Stalberg's hat trick helps Blackhawks end skid

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Stalberg's hat trick helps Blackhawks end skid

Updated: Tuesday, Jan. 10 at 10:55 p.m.

Viktor Stalberg had come close to getting hat tricks against the Columbus Blue Jackets earlier this season. But in two previous games here he had to be happy with two-goal performances in each.

On Tuesday, he got his trifecta.

Stalberg notched his first career hat trick and Corey Crawford stopped 32 of 34 in the Blackhawks 5-2 victory over the Blue Jackets. It was a big night for Stalberg against a team hes pounced on; seven of his 12 goals this season have come against Columbus.

Ben Smith and Dave Bolland also scored for the Blackhawks, who had a scary moment in the first when Jonathan Toews took a Duncan Keith shot to the head. The shot hit Toews in the helmet, then hit off the post. Toews went to the locker room for a few minutes and came back with two sets of stitches above his left eye.

Its one of those things; it hits me in the face and it doesnt go in, joked Toews who still has stitches in his lip from the Edmonton game last week.

Stalbergs second goal proved to be the game-winner, and hes now recorded that all three times Columbus has played here this season.

It was something I had a couple of chances before to get and it hasnt happened, so its a great feeling obviously, Stalberg said. I wish it was like that every night. Hopefully I can keep it going against some other teams. But playing them it seems like Im getting a lot of chances and the puck is finding me a lot out there.

Stalberg completed his hat trick by chasing down an empty-net opportunity with 1:40 remaining.

Ive never seen him skate so fast on the empty netter, Jamal Mayers said. I mean hes fast but that was really fast. He wanted that hat trick.

The Blackhawks penalty kill also came up big on Tuesday. Steve Montador and Mayers both got instigator penalties for their respective fights against Jared Boll, and Montador was also assessed an unsportsmanlike. But the Blackhawks went 5 for 5 on the kill and Bolland scored a short-handed effort early in the second.

That made a huge difference, Toews said. We know its going to be a big part of us winning some tight games, and it couldve been much different tonight if we werent on top of our game there.

The Blackhawks got the special teams they needed on one end and the offense they needed on the other.

Six minutes were short handed (early) and we did an outstanding job of killing. It was effective for us coming out of there clean, coach Joel Quenneville said. Our power play needs to be better. But there are some good things in our game that were pleased with.

Blackhawks acquire Michael Latta from Kings in swap of minor leaguers

Blackhawks acquire Michael Latta from Kings in swap of minor leaguers

The Blackhawks made a minor league deal on Saturday, announcing the acquisition of forward Michael Latta from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for defenseman Cameron Schilling.

Latta, 25, has two goals and four assists in 29 games this season with the Ontario (Calif.) Reign of the American Hockey League.

He has four goals and 13 assists in 113 career games in the National Hockey League, all with the Washington Capitals from 2013-16.

Latta, who was a third-round pick (No. 72 overall) by the Nashville Predators in 2009, will report to the AHL's Rockford IceHogs. He carries a $600,000 cap hit, and is a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

Schilling ranked second among defensemen on the IceHogs with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 40 games, and had a minus-3 rating. The 28-year-old blue liner signed a two-year contract worth $575,000 per season with the Blackhawks in July 2015.

One-goal victories are great but Blackhawks’ method has to change

One-goal victories are great but Blackhawks’ method has to change

See the Blackhawks get off to a slow start. See the Blackhawks get outshot. See the Blackhawks lean on their goaltending. See the Blackhawks find some offense in the third period. See the Blackhawks win.

This is a story the Blackhawks have written and played out plenty this season. Despite all evidence that it should work out to the contrary, the Blackhawks continue to pull out victories. But as we're well into the second half of the season, how much longer can they win with this formula? And is this, more than anything, a testament to how much they need to acquire someone (or plural) at the deadline to bolster their forward lineup?

Entering Sunday night's game against Vancouver the Blackhawks remain second in the Western Conference, two points behind Minnesota. Not surprisingly, they enter Sunday coming off another one-goal victory, a 1-0 decision over Boston on Friday night. Friday's game was cut from the same cloth as so many other one-goal games this season (please see above for the script). 

Here's how the Blackhawks are doing in one-goal games (through 48 games played this season) and how they've done in previous seasons:

Year Record
2016-17 18-7-5
2015-16 17-7-9
2014-15 22-13-6
2013-14 17-8-15
2012-13 19-3-5 (lockout yr.)
2011-12 22-6-11
2010-11 16-13-9
2009-10 23-9-8

The Blackhawks played 41 one-goal games (half of their regular-season games) in the 2014-15 season. Thirty of their 48 games this season have been one-goal games. But again, it comes down to how you're winning those games, and the Blackhawks are winning just about all of them in the same way: deal with a slow start and come back in the third period, relying on goaltending the entire time.

Being outshot the amount of times the Blackhawks have this season remains alarming. Sure, sometimes a lot of shots don't mean a lot of quality chances. But it's still better than minimal shots, and any shot can be an opportunity for a rebound, a deflection, something. From our stats guru Chris Kamka, here's a breakdown of the Blackhawks' shots per game vs. opponents, dating back to 2008-09:

Year Shots/Gm Opp. Shots/Gm Diff.
2008-09 32.7 28.6 +4.2
2009-10 34.1 25.1 +9.1
2010-11 32.2 28.7 +3.6
2011-12 31.5 28.6 +3.0
2012-13 31.1 26.2 +4.9
2013-14 33.1 27.2 +6.0
2014-15 33.9 30.2 +3.8
2015-16 30.5 30.8 -0.3
2016-17 29.3 31.1 -1.7

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

It's no surprise that the Blackhawks' differential was especially good in their Stanley Cup-winning seasons (and even 2013-14, when they went to the Western Conference Final). Those Blackhawks teams were deep, especially at forward. They weren't waiting for the perfect shooting opportunities as much as just firing. They had great four-line rotations, something they've sorely been lacking the past two seasons, which makes a difference with puck possession.

The Blackhawks will see what's available at the trade deadline. As I wrote a few days ago, there will be names out there but, considering some teams are still hoping for playoff spots, you take mentions for what they are right now. Over the next few weeks the picture will become clearer, and adding the right depth could rekindle that four-line rotation.

We've said throughout this season that the Blackhawks can't keep this up. We said it in November, and December, and now. Understand where we're coming from here; the Blackhawks can absolutely keep winning one-goal games. They've shown that in recent seasons and in the postseason, when the ability to do that is critical. But it's doubtful they can keep doing it the way they have most this season.