’s been a sore spot recently.”
The Blackhawks struggled early in this one, be it their own lack of energy or the Sharks’ stifling defense. Jason Demers gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead about 10 minutes into the game and the Blackhawks couldn’t muster much on Stalock.
“Give them some credit: they were playing a smart game, getting pucks out at their blue line and getting pucks in at ours,” Duncan Keith said. “It took two periods to adjust and for us to start playing the way we can. Once we got our legs moving, we took control.”
They also took the lead. Just 1:27 into the third period Niklas Hjalmarsson scored his fourth of the season from the slot to tie it at 1-1. About two-and-a-half minutes later Michal Rozsival recorded his first goal of the season for a 2-1 advantage. But Brent Burns, whose crosscheck on Hjalmarsson went uncalled, tied it at 2-2 later in the third.
Still, there’s always a chance in the shootout. Patrick Toews was stopped low and Patrick Sharp, who took a hit on his shoulder late in regulation, didn’t get everything on his attempt.
The Blackhawks don’t have a lot of chinks in the armor, but the shootout has been an issue. It’s something they want to correct, and start getting points on, fast.
“I’ve played on a few different teams the past few years, and when you get on a roll you have a confidence in your shootouts. So far, maybe we don’t have the confidence in it we need,” Kris Versteeg said. “But even the guys going in are still getting good looks. I guess it’s just a matter of the tide turning there for us at some point.”