by Scott King
Despite having 24 games left to play heading into Saturday, the Blackhawks still had less than a 1% chance of making the playoffs according to models like Hockey-Reference.com’s.
If they want to keep hope alive and shake an eight-game losing streak, they’d have to do so against the visiting Washington Capitals, who sit at fourth place in the East, and against Alex Ovechkin, who already has 65 points on the season.
The Hawks drew first blood when Jonathan Toews shot the puck and beat Braden Holtby from the left wall 6:19 into the opening period. Toews had just one goal in his past 16 games.
It was the 11th time in 14 games the Blackhawks scored first. Before Saturday they were 2-6-2 in the last ten games in which they got on the board first.
Tom Wilson scored for Washington just 3:44 later, which made it seem like the Hawks still had trouble holding leads.
Soon after, Brandon Saad answered back for the Hawks after Vinnie Hinostroza took the puck hard to the net but lost control of it. It was Saad’s second straight game with a goal after not scoring in the previous 16.
Nick Schmaltz scored with under one second remaining to send the Hawks to the first intermission up 3-1.
Patrick Kane scored late in the second period. He had only one goal in his last 13 games prior. Ryan Hartman and Artem Anisimov also added goals late in the second, with Anisimov’s coming on the power play. Kane picked up his 500th career assist on the man advantage goal.
“It’s been a few games,” Kane said of the milestone. “Nice to get it at home, nice to get it in a win. It’s a great play by Vinnie and Arty on the goal, so pretty cool number.”
Goaltender Philipp Grubauer took over in the Capitals’ net for the third period, relieving Holtby.
Alex DeBrincat joined the Blackhawks’ scoring festival in the third period to make it 7-1. That would be the final score and the Hawks would skate off the ice to a standing ovation from the United Center fans, which has been a rare sight this season.
Even if the numbers are telling them they’re likely not headed to the postseason, they’re still trying to right the ship, and finding offense, especially from their star players, Saturday was a big step.
Perhaps even more impressive than how many goals the Hawks scored on Saturday is the fact that with his 500th assist, Kane became the seventh US-born player to score 300 goals and get 500 assists. “You think about the amount of great Americans that have played the game,” Kane said. “How many players actually play hockey in the United States… Growing up all I wanted to do was play hockey. That means a lot, especially when you talk about American-born players.”
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